By: Joshua Jackson
The music scene in Louisiana has always been predominantly jazz and hip-hop thanks in no small part to the state’s roots. But a new genre is beginning to make its way to the forefront—the rock scene.
Bands are popping up from all over the state to become part of a rock movement flourishing in Louisiana culture. On Aug. 1, the Spanish Moon will again provide a place for the Louisiana rock scene to gather as native bands Summer Fits, Modern Language, and Handsome Machines perform their sets at 10 p.m.
Two of these bands have set goals to put their home of Baton Rouge on the map and represent it wherever they may play. The other, a band that began in Louisiana’s Northshore, is also proud of its non-New Orleans roots. All of which is to show that there is more to the Boot than the Crescent City.
The largest band of the night’s lineup, Modern Language is a band of six men from Northshore towns like Covington, La. At an average age of 24, the band has plenty of musical experience behind it as most members have been playing for almost a decade. It is this knowledge of how music should work and sound which has made Modern Language’s collaborative process much easier.
“We kind of just bounce ideas off of each other and say if we like them or not,” horns and keys player Patrick Mongrue said. “One of us will play a riff or something and we’ll just build from there. It’s not so structured like some other bands are.”
After forming in the summer of 2013, Modern Language suffered a little disappointment. Many of the band’s sounds were mellow and melancholic, resulting in its rejection from Battle of the Band competitions or local shows. After retooling the sound, the inspired band found itself on the right track.
“One of my favorite parts of this band is that we all take inspiration from other places and bands and bring it together,” guitarist Seth Leonard said.
Now heading into the show at Spanish Moon, Modern Language will take its self-described “chill sound” and place as a part of the Louisiana rock music movement—movement exciting for them and the city.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but it feels nice to make music with good people and get some attention,” Mongrue said. “I feel good going forward.”
Less than a week after the show, Modern Language will release its first EP at a gig in Hammond, La., on Aug. 7. As they look to release their first project, so does another band on the lineup.
Local band Handsome Machines, a threesome inspired by the likes of Spoon and Dr. Dog, looks to release their album ELIZA within the month of August and will play most of the album at Spanish Moon.
The band met through friends having casual conversation about music and covering songs. They keep these songs as a part of the set and will likely throw a few covers in as well.
“A lot of it will be melodic pop stuff,” guitarist and vocalist Stephen Bowling said. “It’s all pretty simple music with some melodies and harmonies thrown in.”
It is these same melodies and harmonies that Handsome Machines takes pride in contributing to the rising Louisiana music scene.
“Baton Rouge’s scene for original music has gotten a lot better in recent years, and it’s good to be a part of that,” Bowling said.
Bowling used to play with a few of the members from Summer Fits in another band called We Landed on the Moon and said playing on the same stage as them is always a good time. While the sound of Handsome Machines may be different, he said the feeling of joy is still there when he plays.
“We encourage having a good time. We encourage singing along. We want people to come out, have a few drinks, and not have their faces melted off by some metal,” said bassist and vocalist Daniel Patterson.
Completing the roster that night is Summer Fits, another local rock band inspired by The Kills and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Lead vocalist Melissa Eccles also plays rhythm guitar, keys, and small percussion in the four-piece band.
She started the project and began writing some of harder rock songs on guitar as she was playing with We Landed on the Moon. Now able to express herself a little more in Summer Fits, the frontwoman is excited to be a leader in a band which is a part of the rising rock scene.
“New Orleans isn’t known for a rock scene,” Eccles said. “The scene in Baton Rouge has certainly blown up, and I don’t think too many people realize how many great people have come from the Baton Rouge music scene.”
Summer Fits plans to deliver all original music at the Spanish Moon show, some of which will come from an EP the band released earlier this year. Eccles said the band has enough material for a full album but is currently occupied with a side project. However, their main focus is on the show right now.
“At the show, we’ll be playing some belting rock tunes as well as some more melodic, pretty tunes toward the end,” Eccles said.
Saturday night, Baton Rouge residents will have an opportunity to support their artists. Along with drinks, the sound of rock music will fill the air to symbolize the change that is coming—a change that could be known as the rising of the Louisiana rock community.