The Baton Rouge-based band wants to establish itself in the Crescent City with "chamber folk."
Peter Simon recalls the Baton Rouge music scene roughly half a decade ago, describing a bleak offering of cover bands and little else musically. But since that time, Baton Rouge has worked up a local artist scene that's starting to leak into New Orleans, and Simon's group Minos the Saint is part of the pack.
Minos the Saint began its first residency in New Orleans, where it will play a series of happy hour shows at the House of Blues' Crossroads stage starting January 3 and continuing four more Fridays until the end of the month. The residency is a first step for Minos the Saint, anxious to get a foot in the door only an hour away, Simon says. It's not the first shows the group has played in New Orleans, but it's an important move.
Minos the Saint already has something distinct about it despite just hitting the one year mark. The best term Simon and band co-founder Ben Herrington have formulated for its sound is "chamber folk," but that's not exactly right. "Folk" suggests something dangerously close to the trendy, inoffensive style of Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers — or, as Simon refers to those acts, "vanilla."
Minos the Saint sets itself apart through an array of influences. Songs often break for accordion-lead interludes, invoking the zydeco sounds of the nearby bayous. Simon leads with confident vocals complemented by multi-instrumental, complex compositions, and a knack for songwriting he developed while going solo in Baton Rouge. He recognizes the city''s past cultural problems, but he's invigorated as he discusses the community that's built up the music scene.
"We'll always be grateful for where we are. We found ourselves in a good place, and it's time to expand," Simon says. "People just get tired."
The stimulant for now is New Orleans. "[Baton Rouge] has been a great place to start for us," he says. "We're kind of in the shadow of New Orleans, and that's great. Just like our band, our city is not defined in any way. It's new."
Minos the Saint will try to further pin down that chamber folk sound as they begin recording a debut album at the end of the month — a chance to show off 2013's growth as a group, but "any change is subtle," Simon acknowledges. Yet scoring a residency at one of New Orleans' most well-known venues is something more significant than subtle. "There's the crowd from all over the world. We have one person on the left, a couple from Iowa, to your right is a woman from Mozambique," he laughs. "I gave them both CDs. We wanna be huge in Mozambique."