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New Orleanian Songstress Alexis Marceaux Discusses Music-Making Post Katrina

Alexis Marceaux’s sophomore release — Orange Moon — was recorded upon moving back to the Crescent City after her family lost everything during Hurricane Katrina and was forced to vacate for a while.

Upon her return to New Orleans, Marceaux assembled a band, known collectively as the Samurai and comprised of university-trained, Jazz musicians: drummer Paul Thibodeaux and bassist Ted Long. Last to join was producer Sam Craft who happened to be searching for a female vocalist for his own band, Glasgow. Marceaux discovered a kindred spirit in Craft — they are both bandleaders, who are willing to do whatever it takes to get their music heard. Marceaux and Craft immediately started collaborating. Mix in a dash of voodoo magic and — poof! — Orange Moon.

AdobeAirstream caught up with Marceaux and the Samurai after they played The Mohawk (with Shakey Graves and The Sour Notes) last night to ask a few questions about Orange Moon.

A2: Orange Moon borrows a lot from NOLA’s musical heritage, but I would not necessarily categorize the resulting sound as traditional NOLA music — was this purposeful on your part?

AM: You’re spot on. “Indie pop” or not, I will always put my New Orleans heritage into my music, and quite frankly it’s hard not to have at least a little of it there. It such a big part of who I am — my family is Cajun French and I grew up dancing to Zydeco with my Grandma while my Grandpa was playing the accordion. You can’t go anywhere in our city without hearing the music of brass bands, traditional dixieland jazz, or bounce music.

A2: How did hurricane Katrina, and being in New Orleans during that time, influence Orange Moon.

AM: Well the title Orange Moon comes from a scene that became etched into my memory — I was driving into town on I-10 post-Katrina and a large harvest moon was looming over the city skyline, as if embracing and protecting the city. That nurturing image was a huge influence to me, and this record. We recorded the album in an old shotgun house, the home of our engineer Rick Nelson (member of the The Polyphonic Spree, among other bands) in Mid-City. The high ceilings and hardwood floors (requisites in any New Orleans house) made for the perfect warmth and reverb we were looking for.

A2: How has your transition to utilizing metaphorical lyrics influenced the instrumentation of your songs?

AM: Well, that all has to do with the use of imagery. As with its use in words, imagery is an incredibly viable tool in music. The two go hand in hand. So, for example, when I sing about pastoral things (as with the song Fox: “The fox enters the yard…she walks right past the bushes, but no one seems to mind“), naturally there are going to be some hints of birdsong, wind, and rolling landscapes in the music.

The same goes with the song Leila and the Orange Moon. In it, I’m comparing my very courageous friend Leila Foret, who bravely battled cancer for several years, to the city of New Orleans itself, battling back from the disastrous aftermath of Katrina. To help illustrate the image of a city fighting for its own welfare, that song is filled with Brass Band music, police sirens, ghostly fog, and countless other musical clues.

A2: What’s your approach to performing the songs from Orange Moon live?

AM: When we’re in New Orleans, or close by, we play as a 4-ish piece. But when we hit the road in earnest — as with our Mohawk show with The Sour Notes [and Shakey Graves] on October 25th — we do a wild and wacky duo thing. I’m on guitar and playing percussion and singing lead. Sam plays bass notes on a keyboard while doing pretty much an entire drum set worth of percussion while playing violin while singing. Our duo approximates the album’s sound about as darn close as you can get. And, It’s quite a spectacle!

A2: Orange Moon takes on several political issues, such the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Do you think the pelican [of Wishing Well] will ever return?

AM: Said pelican is alive and fishing as we speak — but she needed to give everybody a good scare so that we wouldn’t take her for granted.

 

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