Lil Band O’ Gold – It could be about any band in your home town
CC Adcock, co-founder of swamp-pop supergroup Lil’ Band O’ Gold, grew up surrounded by music in his native Louisiana. In fact, music was such a regular part of his upbringing that Adcock struggles to remember the first band he ever saw. “Consciously, no I don’t think so, but subconsciously in my heart, yes,” Adcock remembers. “Music was in the stories I heard when I grew up, my uncles talking in riddles. You’d go to a funeral and there would be a marching parade – there’s a festival for everything. That’s real fun for a kid – there’s always a band playing, and you get to hear a lot of music.”
With that cultural context, it was only natural that Adcock would gravitate toward performing music. By his teenage years Adcock was a guitarist of considerable local repute.
He had already been fortunate enough to happen across a live John Lee Hooker performance, an event that Adcock says gave him both inspiration and advice in relation to his future musical pursuits. “I was 14 and it was back in the day at a local club. I was already playing in a band, and seeing John Lee Hooker taught me about not getting cut up before getting on stage,” Adcock recalls with a laugh. “It was a life changing moment – I realised at that moment that one good thing done over and over again can get you going.”
Adcock also witnessed the near-spiritual fervour that music can generate. “After about twenty minutes people were screaming and growing crazy,” he remembers. “And that’s when I realised that John Lee Hooker was playing pop music.”
In his late teens Adcock moved west to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. It was while in California that Adcock realised just how significant his musical upbringing had been. “I wasn’t until I left my home town in my late teens that I realised,” he replies as to when it was it ‘clicked’ how different his background was. “I got work in Hollywood only because I was from here – and that taught me a lesson,” he points out. Adcock wandered into a studio and heard a young English musician singing a Tommy McLean track. “I remember thinking when I heard him doing that song, ‘how do you know that?’” Adcock says. “And then I realised that our work was well known across the world. And I also realised that the people you hear in your own home were pretty damn good,” he chuckles.
It was after returning to Louisiana that the seeds of Lil Band O’ Gold were sown. Adcock and Steve Riley were playing in a local blues band and decided they wanted to pursue a different brand of music. “Steve and I decided we wanted to do white country swamp,” Adcock recalls. “But Lil’ Buck fired us out of the band because he didn’t want to do that!” he laughs. Riley and Adcock then decided to form their own band, and approached legendary local drummer and singer Warren Storm to join the fledgling Lil Band O’ Gold.
Adcock’s experience with John Lee Hooker had expanded his concept of ‘pop’ music.
With Lil’ Band O’ Gold, Adcock was able to embrace the occasionally neglected swamp-pop genre. “The term ‘swamp-pop’ was developed by an English writer by the name of John Brovan – he used it to describe the music that was coming out of Louisiana,” Adcock explains. “There’s a completely different sound coming out of stuff from down here.”
Adcock is justifiably proud of Louisiana music, though he stops well short of gratuitous hyperbole. “I think the common thread in music down here is the sweet melody,” he figures. With such a rich cultural mix in Louisiana, the derivation of that distinctive melodic style is unclear. “I’m not sure if it’s the French influence, or the folk influence or the Caribbean aspect,” Adcock ponders. “But it all lends itself to a really sweet melody – it’s the melody that’s important more than the rhythm,” he clarifies.
Lil Band O’ Gold’s members – comprised of Adcock, Riley, Storm, David Egan, Dave Ranson, Pat Breaux, Dickie Landry and Richard Comeaux – are all steeped in the Louisiana swamp-pop tradition. With such a wealth of talent, it’s not surprising Adcock concedes the band has no genuine leader. “You wouldn’t want to be in charge of that operation!” he laughs. “There’s a lot of strong willed people in Lil Band O’ Gold, and that can be difficult sometimes.”
The band’s democratic edge, however, provides the ideal basis for Lil Band O’ Gold’s fluid live style. They’re certainly not interested in taking to the stage simply to regurgitate the band’s recorded musical fare. “For me, records are always just a jumping off point,” Adcock explains. “When we’re playing live, Lil Band O’ Gold is spontaneous. Everyone plays a little bit, and it all starts to happen.”
As it works, each member of the band has the opportunity to push the live performance in a particular direction; the result is a set that generates its own momentum and direction. “Challenges can happen on stage,” Adcock explains. “And you can start pushing people in a particular direction. We just call it ‘from the hip’ – we don’t have a song list, so we just see what happens.”
A couple of years ago Lil Band O’ Gold found themselves the subject of a documentary project, The Promised Land. Part historical narrative, part musicological study and part ethnographic analysis, The Promised Land tells the story of Lil Band O’ Gold in the context of Louisiana music and culture. Adcock feels the film captured accurately both the passion behind Lil Band O’ Gold and the beauty of the Louisiana music scene; past and present.
“My only pre-requisite was to make sure that the person shooting the film was fresh and had no involvement with the band… and hadn’t been to south Louisiana,” Adcock grins. “The film is all about the culture and the lifestyle down here. It’s about making music together. People should be able to relate to it in that way. It could be about any band in your home town.”
LIL BAND O’ GOLD’s latest album, The Promised Land is out now through Dust Devil Music.