By Ty Simmons
Bands with a little bit of jam-base are prone to the cover. They’re easy to build improvisations around, to perform, and for people to recognize. Bands can build a lot of steam by having a good cover library.
The good bands, however, have a good original library as well. Gravity A has both, and with a style and swagger that are all their own.
So when Gravity A comes through town on the 30th performing their Talking Heads set, just know that they’re not a Talking Heads ‘tribute band’ – they’re just performing the tribute.
Gravity A is using this opportunity to promote their original tunes, which is a danceable force to be reckoned with.
“When traveling,” Michael Fouquier, drummer, tells me, “our sets like to consist mostly of our original music. That’s what we want everyone to hear, but the crowd loves to recognize a cover. We cover a lot of classic funk standards, a little Grateful Dead, some 80’s era tunes… We also do some hip-hop remixes, Ginuwine, Mike Jones. It’s really all over the place all stemming from what we as individuals love and want to play. We all have such different tastes and expectations for the music we listen to and what we like to play, which is what makes us sounds like Gravity A.”
While dirty funk riffs and crunchy new wave synths aren’t typically the most comfortable of bedfellows, the self-proclaimed New Orleans funktronica band has little care for convention.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s going to be an unreliable interpretation of the Heads. “We are definitely covering all of the parts heard in TH live concerts,” Fouquier says. “Their songs have very specific parts, which is why they are so awesome. But on the other hand we can’t help but to bleed our own souls on stage and the GravA takes over a bit with longer guitar shredding and some songs with a slightly more electronica vibe.”
Back in April, Gravity A needed something different to entice the crowd during the Jazzfest afterparty extravaganza, and the Howlin’ Wolf was looking for a band to participate in their tribute night on the 25th.
“I received a call from the Howlin’ Wolf asking if we wanted to be a part of this tribute night that they were putting together,” Fonquier says. “I thought about it for a while and thought about the Stop Making Sense concert and how powerful and complete it was. Every song is a hit and everyone loves TH. I responded to the Howlin’ Wolf with a text: “Talking Heads?” Tickets went on sale either that day or the next… there was no turning back; we were locked in and had to pull this one off.”
Pull it off they did, and the right people must have seen. The response has been huge, with offers to play in Denver, Boulder, Jackson, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Gulfport.
To make the show as good as possible, Gravity A recruited fellow New Orleans musician Cliff Hines to fill the oversized suit of Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne. From his frame to his voice to his manic energy, he’s been doing his best to bring justice to the frantic performing prowess of Byrne.
“As soon as we saw tickets on sale for the tribute we knew it was on us to make this happen. We tossed around several names over the course of a week or so while driving from show to show in the van. When Cliff’s name came up, it was unanimous that he would be the best for the job. What happened next was unexpected…None of knew that Cliff would actually transform into David Byrne; showing up in a suit, taking on all of his crazy stage antics, movements and dances. The vocals and voice and stage chatter. He nails it to the wall and is David Bryne when we play the set. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone take on the challenge of recreating David Byrne’s musicianship and stage presence and knocking out of the park like Cliff has,” Fonquier says.
Stop Making Sense, arguably the best concert film ever shot, celebrated its 30th anniversary this past summer. The Head’s seminal movie is receiving some theatrical releases throughout the country, stopping in New Orleans at Shotgun Cinema, September 6th.
When asked about it, Fonquier replied, “This is the first time I’m hearing that. What an awesome coincidence! I’ll be sure to make an announcement on stage. Ha!”
Saturday, August 30