Three New Orleans bands strengthen their ties to the local music community by building new studios.
New Orleans often raises a musician from his or her infancy, watching as music and soul take form. And like the mother of any large family, New Orleans observes as various offshoots, subgenres and fusions continue to grow, spread out and come together. Sometimes, new styles move to opposite ends of the country. But as New Orleans grows in size and popularity, many choose to come back home, or opt to be adopted by the city for the first or tenth time, sprouting new roots around the family tree. This is a short account of three local bands—Flow Tribe, Naughty Professor and Sexual Thunder!—who work to make sure New Orleans is in them and their sound, wherever they go, by anchoring themselves and their music in a particular place, by building their own studios.
FLOW TRIBE is a funk-rock band made up of six members, five of whom went to Brother Martin High School with one another. Formed in 2004, the band (when not on tour) is working on building a recording studio in New Orleans East, to be named Downman Sounds. Why did they want to build their own studio?
“To dig a hole [and stake a claim] into the New Orleans music history and identity.” (KC O’Rorke, lead vocals and trumpet)
“Before you know it, this might be a huge music industry city. It’s a huge music city, but it’s not a huge music industry city yet, but it could easily happen.” (Bryan Santos, guitar)
“I think a lot more bands could come out of New Orleans if they had the right tools. We’re hoping this becomes a spot that allows future bands to grow and stay in New Orleans. All of our families are here; some members of the band are starting to create their own families. We need a lot of support and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” (John-Michael Early, keys and percussion)
NAUGHTY PROFESSOR was formed in 2011 by six musicians from various pockets of the country who came together after they met as students at Loyola University. The band pioneers a constantly evolving funk/jazz/soul fusion and its guitarist, Bill Daniel, created Wild Child Studios in the heart of Mid-City in 2014 because he wanted the ability to make his own (as well as his friends’) music autonomously:
“It’s a group, collaborative thing. The music culture here is welcoming and loving; you come in immediately and there’s a whole group of people that want to help you. They’re not trying to climb over you to get to the top. It’s like, ‘Let’s all do something together.’ To be a producer is also something I’m interested in; helping somebody realize their idea through the studio. I like the science of how to wrap the cables and where to put the microphones, but that’s not what it’s all about; it’s about shaping somebody else’s ideas, or my own. Wild Child is the stepping-stone between do-it-yourself and paying thousands of dollars to go to a pro studio. We can make the sounds pretty close here, but it’s not that next level—and you’re not paying for that next level.”
After recording their debut album in a larger recording studio, psychedelic funk band SEXUAL THUNDER! is now scaling back and creating a portion of their tracks in the living room of their Uptown house, near Tulane University. The house is set back from the street with wood paneling on the walls and wall-to-wall carpet; its layout is that of a hand, where the living room represents the palm and four bedrooms and a kitchen represent each of the fingers.
The house was once a sound equipment store and built to play and hear music in:
“Using our own space is good because it’s who and where we are, and artists don’t have budgets for independent, large scale productions,” says guitarist and vocalist George Wilde. “We’re comfortable here. If you have carpet and wood and brick and it’s dim, it reminds you of a studio, like a ’70s lodge look, which probably informs our music in some sense. The truth is that we went from just a band to a band that has a sound you can recognize, a sound we can recognize, in this space. We don’t make New Orleans music, but it’s music that wouldn’t happen unless we’re in New Orleans. This is a place where this kind of project can actually happen and go forward.”