The night before a show in Philadelphia, A.J. Haynes counts the number of tambourines she has bro-ken, lost or inadvertently allowed someone to steal.
"I've broken so many god-damned tambourines," says Haynes, guitarist and vocalist of Shreveport rock 'n' roll band Seratones. "It's so absurd. I do it to myself. Maybe one day I'll put two and two together. It hasn't happened yet. I'll just get really excited and throw my tambourine, or hand it to someone, and they just take off with it. Last time we were in Europe, I brought three tambourines and didn't come back with any of them."
Haynes lets loose on tambourine on "Trees," her favorite song to perform from the band's acclaimed 2016 debut album Get Gone (Fat Possum), on which the band — including guitarist Connor Davis, bassist Adam Davis and drummer Jesse Gabriel — tears through frenetic garage, overdriven soul and MC5-inspired punk rock, with Haynes shredding her gospel choir vocal cords and a reverb-drenched guitar. The band recorded the album live at Mississippi's Dial Back Sound studios.
"I don't think of myself as a guitar player," Haynes says. "It's a means to an end for me. Maybe I'll get better, maybe I'll get more confident. ... It makes sounds to go with the words. I feel like I've got better, but I don't feel like a musician. I identify mostly as an artist."
The band emerged from a "small, tight-knit community" of DIY artists in Shreveport. Haynes moved there from Columbia, Louisiana, where she sharpened her vocals at Brownsville Baptist Church after moving to the small town from Japan, where she was born. There, her mother performed in a traveling bossa nova band, while Haynes grew up under the influence of doo-wop and psychedelic rock. "One of my favorite songs was the Byrds' 'Turn! Turn! Turn!'" she says. "Which explains a lot about me now, I think."
In high school, Haynes submerged into jazz music and Shreveport's punk scene.
"You look at Ornette Coleman or Thelonious Monk's message, that's very anti-authoritarian, very politically charged," she says. "It's about experimentation and the interplay between members. They're not drastically different, especially since they have a lot of the same genealogy. ... They're subcultures. They're subversive. Especially for black artists, using the space they were pigeonholed into and being able to subvert it."
Haynes — a former English teacher — used music in her classroom, inspired by one of her favorite English teachers who paired Joyce Carol Oates with Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." "On a record," she says. "It was one of the first times I heard an actual record."
Haynes, in turn, paired Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" with the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."
"That was a winning moment," she says, "where I was like, 'You know what, if I f—k up everything else, and all of my students make horrible test scores on the ACT, at least I did that right.'"