Music has always been an integral aspect of Louisiana’s unique culture. Genres such as zydeco, jazz and bounce are synonymous with the state’s name itself. However, there’s a subgenre that isn’t talked about quite as much in the mainstream in Louisiana, but has a cult-like following.
DIY (do-it-yourself) bands are becoming increasingly popular in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. The idea is simple. The band does everything – writes, records and distributes music – without any outside help and are unsigned. However, that’s the purest sense of the term. These days, in an era of streaming services and easy access to recording studios, the term has become more synonymous with unsigned.
One of the more popular DIY bands in south Louisiana is Hey Thanks!. Founded in 2016, the band plays many of their shows in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. In addition to playing locally, the pop-punk band will have done a few regional tours before the year is over. Even more frequently, Hey Thanks! goes on “runs” – a quick series of shows back and forth through Texas, Arkansas or Mississippi – typically once a month.
“It’s really an excuse to get out of the state and play,” Cale Guidry, the band’s manager, said.
Those “runs” are also a chance to foster relationships with other DIY bands and venues, which, in turn, helps promotion go both ways. If a band from Houston were to help Hey Thanks! book a show there, Hey Thanks! might be able to help that other band get booked in Baton Rouge.
“We’re really trying to foster a sense of community and friendship with these bands from across the country, and because of that we’ve been able to tour a lot more,” Guidry said.
In addition to Hey Thanks!, Shipwrecked is another DIY band – in the truest sense – based in Baton Rouge. New Orleans is home to bands like Rich Octopus and Hand Out. Lafayette is home to Social Circle, a synth-pop quartet.
Another feature of DIY is that it doesn’t specifically refer to any single subgenre.
“The DIY scene caters to more underground genres, like punk, emo, grunge and metal,” Guidry said.
So, while DIY typically implies rock, it doesn’t imply and specific subgenre. Hey Thanks! and Shipwrecked are pop-punk, Rich Octopus identifies as emo pop, Hand Out identifies as power-emo and Social Circle identifies as synth-pop. Even in a smaller market such as south Louisiana, there’s a variety of DIY bands.
Baton Rouge is home to about five venues that regularly host DIY bands. Southside Art Center is the main hub, followed by Radio Bar, Midcity Ballroom, City Bar and The Varsity.
Although the very concept of DIY is such an idealistic goal and Louisiana has a smaller market for underground rock, bands like Hey Thanks! and Shipwrecked have managed to stay afloat and build a loyal fanbase. To get a taste of this local scene, pop into The Varsity on August 24 and catch Hey Thanks!.