In just two weeks, the SouthSounds music and arts festival (April 8-10) will bring a legion of musical acts from across the Southeast to the streets of Mobile. Some will be participating in the Lagniappe New Southern Music Showcase, and judged by a panel of industry figures. The band that most charms the judges with its musical prowess will win a prize package that includes gift certificates, a Gulf Shores R&R/writing getaway and recording time at Studio H2O with local music icon Rick Hirsch.
Lagniappe readers, meet New Orleans band Motel Radio, which will travel to the Azalea City fresh from their showcase at SXSW 2016. According to guitarist/vocalist Ian Wellman, Motel Radio proved itself worthy in the intense environment of the Austin, Texas, music conference.
“The whole SXSW thing is pretty crazy,” Wellman said. “There are tons of people from all over the place, and the shows are really quick. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Motel Radio is part of a small but growing indie rock scene in the Crescent City. The band is originally from Baton Rouge, where the members met while attending LSU. The group saw relocating to New Orleans as a “natural move” in their career. But when they arrived, they came to the realization NOLA was more focused on the local funk, jazz and brass sounds. Nonetheless, Motel Radio took advantage of its time in this music city.
“We were able to meet other people that were doing what we were doing and get into that loop pretty quickly,” Wellman said. “They’re all great people, and everybody has each other’s back. That’s how we met our keyboardist, Dave [Hart].”
Motel Radio’s latest offering is the single “Gimme Your Love,” a harmonic chorus sandwiched between clean lyrical work and a catchy guitar riff riddled with haunting reverb. According to Wellman, the song evolved from riff. Through meditative time on his scooter, Wellman began to organically formulate words, which eventually took on a theme.
“It’s all about repetition with us,” Wellman explained. “I don’t think that I wrote it with any specific experience in mind. It all just developed in my head naturally.”
When it comes to the Lagniappe New Southern Music Showcase prize package, all the participating bands are attracted to at least one item in particular. Considering their intense tour schedule, the gas card gift certificate is quite attractive to Motel Radio. However, the opportunity to record with Rick Hirsch at Studio H2O would be quite convenient. Wellman said it’s time for Motel Radio to record an EP. If this indie rock up-and-comer beats the competition, the EP could be recorded in Mobile.
She Returns from War is another stellar band performing in the showcase.
From alt. rock to Americana, the Carolinas have a rich musical heritage that continues to flourish. Charleston’s She Returns from War has an alt. folk rock sound mingled with a Southern gothic vibe. The band’s organic music is dominated by acoustic instrumentation, flawless harmonies and the lyrical talent of vocalist/guitarist Hunter Park. Park has fondly labeled this music “Abandoned House Folk” and “Abandoned Woman Americana.”
“The whole idea of a woman abandoned was how I started, because a lot of my songs are about heartbreak,” Park said. “Now the imagery and musings lend more to highway people.”
In 2014, She Returns from War gave the world a double dose of its brand of folk. The DIY “Coyote Soda” EP served as the band’s debut with haunting percussion and hypnotic reverb. They followed up with a self-titled EP focused more on their Americana persona, featuring more production than its in-house predecessor.
“Mainly, we did the first EP to have fun,” Park said. “It was a good little way for us to do it ourselves. Then we were able to go into the studio and be comfortable with it.”
The Lagniappe New Southern Music Showcase’s prize package features everything an up-and-coming band would want. Park said she is most excited about the beach-side R&R/writing retreat the winning band will receive. However, she said, she is most looking forward to performing at the festival itself.
“I’ve never actually played in Alabama before,” Park explained. “There’s a ton of my friends playing it too, so I’m excited.”