It’s extremely hard to follow along when the four Shreveport, Louisiana natives in rising band Seratones tell a story. It’s not because there isn’t a plot, or because they’re boring or talking too fast or they’re telling things out of order. Rather, it seems like every story leads to a different story and reminds them of this one time or this place or the show they played. All of a sudden, you’re knee-deep in a simple question about the band’s background, and you’ve already heard 10 plots, involving everything from DIY punk shows to teen jazz aficionados to a band named Sunday Mass Murder.
“It is a righteous band name,” laughs lead singer AJ Haynes. She’s recounting bass player Adam Davis’ stint fronting a very different kind of band—a common feat among Seratones, who have played together in different combinations for about a decade. “You used to scare the shit out of me when I was 18.”
Haynes’ path to fronting the blues-informed, rock-centric, gospel-tinged amalgamation that’s winning hearts as Seratones right now has its own share of pit stops. She found her voice thanks to a congregation at a rural Baptist church, following the lead of her choir director.
“From there, I really fell in love with a lot of jazz singers,” says Haynes. “In high school, I listened to just a bunch of jazz music and then [the rest of the band] introduced me to punk music. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, you know? Punk and jazz.”
When Haynes says that last part, everybody laughs, but no one says she’s wrong; The band have built their creative confidence out of seemingly odd pairings. Davis and Haynes cite their work at the McNeill Pumping Station, an old waterworks museum in Shreveport where they arranged a community art installation, as just one of countless off-the-wall endeavors that led them to where they are. For that, they invited musicians and artists to use the museum itself as the instrument, setting up microphones in aquariums or banging on pipes to create reverberation.
“There’s not really a sound. There’s more like an attitude from Shreveport. You can’t quite put your finger on it. But because there’s not an infrastructure for like, the music industry, we have to do things ourselves,” she says. “The artistic community is very very close knit, and everyone supports each other. We’re just all trying to make a lot with what we have, trying to make a lot out of a little, trying to make a dollar out of fifty cents.”
You hear evidence of that close-knit community constantly, from the almost homesick way Haynes and her bandmates refer to the chaos of their practice space, a room in the Shreveport location of Tipitina’s Music Foundation, or in the familial mention of Shreveport talent from Cloud Breather to Brittany Maddox.
“All of our inspiration comes from Shreveport and the weird, eclectic group of artists that we all know,” says Davis. Their record was born from that community: Seratones’ current lineup came together to support Haynes in the Louisiana Music and Film Prize, a contest she entered as a solo artist but grabbed a band to make it fun. The group won studio time at Shreveport’s own Blade Studios, and the record had found its beginnings.
“Songwriting is an exercise in exploration and creativity and discipline,” says Haynes. “With performing, you’re in the moment. With recording, you’re trying to capture a moment.”
The songwriting process for Seratones is wholly collaborative—they start with an idea and just let it loose.
“We don’t bring songs to practice; I don’t think we ever have,” says Davis. “We get together, and we write. Someone starts the riff or the melody line.”
“An idea, a color,” breaks in Haynes.
“A mood,” adds Davis. “That’s what I like a lot about the record, listening to it, is that it has a lot of different moods. I can, by listening to it, look back on the last year, and it’s kind of like a documentation of where we were at.”
Get Gone is indeed a good jumping off point for new fans getting to know the band, and although many of its tracks are made up of live takes, it’s no substitute for their sharp, exciting live show. But that’s fine by Haynes.
“With performing, your crowd is your mirror. With recording, you have to look yourself in the mirror, and that can be a very trying but also a very rewarding process,” says Haynes. “You’re having to commit to a moment that is going to represent your art. Of course that’s difficult. Options are endless. Sometimes your biggest enemy is choice—having options.”
Whether they’re making sounds from buildings, venues from scratch or records from the wreckage of bands past, Seratones have certainly made the most of the options they did have. They may just be hitting the national music scene, but Seratones are already on their way to making a whole lot more than a dollar out of fifty cents—and Southern music as a whole will be richer for it.