Dig Baton Rouge

Celebration Groove

By Austen Krantz

Baton Rouge’s Levee Daze will drop the curtain on a debut album Friday with an ambitiously collaborative performance-party and CD handouts for attendees.

But beyond the recording process, costs of production, song-writing and practicing for Friday’s debut performance at Chelsea’s, the band’s hardest work involving the record was labeling it with a genre for an intellectual property rights form.

“There’s no way to pin it down to just one approach,” said drummer Scotty Graves. “I can’t really think of a particular genre that we haven’t incorporated in one way or another into what we do. It’s indicative of the way we all function as musicians.”

While the band shares unifying aspects when they play and in the music they listen to, their differences and range of interests help produce spontaneity and variety in their music, which was something they wanted to showcase in the album and upcoming live show, Graves said.

The band of LSU students started making plans for an album when they started filling local venues with groovy improvisation, four years ago. While a previous recording mishap and a heavy performance schedule prevented an earlier album, the group was able to use its long-lasting experience of tight-knit live performance in the studio to produce a live feel said Graves.

“There were some live moments, some moments of pure connection,” said Graves.

Rather than laying down tracks by recording each instrumental separately, the band recorded the tracks together, in a group — save for some added vocals and percussion.

“We were all in a circle in the same room, looking at each other and playing,” said guitarist John Trufant. “We laid down the skeleton of a couple of songs and just went with it.”

The recording studio also lent some new and unexpected elements to the album. Graves found an opportunity to record at Eastern Sun Studios, an artist-filled recording haven in his hometown of Austin, Texas. There, the band saddled up their gear and entered a warehouse with a built-in sound-proof recording studio. But they weren’t the only ones there to work.

“There were other artists just making art all throughout the studio like sculptors and painters — just doing all kinds of art for different projects,” remembered Trufant.

Bassist Andrew Borniak said that experience lent a productive component to the band’s work.

“It felt cool because it was a building where all these people, though they were doing different kinds of art – including us – were all just working,” said Borniak. “It was like a little micro-community. So I think that actually added to the creativity [of the album].”

Taking an out-of-state trip also lent the band a nice opportunity to approach their recording work from a different direction than usual practices at their levee-bound home on river road. The band planned to record seven tracks, but by the time they set up their gear to record, they were already making changes.

“You play it live in front of a crowd and you have one mindset: ‘What are they going hear? How are they going to hear it?’” explained Trufant. “So then you go into the studio and you realize, ‘Even though we wrote this in the house, it feels different now that we’re here.’”

At the end of the process, the band had seven tracks recorded that they picked to form a cohesive work from beginning to end, including a reggae cover of the folk classic, “Shady Grove.” While they had more material, they felt these songs stuck to each other the best, said Trufant.

“It’s a collection of songs that make up the last couple of years on the levee,” he said.

Chelsea’s will charge a $7 cover charge for Friday’s performance, which will feature opener Machete from Lafayette, Levee Daze with special guests, and a copy of the new Levee Daze album upon entry.

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