The Making of Nine Lives Vol. One – Disc Two: Track Two

Jump Out Boys

“Jump Out Boys” was the name Tim Bruneau’s police unit gave themselves.  They had an unapologetic view of how harshly crime and criminals should be dealt with and the song had to be unrelenting.

Colman and I sorted through the chapters on Tim to pick out a lot of the words Dan Baum had captured from him in Nine Lives while I dug back in to my rock n’ roll roots to write the melody.  After having spent months trying to capture feel and melody of New Orleans music throughout the years of Nine Lives story, it was easy to go back to my not too distant past and write a rock song.  When it came time to record the track, Matt Perrine had been playing bass on the whole album as well as arranging most of it and in discussing Jump Out Boys, he smiled at me and said, “I don’t want to play bass on this one.”  I paused and raised an eyebrow.  “I think you should get Mary.”  I started smiling as well now because I knew he was speaking of Mary Lasseigne.  “This song needs a smoking bass player that rocks and Mary rocks her ass off. Let her rip this one.”

Taking Matt’s advice to heart, I decided that Jump Out Boys was a chance to call some old friends I used to rock with and let them have at it.

Mary Lasseigne was in Cowboy Mouth with me for four years and she does indeed rock.  She digs in musically and with her heart to give a song push, desperation and passion and she is a dear friend who I was glad to have on Nine Lives.  Mary was there for me in hard times on the road and after the flood.  We have also laughed harder and more often together than many friends will do in a lifetime.  She is a great pop/rock songwriter and arranging parts on her songs is something she does best.  I had told her I was looking for a Who-like explosion of rock and asked her to give the bass line a lot of movement.  Even on the telephone Mary’s laugh can make you smile and she started laughing, ”  Oh man! I lo-o-o-ve John Entwistle!  This is going to be fun!  I can’t wait to make up that kind of bass line.” The part she came in with is killer.  It pulses and pushes the drums which pulse and push right back.

Having Russ Broussard on drums was great because Mary and Russ regularly play together and when you are looking to play stripped down primal rock, chemistry is a bigger part of the equation than most people realize.  You can’t just plug in anybody and call it a band.  Knowing each other, the good and the bad, having had some laughs, playing without wondering where the other player is going because you both know without even looking at each other.  You can rock with strangers but it goes deeper with a band.  That’s how rock works.  A band is a club or gang we start when we are kids and, through the years when we play together and it rocks, we feel that innocent burst of discovery again.  This is something Mary and Russ brought to the track.

Russ Broussard plays drums and just crushes the track.  Russ is my favorite drummer to play with when I just want to flat out rock.  He is the most powerful rock drummer I have ever played with while also being the most musical rock drummer I have ever worked with.  There was a film crew in the studio shooting footage and they wanted footage of Russ playing because the drumming is very Keith Moon/Who kind of stuff and Russ was flying around the drum set like a mad man.  They couldn’t get enough and Russ must have done four passes for them.  He had long since nailed the track but they just had to have footage of him pounding the skins so beautifully mad-like that he played until he was a sweaty mess.  As soon as they called “Cut!” he came out of the drum booth and flopped on the studio couch exhausted and giggling, (Russ also has one of the greatest laughs ever).

Sonia Tetlow is a great songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist.  She is a rock guitar player and a damn good one,  so I told her to crank up the distortion and let her punk flag fly.  With this kind of track I wanted someone to play play hard and with attitude and either you get that or you don’t.  Sonia gets it.  There is a rawness in her playing that only comes from someone who doesn’t just love, but someone who believes in the redemptive power of rock music. Sonia commits to the moment – fun, sad, angry, joyful – she is all the way in and it comes through in her playing and singing.  I feel it when she is rocking, that it is coming from a place inside which screams even when there is no sound.

Sonia has been such a friend to me, before the flood but also, since the flood.  Someone who has played my songs because she knew all I wanted after the flood was to do so.  We have encouraged each other to learn and grow as players and been there to push each other out of the nest and on to the stage with the things we have learned.  She plays with me for free when the gig doesn’t pay enough or when she knows I’m broke.  She is the kind of friend who will buy me a six string banjo because she knows I am sad and wants to cheer me up.

Mike Mayeux, my old pal from the band Beatin’ Path plays acoustic guitar to give the guitars a percussive texture.  I am a big fan of his band, his songwriting, his guitar playing.  Mikey has taught me so much about making records the way I want to and that is important.  He knows plenty of ways to make records and makes his own in a different way but he helped me find my voice as a producer for years.  Mike recorded most all ten of my solo records prior to the flood.  I was in the process of working on one, Between Friends, at his studio in Mereaux when the flood hit.  Mike evacuated with his family to Nashville.  The only music he took from his studio were the hard drives containing my unfinished record.  He lost his house, his studio and all of his own music but we were able to finish Between Friends together after the flood.  We each had lost everything and making that record gave us a chance to focus on something besides the loss in our lives.  That kind of thing makes you love someone forever and I love Mikey.  It also helps that his band is one of my favorite rock bands from New Orleans ever, though since the flood only one member has returned.  The other three are living in Nashville, St. Louis and Kansas City.  Mikey was the guy who taught me that a track will rock a little more with some acoustic guitar filling in the spaces and he did just that on this track.

Alex McMurray sings the part of Tim Bruneau on Nine Lives, he sings lead on this track as well as playing guitar.  Alex is one of the most amazing songwriters/singers/guitar players working anywhere and I just dig watching him work.  On this song he became a man possessed.  Alex sings this track with a rage that borders on contempt and it is the perfect read because you are not sure if it is contempt for the cops, the criminals, the moment or all of the above.  He performed the vocal in four passes, each sweatier and angrier than before with spit flying and head phones wanting to leap off his head as he jumped around the vocal mic.

He had already played rhythm guitar on the track when the band cut. I wanted everybody in the same room, rocking, sweating and kicking it together.  That energy of people feeling inspired, hearing a part someone else plays that makes you dig in, takes you off guard, gets you to rocking.

I also wanted Alex to play a lead track to just add chaos.  My pal, Justin, was in the studio with a camera and followed Alex out to the big room at Piety so he could film Alex tracking and I’m so glad he did.  I only saw the footage once, when Justin posted it on Facebook, but the scene is just as I remembered it.  Alex had his back to the camera and control room where the engineer, Wes Fontenot, studio owner Mark Bingham and I had assembled.  Mark was joking that after all the respect I was giving New Orleans music the last few weeks, he was ready to hear some loud cranking rock in the studio.  Well, he got some loud cranking rock.  Alex hunched over the guitar, gripped the neck so hard I thought he wanted to strangle the thing.  He tore into the leads with his whole being. Slashing at the guitar, jumping hard at the floor as he bent a note, held sustain, created anarchy.  There were times when the headphones went sideways on his head but he didn’t let up, just slapped the headphones back into place like he was slapping at a gnat that was messing with his focus.  They say great players go into a zone when they play and having watched Alex work many times in the studio I can say that I would buy a ticket to that show.

I had told the folks playing on this track that I wanted it to be an assault, in fact I had sent all of them articles from the Times Picayune about the Jump Out Boys when they were still an active squad for NOPD, as well as sections from Dan’s book that gave a look at the intensity of the moment.  I assembled all of this talent in the big room at Piety and told them to crank it up, volume, intensity, fun.  They all know each other, have rocked together on stage and on records for years. Each player had worked on their parts at home and it took just a few minutes of discussion to agree on an arrangement and rock it, absolutely live and smoking.  I wanted a gang vocal on the choruses and had invited another old friend from my rock days, Rob Savoy, from the band Creole Stringbeans, to come out and sing.  Rob is the funniest cat I ever had the pleasure of passing 7 years touring with. His timing, one-liners and favorite bits made life a lot more fun when we were spending two hundred plus days a year on the road playing rock shows.

Shoeless Pollard and my brother, John Sanchez, also came out to sing on “the cop chorus” with Mikey joining in as well so we had a big, manly gang vocal going.

The bridge of the song has a harmonic build that I asked Mary and Sonia to join in on to give the song a lift musically and a mild comedic lift as well.  Both of them are solid singers and nailed that for me in no time, Shoeless is always gang for harmonies so he sang with the girls as well as the guys, he has that kind of vocal range.

The last voice recorded for the track is the first voice you hear on Jump Out Boys.  Rob Moore, my wife Shelly’s brother, speaks the opening line, “Ta’ hell wit’ it, Let’s go do some police work!”, which is a line from the book Nine Lives.  Shelly and Rob’s father, Sgt. Bob Moore, was a New Orleans police officer for 30 years before retiring.  He has a real old-time New Orleans accent – an accent the nuns from Brooklyn brought down with them when the archdiocese sent them to teach in New Orleans at the turn of last century which melded to our creole accent and became what we call a Y’at accent.  (A typical greeting in New Orleans being “Where Y’at?” which translate to “How are you doing?”)  I asked Rob to lay on his New Orleans accent.  It wasn’t a stretch for him but he did lay it on thick for me.  He had fun with it.  It makes me smile to hear that “cop” voice through a bullhorn setting the chaotic tone for the blistering rock track these players made of Jump Out Boys.

~ Paul Sanchez – June 13, 2011

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