The Shreveport-based band breaks a rock 'n' roll sweat by embracing classic values: passion and energy. In this encore presentation, singer A.J. Haynes recalls the band's punk rock origins.
Seratones’ Get Gone is one of the best rock albums to come out of Louisiana this year. The Shreveport-based band’s debut album on Fat Possum Records is a reminder that every generation rediscovers the MC5 and finds new ways to channel its love of rock distortion and R&B soul. Get Gone starts with “Choking on Your Spit,” and singer A.J. Haynes memorably breaks the last word of the title into two syllables with so much attitude that you can hear her looking down her nose at you.
Seratones will play Voodoo Friday at 2:30 p.m. on the new South Course stage, and live they bring classic garage rock heat, fronted by Haynes, whose background in the church gives her voice presence and power equal to the other three pieces in the band.
In February, we interviewed A.J. Haynes before the band played New Orleans. Here’s an encore presentation of that story.
The short story behind Shreveport’s Seratones is that the members met in a punk club and came together to make a flame-throwing version of garage R&B. It’s a sound that dates back to the MC5, but it’s a bracing, exhilarating sound each time someone revisits it, particularly with A.J. Haynes’ soul shouter vocals up front. Her performance on “Necromancer,” their most recent single on Fat Possum Records, makes you want to go find that Shreveport punk club to see what else might be happening there.
Seratones return to Gasa Gasa Saturday night where they’ll share a bill with Allan Rayman and Coyotes, and their story isn’t as simple as it might sound. If “punk club” brings to mind images of black leather jackets, Black Flag, or hardcore, you’re being too specific. “Punk is an ideology; it’s a subculture,” Haynes says. “It’s going to be independent. D.I.Y. or die. As far as the styles of music, we had everything from thrash to psychedelic to surf rock. Stooges-esque I-IV-V punk. It was all over the place.”
Haynes isn’t sure that “punk club” is right, even by that definition. “It’s more like the places that let us play,” she says, laughing.
Still, Haynes doesn’t shy away Seratones’ punk roots. It’s appropriate, she says. “When you think about the lineage of punk music, it came from the blues, and from people who didn’t have a lot of resources and made some noise. We’re just trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents.”
More accurately, the band’s story is that of many bands in smaller and isolated cities—places that don’t get a lot of touring bands. If no one is bringing rock ’n’ roll to you, you have to make it yourself. If you want to hear a certain kind of music live, you might have to play it.
Haynes tells the Seratones story with the precision of someone who has taught high school for a living—really. She’s careful not to overstate, and she can see many sides of the matter at hand. Her roots as a singer are in the church she attended in rural Louisiana before moving to Shreveport. Once there, she found a small community of like-minded people who played music whenever and wherever they could. Everybody played with each other until they found combinations that stuck.
Haynes and the other Seratones—Connor Davis, Adam Davis, Jesse Gabriel—bonded over a shared affection for the MC5, which is no surprise, as well as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which is.
“That record’s really special to all of us in different ways and different situations,” she says.
It’s not specifically her thing, but “all the guys in my band know almost every Black Sabbath songs forward and backward,” and part of connecting in that milieu is a shared contrarian streak. For Seratones it comes in their appreciation of San Francisco punk band The Dead Kennedys.
“They had pretty intricate rhythms, and Jello Biafra,” Haynes says. “Jello Biafra’s more akin to a jazz singer than most.”
Pre-Seratones, Haynes, Gabriel and Adam Davis played in a blues cover band, so it’s no surprise that the Seratones sound the way they do. “A little aggression never hurt anybody,” she says, laughing. It’s also no surprise that the band has found a home with Fat Possum Records, the Oxford, Mississippi label that has always liked its blues raw as performed by older, then-regionally known artists RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, or these days young bands with some punk or metal noise in the mix.
The band released the digital single “Choking on Your Spit (Karma)” and “Don’t Need It” through Bandcamp in September 2014, and even though Seratones have a three-album deal with Fat Possum, they released the vinyl single “Necromancer” last fall. As a result, people are discovering the band through a killer song, but the decision to start with a single rather than an album wasn’t that premeditated.
“That’s where we were at that point,” Haynes says matter-of-factly. “‘Necromancer’ was a great, solid single. It’s one of those one-time freak out songs.”