SARAH QUINTANA AND THE MISS RIVER BAND, 4/8, WWL, 11 AM
“We worked hard to find that sound,” Sarah Quintana says of the hydro-sonicscape she explores with her Miss River Band. “It took us a few seasons to get to the thought of going into the studio. All the pieces came together when I met [musician/producer] Mark Bingham. I worked closely with him to bring the water element and the sound of the album together.”
With Bingham’s acclaimed Piety Street Recording operations (Tom Waits, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, John Fogerty) having moved from the Ninth Ward to Breaux Bridge, Quintana and bandmates headed down the bayou to employ such elements as wine glasses, a hydro-mic submerged in fast-flowing water at the end of a fishing pole and thunderstorms (on the track “New Life”) to create the sound found on Miss River, her much-lauded second album released independently in 2015. Talking over an almond-milk cappuccino on the deck of Pagoda Café, under its canopy of live oaks along Bayou Road, Quintana explains that her water-inspired artistic concept evolved over a Studio in the Woods residency and an all-improvised performance at the Contemporary Arts Center before she entered the studio with Bingham.
In addition to her acoustic guitar and upper-octave, angelic-mermaid vocal pitch, Quintana’s vision benefitted from the arrangements and masterful horn/reed play of Miss River Band member Rex Gregory. This multi-year collaboration culminated in the songs that form Miss River, with Gregory’s playing highlighted on such tracks as “In the Devil’s Country,” featuring a filthy double bassline supplied by his bass clarinet. “It’s so dirty—I love [it],” Quintana says of Gregory’s playing here. “He’s such a talent. We worked hard together to work water into these songs. We play a lot of loops of water while on stage and now we are working on triggering those samples live through our instruments. Isn’t that cool?”
That Quintana, 30, would ultimately discover water to be her musical muse comes as little surprise when looking at her career trajectory. The New Orleans native shifted her focus away from visual arts after all her paintings drowned in Katrina. She honed her folksy jazz style during a decade on the jazz scene in France, where she splits her time, and from years on Frenchmen Street singing with the Moonshiners. Quintana took money earned from gigs with that trad jazz band, which played Lincoln Center and beyond, to fund her yoga-teacher certification, a training she continues but says today takes a backseat to her musical aspirations.
“Your soul is going to tell you what you need to do in this lifetime,” Quintana says. “Just let go and go with the flow until you discover your deepest longings and then honor that with all that you have.”