The New Orleans band talk about their new record and staying true to their tastes.
“I always send them stuff. I get on their nerves telling them what they should listen to,” says Ms. Charm Taylor, leader singer of the electro soul, rock n’ roll outfit The Honorable South. A proud collector of vinyl 45s, Taylor kickstarted the latest record, Faithful Brave & Honest, shortly after discovering a Bunker Hill track, “Hide & Go Seek,” and forcing her band mates to sit down and take a listen. Recorded on Taylor’s birthday (Check out the “Happy Birthday. Let’s go,” in the opening) the track, rearranged by guitarist and producer Danny Kartel, puts a New Orleans twist on old school rock, with brass sections, bounce flavorings, and a thick upright bass line springing throughout. It’s just one surprise on an album that constantly twists and turns, evading genres but cementing the band’s wild, unpredictable style. The Honorable South makes its first Jazz Fest appearance May 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Samsung Galaxy Stage.
Faithful Brave & Honest pushes the eclectic rock and soul sound that earned the group’s sophomore record, I Love My Tribe, plenty of local praise. Tracks such as “St. Charles Parish” and “Faithful Brave & Honest” respectively infuse psychedelic-pop and folk, pushing the band further from any particular label. Taylor attributes the new album’s sound to “spending so much time together and being dedicated to figuring out where one another was coming from.” She continues, “It got to the point where I would be writing a song one night with Charles [bassist] and the next day, Danny would say, ‘Hey, I’ve got something you need to hear,’ and it would be the music for the song I had written the night before, without us having been in the same room.”
That came as a big hurdle for Danny Kartel, who spent most of his career producing hip-hop tracks with Beats By The Pound and The Medicine Men. Rock wasn’t his expertise, but after hearing Taylor’s voice, he believed that she “sounded like a rapper,” and soon joined the group. The connection isn’t hard to make when listening to Taylor’s cover of “Notorious Thugs” at the end of the track “The Weather” on I Love My Tribe. “It definitely helps to have a relationship with the producer who completely understands what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Taylor, “who knows what arrangements, what instruments give you chill bumps and really inspire you.”
Aside from the band’s sound, Taylor’s bold lyrics are the next element that sticks with listeners. “I consider myself an Americana-style writer,” says the lead singer. “I do a lot of listening to people with my eyes and imagine their stories. Some songs on the record are purely conjectures of people's situations that I perceive. We all do it when we assume that we know what’s going on across the room from us.” Taylor also cites ‘90s southern hip-hop as a direct influence on her lyrics, stating, “My writing really evolved once I started integrating the stylistic choices a lot of those southern rappers were making.”
A West Coast native, Taylor first came to the Crescent City on a post-Katrina housing development project and instantly fell for the city’s personality. She explains that the band’s name is “an ode to the fact that the city of New Orleans is kind of a standout place in the South, and in the country period. I think that the celebratory spirit and commitment to resilience are very honorable traits.” After finishing school in L.A., Taylor moved back to New Orleans working as a middle school history and writing teacher. Just a year after her return, she met up with guitarist Matthew Rosenbeck. “One of our mutual friends had a spoken word performance and we both kind of became bored and started a conversation,” says Taylor. After discussing their mutual admiration of Modest Mouse, soul, rock, and experimental electronic, the duo immediately decided to start making music. “I was like, ‘Wow, man. Why are we still here right now? This isn’t ordinary and obviously we are a little off kilter.” Off kilter might be an appropriate adjective to describe the group, but three albums later and with multiple festival bookings in store, their unorthodox and high energy rock n’ roll has proven to be a winning combination.