New Orleans funk-rock band The Duane Bartels Band is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Matthew Duane Bartels. The band formed in the summer of 2016 when he sought to combine his unique voice, lyrical sensibilities, and guitar playing with the power only a tight rhythm and horns section could provide. After the California-born Bartels recruited Matthieu (drums), Colin Provensal (Bass/Keys), Nick Ferreirae, (Sax), David Ginger (Trombone) Jonathan Rizner (Trumpet), John Marcey (Guitar) they went to work developing their sound at local New Orleans clubs and bars across the city. By 2018, the group released their debut album The Ballad of Johnny Loveless, a collection of Americana songs with blues, country, and jazz influences.
The six-piece band's music consists of original stylings with a blend of California indie-rock and the many sounds heard in the Big Easy led and curated by the soothing sounds of Duane Bartels’ unique voice, captivating listeners. By 2020, amidst the COVID pandemic, the Duane Bartels Band had entered the studio to work on their 10-track sophomore album, Electric Baby Carriage.
The Duane Bartels Band commented on the album, “A labour of love. A lesson in patience and learning to count your blessings.”
We sat down with The Duane Bartels Band to discuss the band's music and much more. Here is what they had to say:
Hey The Duane Bartels Band, welcome to FLEX! How are you?
I’m great! Thanks for having me. Excited to be sharing our story with y’all.
Congratulations on your brand-new album ‘Electric Baby Carriage’ - what inspired this particular project?
Thank you! It was a lot of work and a lot of patience getting it out there. It was inspired by the elements I saw around me. The changing world we live in. The city of New Orleans and all the music here. When I began writing it I was new here. That was back in 2016. Some of these songs date back to that period. We released a record in 2018 and it bled through that timeline as well. I had a lot of heartbreak and addiction issues arise during these times. They play a large role in the lyrical content of the record.
And do you have to be in a certain mood to write?
I need to be relaxed. I find if I try and force myself to write, I just run into dead ends. Now that state of relaxation can be one where I’m angry, stressed or downtrodden, but my headspace needs to be empty. Generally my writing process takes a long time. But sometimes, when I have absolutely nothing else going on and my vision is clear, songs will fly out of my head. Wildfires and Paper Mache are good examples of that.
How was the recording and writing process?
Long and sometimes burdensome. At times it felt like we would never finish it. The writing process really got into full swing during the pandemic. We are a professional band here in New Orleans and play constantly. As the quarantine took over our lives we found ourselves with a lot more free time. It allowed us to really focus on finishing these songs. Generally I write the skeletons, chord structures and lyrics and bring them to the band. We expand from there.
The recording process was a blast, but also long and tiresome. We began in March of 2020, which delayed things. Had a studio session at Marigny Studios here in New Orleans. Pushed that back to May and recorded “Messin” and “Wildfires.” Justin Armstrong was our engineer there and he invited us to come to his home studio in Slidell, about 30 minutes outside of New Orleans. He was in the process of building his dream studio. A live in house where you can record and stay overnight. We were the guinea pig for that. He has worked with a lot of great artists (Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab For Cutie, The Deftones just to name a few) and won a ton of awards for it so we were really excited about it. Plus he was charging us a little less. But it became a whole lot more. We finally finished tracking in the middle of 2021.
Then Hurricane Ida hit. It wrecked his home. Luckily all his gear and files were saved but half his roof was destroyed in the process. Along with his flooring, car, siding and general livelihood. It delayed things quite a bit but led to some fun adventures. I went out there in January 2022 hoping to get to mixing. He had to finish up his siding. I ended up just camping out there in his half finished home for two weeks. We basically started a commune. We had a yoga instructor living in a van, a wild man from Georgia named Cody hanging out and causing havoc while simultaneously rebuilding the house, a dog named Apollo who had a nasty temper. It was all there. When we finally got to mixing I learned a lot about being patient and what it takes to set up a proper studio. He took a couple days to get his studio rearranged. He was nice enough to move all his mixing gear upstairs to the recording room to get things working for us, but I expected it to be a day or two. Everything had to be tweaked to perfection. We mixed “Waiting” for seven days, it is a lush song and he used it to get his studio just right. Eventually I had to go back to work, working as a French Quarter tour guide at that point. We finally finished mixing in November 2022 and here we are now. It is finally released.
For viewers that don’t know The Duane Bartels Band, how would you describe your sound?
It's got a little bit of a lot of stuff. I’m from California and grew up in the punk/hardcore scene. That DIY attitude and energy is at the core of what we do. I played in a lot of indie rock and emo/pop punk bands as well. That California Indie Rock feel is there. But when I moved to New Orleans I got really into the blues, jazz, country and eventually Funk, RnB and soul. It all merged together. Always been into Traditional Jazz and Bebop, my Grandparents on either side of the family were Jazz heads, but my infatuation became more of an obsession as I saw it play out live in front of me every day. I took a huge influence from The Meters, Dr. John, Professor Longhair and Allan Toussaint as well, These stalwarts of the New Orleans funk music. Some of that is on there for sure. In terms of who we sound like, we often get compared to Nathaniel Rateliff, The Revivalists and Cage The Elephant. Hope that gives y’all a good idea of it.
And what are some of those activities that you engage yourself in when you aren’t writing or recording in the studio?
I am a writer in my spare time, hence the lengthy answers here. I write for US Ghost Adventures. Haunted/Historical articles about various locations around the US. They have a sister company called Junket that I have written tour scripts for. I’m about to enter the world of travel/tourism writing with their blog. It’s flexible and allows me to make money on the road. Kind of a continuation from my tour guiding days in a way. Other than that I enjoy yoga and meditation. It has helped me quell a lot of those feelings of heartbreak, addiction and confusion I am singing about on the record. Listening back I hear what I was feeling in those songs and think about how silly it sounds now. That's what a record is for though, it is a stamp in time. I’ve been sober for a little over a year now and I am much happier. I like exercising as well and do my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It gets tough in New Orleans. Spend a lot of time playing down in the Quarter. We gig 3-5 times a week here so that takes up a lot of time, plus practice and doing the general admin/booking stuff required to have a successful band. I’m a busy man! So thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Hope everyone enjoys the record.