A burgeoning household name in The Big Easy, The Duane Bartels Band has long been blending psych-rock with a funky Americana spin to create their soulful sextet sound.
Their second album, Electric Baby Carriage, officially dropped today April 11th, and comes on the heels of their preceding singles “Waiting,” “Wildfires,” and “Every Song.”
A melting pot of sounds, cultures, spices, and ideations, DBB formed when frontman Matthew Duane Bartels left California in search of an answer to the open-ended question of what’s next.
He landed in New Orleans in 2016 on a whim, and quickly got hooked on its electric energy. He met drummer Matthieu, and the two joined forces with Colin Provensal (bass/keys), Nick Ferreirae (sax), David Ginger (trombone), Jonathan Rizner (trumpet), and John Marcey (guitar), honing in their funkified brass-driven sound in clubs around the city.
Electric Baby Carriage was several years in the making, and encountered many hurdles, including the pandemic, Hurricane Ida in 2021, and the birth of their producer’s daughter (an ultimately positive setback). But that’s the thing about a project inspired by soul and sheer determination; it perseveres.
So let’s get into it.
The album swings right into the upbeat, groove-driven track, “Nothing Left.” The rhythm carries you through an introductory soundscape for the rest of the album, and keeps you hooked with a harmony of horns, an element that sets DBB apart from other bands. “But in so many ways / I just can’t explain / I keep coming back to you / And I hope you keep coming back too,” Bartels sings over a swelling symphony of horns, practically begging listeners to grab a partner and take them to the dance floor.
DBB’s lead single from the album, “Waiting,” offers an entrancing, groovy taste of what this band has to offer, and the animated music video acts as something one might find on Adult Swim at the midnight hour.
“It’s funny because I really feel like the song just became about itself. ‘Waiting for you, is the hardest thing for me to do.’ It was originally about unrequited love, but it just became an anthem about the recording process we were going through,” Bartels told us in March.
Slowing things down without sacrificing an ounce of groove is their last single, “Every Song.” The rhythm section takes center stage here, and Bartels’ vocals are the perfect shimmering accents to this velvety track. Bartels offers a comparable vocal styling to that of Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant, and this song is a prime example.
In a display of their versatility as a band, “Wildfires” opts for a breezier Americana sound. Just as upbeat as their other songs, this track is actually quite sentimental for Bartels.
“Even though I left California, I miss it every day,” he reflects. “It hurt me greatly to hear about the fires over the past few years. My parents had a fairly close brush with one of them, and they’re in Southern California. One of my best friends – the one I made the [previous] record with – works for Cal Fire. He is constantly out there putting his life in danger in order to keep others safe. This song is not only a love letter to them, but to California in general.”
Another certifiably swingin’ tune, “Passion Project,” is a toe-tapping diddy about saying a hard goodbye and secretly hoping it’s not permanent. “Let me be / Let me see / Who I need to be / Who you need me to be,” Bartels repeats over guitar licks and brassy breakdowns, ultimately finding it in himself to part ways. For now…
The album closes with countrified groove, “Hurricane.” This track captures the band’s embodiment of New Orleans in sonic form. The kind of song you’d hear walking through the French Quarter, putting a little pep in your step as you venture on through a city infused with history, music, and soul. A chorus of vocals and horns blending together into a delicate sendoff is the perfect way to close out an album formed in the bosom of bayou country.
“Wildfires” and “Messin’” were recorded at Marigny Studios with Rick Nelson, and the other eight tracks on the album were produced by Justin Armstrong (Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab For Cutie, Peter Frampton) at his home studio.
The band will be playing French Quarter Fest on April 14th (this Friday), with summer dates to be announced in California and the southwest.