Brass Bed with Silent Cinema and King Rey
10 p.m. Friday, May 21
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneyedjacks.net
It's been a long time, so long," Christiaan Mader sings on "Aria," the choirlike table setter for Brass Bed's forthcoming sophomore album, Melt White (Park the Van). Just two years, actually — the Lafayette band debuted with the self-released Midnight Matinee in 2008. But, Mader explains, it feels like longer.
"We started this record thinking we were going to do it really fast," he says of Melt White, a September release for which tracking sessions began in Austin, Texas, in August 2009. "This was going to be the 'live' record that we put out real quick. Everything was going to be nice and tidy."
Famous last words. For the second time in two tries, the Brass Bed that entered the studio is not the same band unveiling its creation. The original trio of Mader, guitarist Jonny Campos and drummer Peter DeHart ballooned during Matinee's recording to a five-piece outfit with the additions of keyboardist Andrew Toups and bassist/guitarist Jacques Doucet. In the shows that followed, the inflated roster was "almost like having this orchestrated force," Mader says. "Pedal steels, extra percussion, bells, all this crap."
With Melt White, the band now faces the opposite problem. Doucet has departed, leaving the quartet to remake itself in reverse. But a funny thing happened on the way to scaling back: The formerly ornate orchestra became more forceful. "It was one of those ironic things where, by losing a member, we became even louder," Mader says. "A lot of it is approach; a lot of it is comfort, the confidence of having this wide-open space to use for each instrument. The sound has mutated because it had to. If we tried to do it exactly as we did it before, we'd fall flat on our faces."
The recently completed master recordings show a group growing into itself, a palatable but easily digestible White Album fetish giving way to widescreen pop songs that sound timely yet timeless, and often seem to defy gravity: Flaming Lips synth washes suspended in midair ("God Saves the Thieves"), a banjo-voiced waterfall running from the ground up ("Maybe It's Not Me"), levitating guitars and pianos falling like feathers ("Farmers"). It's a polished effort that should enhance southern Louisiana's pop/rock profile, continuing a recent, improbable winning streak that includes labelmates Giant Cloud and Generationals and fast-rising Lafayette group the Givers.
A new indie-pop capital of the South? At that Mader laughs, saying the city still belongs to its Cajun and zydeco players. But bands like Feufollet, which employs former Brass Bed bassist Phillippe Billeaudeaux and Toups as an auxiliary live member, are blurring the lines. "There's some pretty strange stuff going on in the record, and I know to play it live they wanted to get some people in," Mader says of Feufollet's fifth LP, En Couleurs, due in June. "They'll play maybe an hour of Cajun music and then they start doing this other stuff. Some people get really turned on by it, and some of the old Cajuns are like, 'What the f—k?' At one show they actually walked onstage to a backward tape loop of Alan Lomax talking. It sounded like they were about to start playing The Wall."
So Melt White may not be the most progressive Lafayette record to drop this year. It also may not be the only Brass Bed record. In the protracted gestation a pair of sister EPs have begun to form. "The funny thing is, we're saying the same thing again: 'We're going to do this really fast.' I don't know if that's actually going to be true," Mader says. "The last thing we want to do is wait another two years."