Finding new toys inspired Generationals' evolution
As Generationals singer and multi-instrumentalist Grant Widmer brings up without even being asked, his band’s latest EP, Lucky Numbers, doesn’t sound much like New Orleans.
“This is a place that’s known for unique music,” the Crescent City performer says, on the line from home. “New Orleans has very specific-sounding music, but the stuff that we made for this record doesn’t reflect much of that historic New Orleans fingerprint.”
That gives Lucky Numbers something in common with pretty much everything Generationals has recorded since coming together in 2008. No one is going to confuse the duo—which also features singer-guitarist Ted Joyner—with Trombone Shorty, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and the Rebirth Brass Band. While Widmer and his bandmate are more than familiar with such Louisiana greats, their more accurate reference points include the likes of MGMT and Tame Impala, partly because, like those acts, the two are interested in pushing the boundaries of indie pop.
For earlier outings, Generationals seemed determined to get the most out of their guitars. Past efforts like Con Law and Actor-Caster took a lo-fi DIY approach. Lucky Numbers marks a shift in sonic direction, the EP’s three offerings flooded with ornate keyboard flourishes and synths that verge on the baroque. Generationals hasn’t completely abandoned its six-strings, as witnessed by the guitar bombs that explode in “Hazel House”. Still, Widmer acknowledges there has been a shift that has everything to do with the band stumbling upon new equipment.
“Basically, what happens is that someone will either give us something or we’ll somehow find out about some new synthesizer, and then play around with it for a while,” he says. “Inevitably, a new song comes out. It’s almost like every instrument that we find, we open the box, and then start figuring out a way to turn it into something new. Right now there this one that we’ve been using called a Kaossilator that does a lot of really cool arpeggio stuff. That particular instrument informed a lot of songs on this EP.”
Generationals mixed things up in more ways than one for Lucky Numbers. In the past, the bandmates have hunkered down in out-of-town studios operated by friends. This time they took the home-recording approach, which is ironic considering that the EP is their brightest and most polished-sounding release to date.
“We had these songs and wanted to get them out in the fall, so we decided that, rather than going to a studio somewhere, we would do what we could at home,” Widmer says. “So we took stock of what spaces were available to us—either from friends who were out of town or own apartments, and started tracking stuff.”
As a result, Lucky Numbers is very much a by-product of the best that New Orleans and its surrounding area has to offer, whether you’re talking lakefront cottages or abodes in the heart of the French Quarter. Not that anyone would know that from listening to it.
“We were exposed to Mardi Gras parades and things like that growing up, and we love New Orleans music,” Widmer says. “But it’s frustrating the way that people sometimes expect us to be playing swamp-pop, because we’re not coming from that place. When we got to the point where we were making our own stuff, it didn’t really reflect that kind of music.
“I think that’s maybe caused some weirdness with people in town,” he adds. “A lot of people who know the band don’t even know that we’re originally from New Orleans, or that we’re even a local band.”
Generationals plays the Media Club on Saturday (November 10).