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Swampadelica

New Jersey's Swampadelica got their first big break when the music coordinator for MTV's The Real World heard a sample of their song "Hoo Doo" on Billboard magazine's Talent Net website. The very next day he called bandleader, co-founder, and keyboardist Damian Calcagne and licensed the song for the opening episode of the show set in New Orleans. The group's music on their eponymous, debut CD in 2000 ran the gamut from New Orleans funk and soulful organ riffs to campy pop vocal harmonizing, Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead. Ironically, the band had broken up momentarily in 1998 when engineer John Siket, who had previously worked with the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Sonic Youth, approached the group about recording some songs. The band put down eight tracks, which were shelved for months, then female vocalists Nicole Grana and Kerry Lavin joined the group to spice things up. Part of the band's New Orleans sound came from Louisiana-bred saxist Snowman Brian Powers, but Calcagne knew about the Meters and Neville Brothers from friends and cousins living in the Big Easy and he cited a Meters' record with Robert Palmer called Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley as a blueprint for much of the band's early direction. Another founding member, lead singer Stevo Nelson, held strong ties to the Crescent City, too, having worked as a doorman at the club Tipitina for five years and performed in other clubs in various local swamp, zydeco, and R&B bands in the '80s before moving back to his home in New Jersey. The band's jazz ties stemmed from drummer Bill Miller and its solid song structure came from classically-trained bassist Paul Kuzik. The group's guitarist Brian Herkert, who joined the group replacing former guitarist Jack O'Donnell in 2000, liked hip-hop and took the band in yet another direction. As a result of all these diverse personalities and musical influences, the group's sound became a hybrid of sounds ranging from Jerry Garcia and Leon Russell to Tom Waits, and, of course, there has always been an element of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. While Swampadelica's sound swayed with the playfulness and soulful humor of the Crescent City, it was never strictly New Orleans music. There were elements of Jamaican reggae, Southern rock, and Haitian folk music, which gave the band its distinctive flavors. Beginning in early 2001, the band took a new direction in its songwriting. There was a slow ballad called "New World." There came a hip-hop-inspired piece titled "Life Boat." And the song "Jimmy" took the band deeper into the world of Haitian music and reggae while exploring themes surrounding the fun the band had while recording its first CD. A lot of the songs in 2001 began to show more attention to melody and funk, exhibiting the influences from James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic. ~ Robert Hicks, Rovi
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