Crooked Vines: Bringing N’Awlins Funk to Little Egypt

Crooked Vines:  Bringing N’Awlins Funk to Little Egypt
Venues & Businesses
Tres Hombres

Who: Crooked Vines
What: funk, pop, soul
When: 2016-08-20
Bust out the dancing shoes— the Crooked Vines will perform Saturday, August 20 at Tres Hombres.
Brett Haynes
Video Comentary
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Bust out the dancing shoes— the Crooked Vines will perform Saturday, August 20 at Tres Hombres.

The Crooked Vines are a New Orleans, Louisiana-based funk-pop-soul-rock band whose music carries a hefty, positive, infectious vibe. The band consists of Mikayla Braun on vocals and keys, Stephen Bohnstengel on bass, Woody Hill on drums, James Keene (originally from nearby Pinckneyville) on trombone, Lori LaPatka on alto sax, and Steven Schwartz on tenor sax and keys.

Two years on the scene and one album into the game, they came out of the gates strong and keep pushing. Check out their self-titled independent album on their website at <>. The band will crowdfund their sophomore album.

It’s not all smiles and sunshine in the music of the Crooked Vines, however. There is a diversity in theme, an emotional dynamic that many party-funk-rock bands lack. Check out the track “Kill Me Now” for a taste of this.

Nightlife caught up with Keene and Schwartz for the following interview.

You guys have a very positive vibe. If you had to pick one message for your music, what is it?

Keene: That life is worth living. There are a lot of terrible things that happen all around us that I’ve always found very hard to comprehend. Music has always been my sanctuary in which I can not only find ways to process my feelings about these occurrences, but also rejuvenate myself in a way that gives me a refreshed outlook. If our music can open even one person’s eyes to the overwhelming amount of beautiful things that are also happening all around us, music in general being one of them, then I think we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do.

How is the scene in New Orleans? Tell us a bit about it.

Keene: The scene in New Orleans is great, especially for an up-and-coming act like us. Lots of people talk about New Orleans as an incubator for bands, and we’ve all experienced that firsthand. When this project started, about four years, four band names, and seven members ago, it was just a cover band that was trying to make some extra dough. Now, after many personnel changes and some terrible band names, we’ve landed on something that is really clicking, and I think the city of New Orleans played a huge part in that. There are very few places in the world where you can go through such fluctuation and still gig through it, all the while developing who you are as an individual musician as well as who you are as a collective.

What is your favorite venue you have ever played?

Keene: I think that we would all agree that Tipitina’s in New Orleans is our favorite spot. The artists that have graced that stage with their presence is literally obscene. The fact that we’ve been able to play that stage three times already, starting on one of their infamous Homegrown Nights and then being able to open for our friend and colleague John Gros, formerly of Papa Grows Funk, two more times, has really been a blessing. We’ll be making our fourth appearance there as part of this tour, opening up for Big Sam’s Funky Nation.

Where did the inspiration for “Kill Me Now” come from?

Schwartz: It was a melding of different points in my life. The chorus lyrics and music came many years ago, but the verse section came later. The ending was just a neat progression that I liked. The actual content of the lyrics came from my frustration that friends of mine kept dying from overdoses or other reasons that caused deaths in people who were too young.

The Tim in the song really did overdose and die, although he represented more than just himself. The words “Kill Me Now” aren’t actually asking someone to kill me now, it’s more sardonic in the sense that I’m frustrated and don’t know what to say— “Oh, just kill me now, dammit.”

Why do you play music?

Keene: To have a platform that I can use to create positive change. I think that’s my goal in life in its entirety. I’ve always thought of myself as a catalyst for positive change, and I think with the right platform, we as a band could change a lot of people’s outlook on life for the better.

If your music was an eighties movie, what movie would it be and why?

Schwartz: The mentality and soundtrack of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets the soundtrack of Weird Science. The idea that everyday should be lived to its fullest and that we are given gifts to enjoy but twisted by Oingo Boingo and Danny Elfman to be weird. That being said, Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield may sum that up.

What’s next?

Keene: To be super cliché, world domination. But really, though, I think we’d love to continue in the same direction that we’re going. Recording this next record, promoting it, releasing it, touring on it, and just seeing where that takes us. We’ve kinda found out that pretty much any plans you make are pretty useless, because the world doesn’t really give a shit about your plans. We’re going to keep dong what we’re doing and doing our best to hit the pitches that come our way.

What has been the most fulfilling moment in your music career?

Keene: This past carnival season, Mardi Gras, we played a show at Tipitina’s opening up for a supergroup that included George Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, John Gros, Eric Krasno, and some other awesome players for an event called Karnival Kickoff. This was our second time playing the venue. After we played our set, we went back up to the green room and were hanging out and George and Cyril walk out of the other green room on their way to the stage and George says something along the lines of, “Hey guys, really dig your sound. Can’t want to see where you all end up,” and Cyril just nods his head with his sunglasses on. All I remember thinking for the rest of the night was “Damn, the dude that helped write ‘Cissy Strut,’ arguably the most covered instrumental song ever, said he dug my band’s music, and I’m pretty sure one of the Neville Brothers agreed with him.” If I wouldn’t have been sitting there, I wouldn’t have believed it.

What are you looking forwards to as an artist in 2016?

Keene: Frank Ocean’s new record! Come on, dude, release the thing already! But seriously, I’m looking forward to putting out what I would say is the best music that I’ve ever been involved in creating on record. I really think this record we’re about to record could change some people’s lives, and that’s really exciting.

Do you remember what about music inspired you to start pursuing it?

Keene: I remember sitting in my room blasting the music of the day and feeling things and thinking about things that I had never experienced before, and just always knew that I wanted to do that. I wanted to give someone insight on a situation that they were dealing with, or a way to cope with something that they otherwise couldn’t, just like all those bands used to do for me. There’s something really intimate and special about taking an emotion and translating it into words. I started writing what I called poetry at about age eleven. By thirteen or fourteen I realized they were song lyrics, and I was in my first band by fifteen. I’ve been going strong ever since.

Anything you want to promote or say?

Keene: If you support us, or any band or artist for that matter, buy their record/product! I believe that art should be accessible to everyone, but I also believe that artists should be able to pay their rent. If they can’t, there won’t be any more art to support, and that will be a dark day.

who: Crooked Vines

what: funk-pop-soul-rock

where:        Tres Hombres


when:         Saturday, August 20