Sexy Dex & the Fresh stops, then Dexter Gilmore, performing in patterned pants and a leather biker jacket patched with leopard print to match the patches on his black leather loafers, whips his hand and the band starts again. Gilmore winds the band back up onstage and lets it explode and dissolve like a packet of Pixy Stix in fully caffeinated neon-colored soda.
Keyboardist Ben Buchbinder, drummer Evan Cvitanovic, bassist Andrew Landry and vocalist Gabrielle Washington are the Fresh, named as a tongue-in-cheek nod to homogenous funk bands and the backbone of Gilmore's delirious, addictive funk and pop.
Gilmore's Coldiloqs solo series from 2013 and 2014 previewed the full-band arrangements for Sexy Dex. "At that time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," Gilmore says. "I just wanted to put some stuff out there."
Cvitanovich convinced Gilmore to let him play drums. "If we can actually make a band out of it and capitalize on the expectations New Orleans people have about music, at the same time keep some integrity of our own," Cvitanovich says. "We could play on Frenchmen Street, but at the same time it might be weird for people."
Happily weird, the band played Blue Nile in July.
Gilmore, Cvitanovich and Landry previously performed in gauzy dreampop band Glish. Buchbinder, a classically trained pianist who also performs with jazz and hip-hop outfit The Harbinger Project, joined the Fresh on keyboards. "We needed someone to play the keys and was good and kind of trained in 'the way' and could understand that," Gilmore says. Washington was the last to join.
"We'd known each other half our lives at this point," Gilmore says. "We'd been singing together for so long, growing up listening to the radio and singing R&B ... I needed someone I didn't need to communicate too much with about doing certain stuff."
Their harmonies weave between Gilmore's strained screams and tender falsetto, glassy guitar riffs and unpredictable solos. It's tightly choreographed — the band rehearsed for six months before its first show. With Gilmore's performance, vocals and guitar theatrics, the band was an obvious choice to lead a Prince tribute following the artist's death in April.
The band's next release — propelled by recent singles "Speed Racer" and "My Bae-B" — follows the alternate-reality end-of-the-dial slow jams and '80s-inspired funk on its 2015 tape 665 Roses Collection, channeling the razor-edged future on Prince's Controversy and Dirty Mind and the DIY fidelity of Ariel Pink's dusty psychedelic pop.
"It's original, a certain vibe, and there's room in it for so many different disciplines to have their say," Buchbinder says.
"We can all have our different pieces, but Dexter always pulls it together," Washington says. "He's really good at pulling pieces together and making something out of it."
Gilmore doesn't necessarily embrace the lo-fi label; Landry says the band is "lo-fi by default." (The band filmed a music video for "Speed Racer" in one day, on tape, with a homemade green screen.)
"I'm broke. I've been broke and had shitty shit for as long as I can remember," Gilmore says. "I had no other choice, but I had to make music."
Gilmore stresses simplicity and a shared love among the band for no-filler pop music.
"I don't really give a shit about too much else," Gilmore says. "I want it to come across well in whatever we do, but I'm going to do whatever the hell I want."