INTERVIEW: The Deslondes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Anyone lucky enough to visit New Orleans will testify to the unbelievable wealth of talent to be found playing – often just for tips – in French Quarter bars, sitting in with each other on an informal basis. So it is with The Deslondes (formerly The Tumbleweeds), as guitarist Sam Doores explains. 

“We came out of a super close knit scene in New Orleans, chock full of fantastic musicians and writers. Over time, The Deslondes became our main focus but we’d all be a part of other projects as well and continue to do so. For a good chunk of time Dan [Cutler, bass] and I were splitting our time between Hurray For The Riff Raff and The Deslondes, both bands often on the road together. As each band grew busier, we realised we were being spread too thin and we had to focus on our own project. It’s been cool watching Riff Raff transform over the years since then.”

The band take their name – pronounced something like ‘des-lawns’ – from the Lower Ninth area where Doores lives. “It’s where the band first started writing, playing and recording together. We often have camp fires in the back yard where friends trade tunes as well as a little home studio, so it became our hub of operations. We all had other names we fancied but at the end of the day The Deslondes was the one that agreed with us best. Been explaining the pronunciation ever since!”

However, the band are a little more scattered now. “Dan, Cam [Cameron Snyder, keyboards and percussion] and I all still live in Nola. John James [Tourville, pedal steel and fiddle] moved to Asheville with his family and Riley [Downing, guitar] moved back home to Missouri. It does make things a bit more tricky – getting together to rehearse or casually write is more of a to-do than when we all lived in the same neighbourhood. At the end of the day though, we all can still meet up when we need to… the most important thing is that everyone digs where they live.”

We’re born out of a scene where ‘making it’ isn’t really on people’s minds and social dancing is the thing. At home we’re just a dance band

Anyone hearing recent album Hurry Home after their eponymous debut will be struck by the broadening of the palette: the debut took what I guess we call Americana (bits of country and bluegrass and folk and such) and did some really original things with it. But Hurry Home adds so much, especially elements of that post-rock ’n’ roll/pre-Beatles dreamy style beloved of David Lynch, prevalent on songs like She Better Be Lonely and Just In Love With You. Doores thinks this is down to a broader range of influences and their growing confidence as a band.

“When we got together to write for Hurry Home it was clear that more influences were working their way into our songwriting and arranging. It was an exciting time for us – working these songs out with our good friend and producer Andrija Tokic in the studio, exploring new sounds and ideas. I think Cameron’s organ playing specifically added an interesting new element to Hurry Home.” The band operate on a very democratic basis and everyone writes and sings on Hurry Home. “We’re pretty good at naturally finding common ground. We all bring in new songs and when the rest of the band gets excited about one we all work it out together. When it comes time for a decision to be made in the studio about something we don’t all agree about, we generally defer to the original writer.”

There’s a great interview with Dr John where he talked about how the key element everyone misses in the New Orleans gumbo – musically and culturally – is the Latin influence, and I was curious about what Doores sees in The Deslondes’ music that owes something to the city. Hurry Home itself definitely has a Second Line quality to it and Many Poor Boy has a kind of Latin shuffle… “We owe a whole lot to this city. From our basic attitude and approach to music to the more specific spectrum of sounds and rhythms we incorporate. We’re born out of a scene where ‘making it’ isn’t really on people’s minds and social dancing is the thing. At home we’re just a dance band. The music business doesn’t really weave its way into the fabric of our community, which allows things to happen in a more relaxed, organic fashion. With regards to the New Orleans musical/cultural gumbo Dr John discussed, we feel like one thing that often gets overlooked is New Orleans’s relationship to country music. From Louis Armstrong playing with Jimmie Rodgers to the country dances that happen every Tuesday night at the Allstar Cover Dish Jamboree… We’re hugely influenced by all this as well as the Cajun music and swamp pop that comes out of West Louisiana. We owe a great deal to the early New Orleans R&B and rock ‘n’ roll as well – Huey Piano Smith, Jimmy Donley, Bobby Charles, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Esquerita, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas and many, many more…”

As for the future, Doores admits they haven’t thought that far ahead. “No plans for album #3 yet.  We’re gonna take some time after this run to just chill out and write… see where that leads us.”

The Deslondes play Newcastle’s The Cluny 2 on Thursday 25th January. Hurry Home is out now on New West Records.



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