Vocalist Ingrid Lucia literally cut her musical teeth on the streets of New Orleans. When she was 7, her parents, Maxine and William David Poppa Neutrino Maloney, formed a family band, the Flying Neutrinos, that became a fixture in the French Quarter, as well as up and down the Mississippi River, which the family explored aboard their raft. After her parents left the band to ply the worlds waterways, Ingrid and her tap-dancing, trombonist cousin Todd Londagin continued the family enterprise with non-related musicians in New York, where they recorded two excellent albums, Id Rather Be In New Orleans and Hotel Child.
With her photographer husband Dwight Marshal1, Ingrid returned to New Orleans in 1999. On May 29, 2001, she gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Ava, and less than a week later, Ingrid was back on stage performing. This month, Ingrid releases her third album, Fortune, recorded in February at Word of Mouth Studio with Tim Stambaugh engineering.
Where were you born?
I was born in San Francisco. My dads originally from there and my moms from New York and she had moved out to California to get away from her regular upbringing. She met my dad and we moved to New Orleans when I was about 2.
From the time my dad was a kid until his early 20s, he was kind of a troublemaker. He went through the whole beatnik circle in California, knew all those guys and it changed his direction from a philosophical, religious perspective. From that, he went on to Buddhism and artit cleaned him up a lot. Hes always been into diversity, adventure and travel.
He had been to New Orleans many times in his youth. He really liked it a lot. He had always loved the South. He had always been into building rafts and boats.
At that time in New Orleansfrom the stories I hear from my mom and dad, this was a whole different community, almost like Streetcar Named Desire. The waterfront was still happening.
What are your earliest memories of New Orleans?
A few thingsgoing into Walgreens with the lunch counters and having the old black ladies say, Hey baby, come here And I remember the old diner at the end of Canal Street, going there with my mom a lot for coffee in the afternoon. I remember at Mardi Gras there were a lot more marching bands. We lived in Algiers for a while and Mid-City and the little neighborhood restaurants had great jukeboxes with Al Jolson and Guy Lombardo.
We started a family band when I was about 7. Nobody knew how to play music. We were all just standing in Jackson Square one Mardi Gras singing Darktown Strutters Ball. My dad had this crazy idea that if we threw money at the audience, they would be really responsive. I remember wearing this big blue Mardi Gras ball gown that we found in a garbage can and eight people were singing and I would throw the money out and run around and get all the nickels and dimes and tell these little old ladies, Get the money! Get the money! That was the first performance.
My dad had built a paddlewheel raft at that time and we had parked it right next to the Natchez and were living on it when I was 7. We took it up and down the Mississippi River. I remember playing music and singing for people alongside the river. They would throw money out of their houses and I would run along the levee collecting money and hop back on the boat. Thats my first memories of the band. The part I didnt like was being isolated for days and days and days at a time. You get off the boat, youve got to walk through the mud, theres snakes going around your legsit was pretty rough. I would be performing in a ball gown and my feet would be disgustingly filthy.
Then we put that on hold for a while. My dad got into building boats and adventuring and all kinds of different stuff. So we really didnt get the band going again until I was about 11. At that point, we were going to Mexico for the winters. The band started here in New Orleans but we were so bad, we didnt know what we were doing. Everybody picked an instrument, nobody knew what they were playing. We went to Mexico and Mexico was so supportive. They took us into their homes, fed us beans and rice. We played in the plazas and it didnt matter what we did because we were all a bunch of kids and we looked really cute. We wore black-and-white outfits. My dad said looking good was the important thing.
What kind of material would you do?
We did a lot of New Orleans tunes. We did Darktown Strutters Ball, Bill Bailey, Some Of These Days. Dixieland jazz. I was playing a Mexican upright bass, Todd was playing trombone and tap-dancing, my sister was playing drums, my mom was on saxophone, my dad was on banjo and singing with a megaphone, my sister-in-law was on sousaphone and my auntTodds momwas on accordion. We all lived together. That was the original Flying Neutrinos.
Where did the name come from?
The year that we started the band was the year of the discovery of the neutrino. Todds mom was reading National Geographic and she saw that a neutrino was a subatomic particle that was everywhere that they couldnt catch to study but you couldnt live without them. They started studying them by the traces they left behind. We were traveling all the time, you cant live without musicthere were several reasons we picked the name. Flying Neutrinos sounded like a vaudeville family, which is really what we were. So it stuck. By the time I took over the band, Todd and I thought about changing the name and we decided that we had been with the band for 12 years and wanted to take the band to the next level, keeping the name for historical purposes.
Did you ever go to school?
We took home-schooling most of our lives. I went to school in Austin for eighth grade and I went to Warren Easton for tenth grade. But then I joined the Can-Can Cabaret at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street when I was 15. It was a show with can-can dancers and when I was 15, I was really into dance. During the time when we had a family band, I choreographed dance routines for all the kidswe did the Charleston and the tango. So when I was 15, I told my mom, I really dont want to go to school anymoreits really awful! I want to be a can-can dancer. The great thing about my parents is that whatever we really wanted, they helped us pursue. So my mom said, Fine, just call me before you get in a cab at 3 in the morning so I know youre coming home.
Educationally, home-schooling was better. Kids are really smart and they learn very, very fast. And we got to learn at our own rate, really pursuing things that were interesting to us. We grew up reading literature, great novels. What was bad is that we were isolated from kids our own agesocially we never related to kids our own age. We did read a lot so I think it was a good thing.
What happened to the family band?
My dad and I always wanted to pursue the big time that’s how we put it. At one point, he wanted to concentrate on raft-building and a lot of the kids were growing up, and didnt want to play music anymore. Todd and I were the kids who enjoyed doing it the most. For those two reasons, Todd and I decided to take over the band. At that time, we were going to New York for the summers. The economy in New Orleans in 87 and 88 was so bad we were just not making a living wage here in the summer. So we moved to New York.
When I took over the band, I thought, This is really great musicit really inspires me and gives me chills of excitement inside my stomach. A lot of kids dont know about this music at allespecially the ones who havent grown up in New Orleans. So I said, Todd, why dont we look for young players in New York who have a youthful rock n roll energy but play this material that people havent heard? It was really hard to find musicians in New York because theyre either modern jazz players and too complicated technically and cant play the simplicity of it or they dont have the spirit. It was really hard but we found a great group of guys and that was the first grouping that did really well in New York. We worked the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, went to Germany. For us, that level was really a big success. It brought us to a level where we could actually eat and buy some clothes–not wear golf shoes for tap shoes. Thats how bad it was. We would save up all our pennies just to share a piece of pizza four waysthats how poor we were.
The first record we did, I saved up $10,000 from working the Showboat Casino. We went into the best studio in New York for one day for 12 hours and we put all the tunes down we could. The second record was done through GRP with Tommy LiPuma as the producer at the same studio but it took three monthsa totally different approach to recording. I think I actually preferred spending my own money because I felt like it was more efficient, I had more of a say, I wasnt fighting with people about directions. The first album, I felt, from beginning to end, was thematically correct. It was about New Orleans, it had the different feels and vibes about it, people really loved that record.
The second record was great but theres still like a split. Theres the traditional New Orleans stuff going on, which is what the producer wanted. But we were really into original material at the time so subconsciously I think its not as good a record.
Why did you return to New Orleans?
The first and foremost reason I came back was because, after four years of going through corporate record companies, the whole band got really greedy. They really were there for the deal. It wasnt fun anymore and it was getting really sour. I just wanted to go back to the place where I started, where I got the tickles in my stomach and where it was really enjoyable. It was painful because I really didnt want to play music anymore. I was so disgusted with the whole thing.
At the same time, I wanted to find a balance in my life of not just having music, holding on by my fingernails every day of my life. I wanted to have a life, I wanted to have a family, I wanted to have space. We were spending $3,000 a month to live in a sixth-floor walk-up in the Lower East Side.
So I thought to myself, If I go back to New Orleans, Ill be centrally located in the middle of the country. My costs will be very low. Ill be around musicians in this community I enjoy playing with and I can create my own little empire. That way, Ill be building something strong and solid.
Everybody in New Orleans was very open and supportive. Now I enjoy playing music again, Ive got really great musicians, Ive got a great family, Ive got a gig at the Ritz Carlton two days a week thats guaranteed for a year. I can go to California for a few days, New York, branch outthat was my original goal.
We still do Flying Neutrinos gigs but Im starting to do things under my own name because Ive been writing my own songs lately and Ive got a new record of original material. I want to change gears because I feel like Ive soaked in all the different elements that I imitated that were really inspiring to me and I want to take those and move them around to what I really am.
On the new album, Ive got John Fohl and Bert Cotton on guitar, Gerald French on drums, Matt Perrine on bass. Todd plays trombone and does vocal harmonies. Three string players from the Louisiana Philharmonic [Amy Leonard, William Schultz, Amy Thiaville] perform. Bonerama does some background trackswe did a cover of Rhinestone Cowboy. That’s the only cover we did.
Oh no. Youve got to be kidding. The Glen Campbell song?
Its a dance version of itits really funny. Duke Heitger and John Kelso are on trumpet. Mostly, the horns are just added for special shows. Were going to do a big show at Jazz Fest on May 3 and at the Shim Sham on May 4. Todd will be at the Jazz Fest. Ive got strings on the albumits a totally different sound.
My songs sound kind of like an early 60s R&B sound meets a 70s country sound. It wasnt intentional. Thinking about lyrics and stories and things I wanted to say and music that Ive been listening to latelysome of the ballads are kind of like [Santo & Johnnys] Sleepwalk. Some of the uptempo tunes are a little more R&B-sounding, like Phil Spector-y Wall Of Sound stuff.
Since you’ve been all over the country, whats so specialmusicallyabout New Orleans?
For me, the things that are great about it are the uninhibited energy that comes outtheres no walls. Pure feeling is there. Sometimes not the technique but to me, the technique has never mattered as much as the feeling has. The melding of different sounds obviouslyclassical, African, all these different elements coming into play. Any other part of the country is modernizedNew Orleans is still back in the 30 and 40s and 1800s. These young brass bands are playing tunes from the 20s and its hip and its played with a live energy.
And the location is importantseriously. Theres something about the air. Its lazy, its slow. Everybody else in the world is in a rush. Its all about the computer age. Its all fast. Its all clean. Its all perfect. New Orleans is just real, human, laid-back. It pulls people in cause everybody else in the world is into fast living. I think theres less stress here.
What would you like to see changed in New Orleans?
I’d like to see some sort of collaborative groupnot a corporate group, not some company coming in and raping the community but some sort of organization that helps musicians acquire and accomplish their dreams. I feel like everybodys kind of on their own and scrambling and fumbling whereas if there was a collective entertainment attorney or a collective recording group that helps people fund and sponsor their recordssome sort of organization for all these people. All these people have the same kind of plans and dreams but theyre doing it all on their own and theres no help really.
There is a way. Record companies dont have to take 86 percent of the money. A record company has a better deal than the banks do.
When we did our record with GRP, the producer took $60,000. You take a point or two, take a chunk of the profits because your name is on it but dont put the artists in debt for the rest of their lives because theyre paying your $60,000 payroll.
If somebody, somehow, here in New Orleans could come up with a small company that could start to develop a new game plan, it could be revolutionary. Especially now in the time of the Internet. The record companies are going through chaos anyway. I dont have the mental space to be able to do it but I would like to see that changed in the community.
The other thing Id like to see changed is more quality involved in the musical product because a lot of the things are put out really quickly down here and the sound is lacking, as well as the visual. Part of the whole thing with people downloading music is, from my point of view, the art and the designsomething you cannot just rip-off. Youre going to have to go buy the product because of the art lay-out. Its invaluablethe presentation and packaging.
Why was it important for you to give birth to your daughter in New Orleans?
I had a great childhood here and I feel, whether its superstitious or not, that when a body is born here, that a spirit from the city comes into it. I wanted that cycle to continue. I sang until five days before she was born and then five days after she was born, I was at a gig. I had an incredible experience being pregnant. You dont realize how many people appreciate and love life until you see their response to a pregnant person. Its just this joy and happiness. People are so joyous. It was overwhelming. So amazing.
What if she wants to become a musician?
Great! But shell probably come to me and say, I want to be a mortgage banker.