The local indie rock band has grown from a project to a band.

Breton Sound photo

Half of The Breton Sound has played Voodoo before, just not as The Breton Sound. Drummer John Bourgeois played a regular 11 a.m. slot in the Preservation Hall Tent with ska/punk band Fatter Than Albert, who could get 300 people in the gates first thing in the rock ’n’ roll morning when the festival was otherwise just waking up. Guitarist Jonathan Pretus played in 2008 as a member of Cowboy Mouth immediately before R.E.M. on the Sunday night. Cowboy Mouth’s John Thomas Griffith suggested that the rock ’n’ roll way to end the set was to smash a guitar, so Pretus bought a cheap one on Craig’s List, strapped it on for the last song, and when it ended, he wheeled it over his head and brought it down body-first, and didn’t stop until the guitar was in pieces.

“Afterwards, a security guard comes up holding a chunk of wood,” Pretus says. “Dude, that struck me right in the face - and it was fucking awesome!” This year, The Breton Sound won’t be on a main stage, nor will they play right in front of the headliner, and onstage destruction will likely thrill hundreds of people, but Pretus is fine with that. “It’s so much more rewarding to play on our own merits,” he says. 

The Breton Sound reflects first the tastes of Pretus and lead guitarist Stephen Turner, who started writing together in 2010. Pretus is more of a pop classicist than his Cowboy Mouth pedigree would suggest. We have connected online over The Beach Boys, The Monkees, and other pure pop bands, while Turner brings a background in prog rock and its accompanying love of technique to the group. Their first EP, Eudaemonia, didn’t suffer from a shortage of ideas. If anything, it was overstuffed like a Jellyfish song, with with some gnarly passages that enriched or sidetracked the songs, depending on your point of view. It felt more like a project than a band, something Pretus concedes. “That first EP was 100 percent Stephen and me,” he says. “We called the shots on parts and arrangements and stuff like that. Once we turned it into a full band, those songs took on a new life. As we started coming up with new material and everybody was working together on it, it became something bigger than the vision we originally had.”

They become an actual band in 2011 when they got a full lineup that included Pretus’ brother Brian on bass. He was a guitarist who picked up the bass at Jonathan’s request, so “at the beginning, I just played power chords because I like punk rock,” Brian says, laughing. “Then through the criticisms of other bass players, I realized, I should really start playing the bass now because I’m not playing guitar.” The Breton Sound played casinos in Baton Rouge to help fund the recording as a band, Maps, and playing constantly and learning crowd-pleasing covers quickly helped them find their identity. Live performance forced them to streamline their songs, but so did the changing band dynamic. Eudaemonia was the product of an 50/50 balance of power. “Now  it’s 25, 25, 25, 25,” Pretus says. “Brian comes from the same school I do of the short, sweet, three-and-a-half or four-minute pop songs. It’s cool because it curbs Stephen’s tendency to pull things that way, but Stephen curbs my tendency to make things two minutes and all chorus.” As a result, Maps has clear, simple pop hooks in songs that are deceptively complex.

Late last year, things got slightly more serious for the band. Good feedback, good performances and good writing led them to think at one point, “Why couldn’t this work?” But Pretus believes it was always going to happen. “Stephen and I always had the idea that this is what we wanted to do,” Pretus says. “It was just a matter of getting the equation correct.”

The Breton Sound plays the Flambeau Stage at Voodoo at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

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