Two years ago, members of the alt-pop band Nyce! began hosting backyard musical sessions with local musicians in an effort to foster an environment where creativity in songwriting and other forms of artistry take center stage. The semi-monthly concert series has expanded into full-fledged events and has outgrown the backyard. On Thursday, May 17, Tipitina’s will host the Series. We spoke with founders Nic Lefebvre and Danielle Ryce, who are alsothe duo Nyce! and who will be joined on the Tip’s stage by Loose Willis, Fruta Brutal and the Braun-Wood Band.
How did NYCE! begin? What do you guys do in the band?
Danielle: We went to Loyola together and would always practice when no one else was in the practice rooms. Loyola use to close the room at midnight so the both of us would go in there at 11:55 and practice until three in the morning. One day, we were just like “what’s up?” and that’s how we met. I was droubling in classical violin and music industry at the time. In Nyce!, I sing and play violin and, every once in a blue moon, there’s a keyboard involved.
Nic: Well, we both write. I play bass, mostly, and sometimes guitar. I sing lead, like, 40% of the time. I do a bit more of the arranging.
What’s the origin story of Smile Series?
Nic: It started in a really organic way. We were just trying to have a space for creators. It was just a couple of people at first, who came to my house. Then it grew and people started to ask “when’s the next one?” Most of the people there were performing stuff they had written and what was really special about it was we were encouraging each other to performer newer pieces, pieces that weren’t necessarily the most rehearsed. It was a great way to make artists see each other in a vulnerable state. It wasn’t so much us needing to fill a gap. It was just something fun to do, to spur creativity. But people started telling me how special and different it was. It feels cozy and intimate even as its grown and it’s clear there’s a demand for something like that.
What can folks expect from a Smile Series event?
Nic: Most of the performers have very much been a part of Smile Series in the past or are part of something that’s very new and authentic to themselves and that doesn’t necessarily fit within mainstream New Orleans music.
Danielle: A lot of the musicians who have played a part in the Smile Series are professional musicians and they’re looking for an outlet for their original music, with other musicians who will appreciate the hard work that goes into it. It’s comforting and inspiring but it also gives you that comfort so that you can break out of a it a little bit and show your new stuff. We have a very engaged audience at Smile Series because of that. It’s very give and take.