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New Orleans Suspects Keep 'That Feeling' In The Music

Starting out as a pick-up band nearly 10 years ago, The New Orleans Suspects have become one of the hardest-hitting bands coming out of New Orleans today. Made up of well-seasoned musicians from some of the most respect bands in the area, they mix old and new to create style of their own. New Orleans Suspects are scheduled to perform Saturday 10/19/19 at Broadway Oyster Bar. 

KDHX DJ Jim Bruce, host of Higher Ground, Tuesday, 2-4 PM, caught up with New Orleans Suspects guitarist Jake Eckert to discuss his musical influences, current projects and trying to define that New Orleans sound.

Jim Bruce: We are joined live here on Higher Ground by JE of the New Orleans Suspects. Jake, how you doing today, man? 

Jake Eckert: I'm doing great. How y'all doing? 

We're doing good up here man. You guys are coming back into town this Saturday down at the Broadway Oyster Bar. That'd be the 19th. Just thought we'd give you a little call, see what's going on with you guys. Always fun to talk to you guys. So I'd like to ask a couple of questions here about what's up with you. So, you guys have been playing St.Louis for a really long time now. What do you really like about playing in St.Louis?

Oh man. There's a lot I like about playing in St.Louis. But you know, like New Orleans, St.Louis is a Mississippi River city and it has its own culture within itself. And, you know, I feel a bit of a connection with New Orleans and St. Louis, and Chicago and Memphis, all the cities that run up and down, I guess it’d be Highway 55. 


Like you said, we’ve been playing there a long time and there's a whole lot of New Orleans music fans in St. Louis who come down and you know, of course the Broadway Oyster Bar, and John Johnson that owns it, he's a huge New Orleans music person. And I really feel a lot of warmth when I come into town – very welcoming and a whole lot of fans that love the music. So yeah, St. Louis has always been one of our special spots over the last decade. So, glad to be back.

Yeah, we're real happy to have you coming back, too. It's always a lot of fun when you guys come into town. You know, a lot of different people have a lot of ideas about what the whole New Orleans sound is really like. What does it mean to you? What's the New Orleans sound to you?

Well, there's a couple of parts to that question.

Yeah...sorry man!

But, you know, an easy way to put it to me, the New Orleans sound is as much as sound as a feeling. And you know, a lot of people come to the city of New Orleans and they feel like, you know, it stays with them after they leave. It's inside of them. And a lot of people fall in love with it. And you know, it has to do with the sound, the walk, the talk, the food, the...heat. And you know, all the, all the things that go along with it to make New Orleans what it is. I think people kind of adopt that as their own. And I think that's part of the sound. When we come somewhere or other bands I play with, like I say The Dirty Dozen over the years or whomever it may be from New Orleans, we bring that sound with us.

I think a lot of it has to do with just being here all the time and it kinda soaking into who you are, you know, on a daily basis. When we come to other towns and play other cities and play, we bring that with us. And I hope that...and I feel that really, people get a taste of that. They're down in New Orleans and with that, that sound and basically for the evening, for three or four hours, they get a little taste of New Orleans without actually having to jump on an airplane or jump in the car and drive here.  So as far as the New Orleans sound, that's part one. I think it's, it's a feeling. The New Orleans sound, strictly musically speaking, there's a lot of different sounds in New Orleans really that make up the one big sound. I live uptown New Orleans. To me, which is more of a funk sound. As far as in The Neville Brothers, The Meters, The Radiators, different, like more of a rock and funk sound. To me a more downtown Sixth Ward sound is, of course, the brass band sounds. Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the second line music, parade music. And you know, I could go on and on, and it goes beyond that. There's sub genres of each of those. But I believe that sound that you're referring to is actually a combination of all these different sounds of the different parts of town here in New Orleans, in the different neighborhoods. Which kind of culminate to build what you're calling the New Orleans sound, you know?

To relate to what you just said a moment ago, I always say that New Orleans has more culture than any city in the world because I can't think of any other city where nearly everyone that you talk to, they know what the music sounds like. They know what the architecture looks like, and they know what the food tastes like. And I don't know that you can really say that about any other city in the world.

Yeah, I mean, that's interesting. One thing that, you know, when I'm asked in an interview, or when I’m talking to people, especially when you go overseas to Europe and stuff, you know, you see, to me New Orleans is kinda like the northernmost Caribbean city that got smacked with some European influence, and they all kind of got mashed together. And it's hard to say, ‘Oh, New Orleans is like this’ or ‘New Orleans is like that.’ It's really something you can only kind of compare other things to, because it kind of is such its own thing. As I was saying with the music, the food, the people, the climate, the architecture, go on and on. But, and even every day after decades of living with it, it's like you still feel that you go ‘wow, this is, this is different.’ You know, especially when you get home after a tour or you travel, it is a place that is so uniquely itself.

It sure is. Something I've always wanted to ask you guys is, you guys come from a lot of different musical backgrounds, all, all over the map, kind of. What do you think is that really kind of ties your band together and gives you guys that cohesiveness cause you have an incredible connectedness when you guys are on stage playing?

You know, I think all of us, as we have very different musical tastes. We all have one, one thing in common that we like to, to play music with a groove. You know, we like to groove hard. And music that makes people dance, you know, and that's part of New Orleans. I think why everybody kind of culminated here in this city is, is because that music, and roots music and more than New Orleans music, which is a subgenre of what I'm getting at is American music.


And you know, me having been from Dirty Dozen... I don't really like going back and saying, ‘Oh, he's from here, he played with this band’ we've played with all kinds of people over the last, you know, four decades. Between Jeff, CR, myself and everybody else in the band. It''ve got James Brown influence, you got New Orleans music influence, you've got jam band influence. But one thing we all have in common is we like to groove. We all may have a different idea of what it is, but when we come together you hear a bit of each of those sounds that I just was referring to. So I think what really brings us together is the groove part of it, and the American music part of it. And within that, the New Orleans thing, you know.

Well, I know that the last couple of years you guys have played the MOM's Ball, which to me is the ultimate Mardi Gras ball. How in the world did you guys get that gig man? I know The Radiators did it forever. Was it a connection through Reggie and the Rads or is that the way it came out?

Well, you know, I've played MOM's Ball every year for, I bet you the last 10 years or so, maybe before that. And it hasn't always been with The Suspects. And the one thing about MOM’s, they don't really talk about it much and they, you don't really know who's going to play. 


And generally it's always us with a twist. Like last year it was actually The Tribal Gold. New Orleans Suspects Tribal Gold, which we could talk about. It's us with Juan Pardo, Big Chief Juan Pardo and The Golden Comanche Mardi Gras Indians. The year before that, I think it was, Leo Nocentelli and Johnny Vidacovich and myself and Tony Hall and the Mardi Gras Indians, and Jeff and CR, there's a lot of mashups that go on there. Just in the light of that whole thing, it's kind of a, a very spontaneous atmosphere. 

Ya think? 

Music for, you know, keep it PG-13 but it's also, it is the ultimate Mardi Gras ball. And if you take it way back, you know, Reggie. When you talked to Reggie and Dave and those guys from The Radiators, which my understanding of the way that started when I was just a kid, was it was a party in somebody's house. And The Radiators in the early 80s, late 70s were kind of... had this little crew, and like a snowball, it was rolling down the hill and 35 or 40 years later is it? 

Something like that, yeah.

Which is crazy. Yeah. It is just blown up into an entirely different level. But still the theme and the flamboyance of the whole thing is still alive and well and brighter than it probably ever was.

Yeah. I have friends who will not miss it. They've been going probably for 30 years themselves and they just, there's no way they'll miss MOM's ball ever.

Yeah. MOM's, yeah. That's the real thing. And that's kind of an underground thing that a lot of it, you know, it's kind of a secret thing, you know, even though we're talking about it. It's kind of kept under the wraps until it happens. You know, you don't know where it's going to be, you don't know who's going to play. But if you love Mardi Gras and you love the… expressive nature of the whole thing. And the creativity that comes out, that's kind of the, that's kind of the peak, you know. That's the full monty, no pun intended.

Yeah. Well it's true though, man. It really is. I got one more thing I want to ask you about. What are you guys working on now? You've got a new album in the works? I know you've got the recording studio going, and you guys working on putting something new out?

Yeah, we have two actually going right now. And we're actually about to put out the third single from the album that's coming out. We're releasing three singles and then, you know, follow up with the whole album when we're done. The one that's coming out that nobody's ever heard. It's actually a song that we had played that, our friend Jennifer Hartswick. Jennifer's a great trumpet player, singer who plays. She played with Trey Anastasio, Phil and Friends, a lot of different people. She came in and sang it with us, that's the third one that's called “Working My Way Back Home,” that's coming out. It should be out in the next week or two. And then that's part of our 6th album, as you know, The New Orleans Suspects. That should be out, you know, it'll be next year by the time, realistically, when we're done with it. Just cause this time of year it gets so busy. And then we've also almost completed the album for, we call it New Orleans Suspects Tribal Gold.

Uh huh. Tell us about that a little bit. Yeah, make sure you tell us about that.

Yeah. Tribal Gold is its own thing that we started touring with last year. That is The Suspects. It's all of us with Big Chief Juan Pardo and The Golden Comanche Mardi Gras Indian Tribe. And if you know people in other cities, another sub culture within a culture. Mardi Gras Indian culture has been here for centuries, for a couple of centuries. And long story short, we've integrated... we've really just married two things, which is that culture, the visual element of it, the dance element of it and the groove element of it. And, of course, the crazy, insane visual is to watch the Indians dance and do their thing, and the New Orlean Suspects music. And we've come together and we've written original music and redone some traditional Mardi Gras stuff. And it's really, I'm really excited about that. It's really cool. And to me it keeps something,  keeping something alive and exposed to the rest of the country that... that's one thing, like, you don't see outside of New Orleans much...

Ever, anywhere really.

Yeah. And it's, it's interesting cause just taking it on the road is like a circus, you know? There's generally about nine people on stage. And just the, the outfits, the Mardi Gras Indian head dresses, and the whole suits that they make, just getting those from one place to another is a feat in itself. But, you know, we're having a blast doing it and we've done about, think we've been on the road for about 15 shows or something over the summer, and just had a blast. You know, it's not something you can really see in, in a small club because nine people, it's just too many to fit on a lot of stages.

Yeah. Would never fit in The Oyster Bar, that's for sure.

Right. No, you couldn't fit in The Oyster Bar. Yeah. But yeah, and we have more coming, we're going up to Washington DC with that in a couple of weeks. And you know, that album will be out and that, that'll be a bit different, you know, than anybody's heard before. And I think the delivery of that music too, it's a bit different. You know, taking where Bo Dollis and The Wild Magnolias, Wild Tchoupitoulas and all that left off. And we feel like it's time to kind of present that music again correctly. Oftentimes I think it's presented, but it's kinda, just kind of by the seat of everybody's pants, and very temporary one. Do something that kind of, you know, is going to give that music a little kick. And you know, a bit more organized and presented well.

Funk it up a little bit. 

Yeah exactly.


Recorded 10/2/19 for air on Higher Ground 10/15/19.

New Orleans Suspects perform Saturday 10/19/19 at Broadway Oyster Bar


Check out the video and audio files of New Orleans Suspects live in the KDHX studio!

New Orleans Suspects "Grits" Live at KDHX 2/1/14



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