Sexy Dex and the Fresh is the most New Orleans band on this or any other planet.
I know you’re already hearing the Tuba Fats riff in your head, but please don’t get ahead of me. This five-piece is definitely not that. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. But few bands seem to represent the hodge-podge nature of the Crescent City, the churn of people and ideas coming up and down the river from around the globe that gives this city a reason to be, the driving force that’s kept us moving through 300 years of disaster and decay.
Made up of a near-equal blend of transplants and locals, SD&TF grew out of the head of Dexter Gilmore. The frontman was approached by friends who were interested in his series of solo bedroom recordings that sounded like Prince trying to explain the works of William Gibson without the benefit of a world-class home studio. The band picked up influences and sounds as the project expanded with each new member bringing their own skillset and background to the music, moving the group’s sound away from those original demos into the realms of synth-pop, classic funk, jazz and punk.
In fact, Gilmore uses “punk” first and foremost to describe their sound, though they’re just about the only punk band you’ll ever hear cite ’80s superproducers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as a guiding influence.
“On the one end we have this rock and roll, punk nature. All of it’s punk, really,” Gilmore explained in a sit-down with the entire band. “But there’s also like our funkier side, more R&B.”
Beyond that, the shoegaze-leaning sounds of some of the band members’ former project Glish bleed into the mix. Their three previous albums have been funk under layers and layers of fuzz, a literal blending of actual sounds on top of their metaphorical one. That’s all changed on their upcoming project Don’t Play My B-Sides. With a little bit more money and experience under their belt, they were able to make the influence of acts like The Time more evident in the final product, delivering crisp slices of apocalyptic funk and soul that hit the ear with the impact and clarity of a single off Control.
“We’re not as broke as we once were,” Gilmore explained. “We’ve been able to make some money as a band. We’ve acquired some nicer shit and acquired knowledge in like the mixing.”
Drummer Evan Cvitanovic said he dove headfirst into learning production techniques, showing up to recording sessions with pages and pages of written notes so that their skill as a band could finally come across on their latest project.
“We’ve played music for so long. We’re competent as musicians,” he said. “But it’s a whole other thing doing mixing and mastering. It doesn’t matter how good you are [at playing].”
The extra work shows. B-Sides is a showcase of all aspects of the band’s schizoid blend of influences, as at home in a cold, synthetic bubble universe as they are in an expansive and warm psychedelic freakout. Despite the fact that none of that is what New Orleans is known for from the outside, listening to it from a local’s perspective reveals the easy-going and fluid nature of the city, the fact that every single musician in town is two degrees of separation away from every other musician. That’s allowed the band to play alongside everyone from Rebirth Brass Band to Caddywhompus, taking the stage in venues ranging from generator-fueled punk shows to the Joy Theater.
“We’re lucky in that we can fit into most of those niches,” Gilmore said. “A lot of the different scenes here will accept us. Whether or not we, like, actually fit is questionable.”
In songs like “Photograph” and “SDTF,” the band even nails our creeping sense of existential dread. These are tracks that know the big one is coming and they’d just like to jam a little bit before it does. And honestly, what’s more New Orleans than one last party before we all go?
Don’t Play My B-Sides is out on October 26. Check out their latest single “!Wait!” up top.