New Orleans-based group The Deslondes effortlessly mix up genres: their music has clear antecedents in country, zydeco, jazz, soul, and even rock ‘n’ roll. They’re currently in pre-production on a follow-up to their self-titled 2015 debut. The Deslondes returned to Asheville NC for a May 12 show at The Grey Eagle. I recently spoke with pedal steel guitarist and fiddler John James (JJ) Tourville.
Bill Kopp: When I heard “Fought the Blues and Won” on The Deslondes, the first thing I thought was, “Fats Domino meets Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.” Do you consciously develop songs and arrangements that touch on – and even blur the lines between – various genre styles?
JJ Tourville: It’s a mixture. We all listen to a lot of music, so we’re inspired by a lot of different stuff. So when we write and arrange the songs, influences come through. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be our song.
The album’s production aesthetic has a very live, organic feel. In this age of ProTools, how did you achieve such a natural sound?
We’ve been working with the same producer in Nashville, Andrija Tokic, for years. He’s been working on the same board since he was 12. We do straight analog recording, with 2-inch tape. Plus the way we come to this music is by teaching each other, and learning from other folks; it’s all passed around.
You describe the songwriting process as democratic. How does that work in practice?
All five of us write. For the first album, someone in the band would have a song idea, and then we would arrange it together, maybe add a bridge. And for the next album, we all met up in Athens, Ga. last winter to write together. Lyrically and musically we work that way: if someone’s missing a verse, someone else helps out.
You’re headed to the UK and Europe soon for another tour. What do you think is at the root of Americana’s ability to appeal to cultures elsewhere?
American culture will always be there: the way we do things, and how we create things is different than in the rest of the world. Back in the 1930s, author and composer Cyril Scott had the idea that art and music reflect the generation in which they were created, and vice versa. So people around the world can see American culture right onstage.
Beyond Asheville being a frequent tour destination, does the band have any connections to our local music scene?
Actually, I live here now. My wife and I and our boys moved to Asheville a year ago. It’s a drastic change from New Orleans, but it’s great. Besides playing and touring with The Deslondes, I play with a bunch of folks here: The Carolina Cud Chewers, Brody Douglas Hunt’s honky tonk band, and Hearts Gone South, who are also the opener for The Deslondes’ show at the Grey Eagle.