Late Monday morning, Rocks Off got a press release announcing BANGBANGBOOM, the new jazz and swing covers project of local luminaries Andrew Karnavas and Nick Gaitan. Seeing as how Karnavas' Runaway Sun and, well, everything Gaitan's ever done comprise some of our favorite sounds in Houston right now, we felt obliged to dig a little bit deeper.
We tried to corner both Karnavas and Gaitan, police-interrogation style, to see where the story breaks down. Unfortunately, we were a bit behind the eight-ball on our detective work, and only left enough time for one interview, so we didn't get the chance to flip these guys. Make it out to Nouveau Antique Art Bar on the second and fourth Thursday of every month - starting tonight - and see if you can get them to spill their guts.
Rocks Off: How long has this project been in the works, and what set the whole thing in motion?
Andrew Karnavas: It's been in the works about eight weeks. Nick Gaitan and I first worked together in the studio- he played upright bass on my Film Noir album. During production we got to talking about different influences and sounds, and after playing a few gigs live we thought, hey, why not start a new project?
Bart Maloney on pedal steel and Davey Jones on drums, and everyone in the group loves old swing, blues and jazz tunes. We're a versatile bunch. I walked into Nouveau Antique Art Bar one evening for the first time and thought, wow, what a perfect place for us to debut such a project!
RO: How wide-ranging will your sets be? Can you give us an sample set list?
AK: Very wide. Our first crop of songs features Buddy Holly, The Cadillacs, Willie Nelson, John Lee Hooker, Hop Wilson and Cab Calloway to name a few. You never know what you're going to hear, but don't expect anything from the eighties.
RO: Will the sound swing (pardon the pun) more toward one style or another?
AK: I think as time goes on we're going to dig deeper into jazz and swing. I love it when people dance at shows, and I have a tremendous admiration for those tunes. The lyrics are simple and genuine, and the melodies are rich and complex. Playing this kind of music keeps us on our toes.
What you can expect is that our set will get more and more complex as months pass with this residency. I wish I could have seen Louis Prima live in Las Vegas. That's how I see us- promoting a classy and fun night of music where you can get dressed up and have a good time.
RO: Is this project only interested in covers, or will original material be forthcoming?
AK: This band is an education for us. Nick and I write like crazy, and with studying the masters like this, learning their songs and styles, it will certainly enrich our musicality and lead to more original songs, but we'll see what happens. Songs filter into their places.
I have Runaway Sun, my solo project and a kids album debuting next year, and Nick has The Umbrella Man and The Octanes, so we have a lot of options for where our originals go. That said, I like the idea of us crafting a sound together that we could turn into an original record.
RO: Sounds like this is intended to be a bit more than a "band playing in the background" kind of gig; anything else going down those nights to help set the mood?
AK: Untouchable Thursdays! Nouveau will be running drink specials on certain cocktails of their choosing. The way the music ties in with the overall aesthetic of this place is what really sets the mood. It feels like a speakeasy. What's great about Nouveau is that you can listen to the music or sneak away to the back for conversation and the mood is constant. I hate it when there's a good band playing but the place is too small and somebody starts talking over the music. There's a patio for smokers too.
RO: How has it worked out melding two very distinct personalities into one group?
AK: We only talk to each other in third person through Davey and Bart. No, it's working fine. We both emphasize serving the music and our audience. There are certain songs each of us won't do out of respect, including Bart and Davey, and that's the funny part of a cover band. Sometimes we're in agreement, sometimes we're not, and if one guy doesn't want to do the song we let it go. No big deal.
RO: Will there be a Latin influence in the song selection?
AK: Funny question, do you mean does Nick select any of the songs? Ha. I think at some point we'll have to do a Los Lobos tune. We love those guys.
RO: Who's frontin' this thing?
AK: Nick and I both. Tag team. Dynamic duo.
RO:Any impact on existing projects?
AK: This band will make all of our existing projects sound better.
RO: Are you guys shooting for "Best Cover Band" in next year's HPMA's?
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AK: BANG BANG... Fuggedaboutit.
RO: When's the dance contest?
AK: Let's do it! Anyone involved in Swing dancing around Houston should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.