Catching up with…

Catching up with…

The ill-fated neo-swing revival died a predictable death as quickly as it was born almost 10 years ago now, but you wouldn’t know it from the career of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Formed in Ventura in 1993, the band got caught up in the Zoot Suit Mania that swept the country in the late ’90s, a phenomenon it helped usher in thanks to its appearance in the indie comedy classic Swingers. The group signed to Capitol, had a hit record and single and reached what common knowledge would indicate as their zenith, performing at the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show alongside Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder.

It should have been downhill from there. But while the band isn’t exactly burning up the charts, and even though the guys in it (all original members, by the way) aren’t getting mobbed in the streets, things are still going amazingly well for the city’s biggest musical export — so well, in fact, that singer Scotty Morris feels like he needs a year off.

“Our career is strange,” says Morris, 41. “We’re not a household name, but when the person sitting next to me on a plane asks, ‘What do you do?’ and I say ‘I sing for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,’ they go, ‘Oh my God, I love you guys.’ It has flipped into an interesting anonymity. We are not a household name, but people are still big fans.”

Since jumping and jiving into public consciousness with its self-titled major label debut (and subsequently wailing right out of it with their follow-up, This Beautiful Life, a record they were given only eight weeks to produce) BBVD has continued touring and recording, releasing its third album, Save My Soul, on indie imprint Vanguard in 2003 and both a live record and collection of Christmas tunes in 2004. In 2006, the band played 200 gigs — everything from corporate parties to 40,000-seat amphitheaters — ending the year with two nights at the Hollywood Bowl and a sold-out New Year’s Eve show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Morris has remained especially busy, writing music for the Disney film The Wild and the theme song for NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly.

As for 2007, Morris’s “year off” is apparently going to have to wait. First, on April 22, the band is performing at the Ventura County Arts Council’s annual Art Stars Awards Reception, an event Morris emceed last year. In June, BBVD will be featured on the lead-off track on a Dean Martin tribute album, featuring a duet with Shelby Lynne and, thanks to digital technology, the late Martin himself. And in August, the band returns to the Hollywood Bowl for two nights, backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

On top of all that, Morris is in the process of writing a new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album. “Everyone wants an answer from me on this one,” he says. “It’s been a really long six or seven years, and I think our fans really want something amazing, something that represents where we are right now.” So when will they see it? “We’re really strict on time. And that is: We will start recording when I’m done.”

Catching up with…

Catching up with…

Proof that signing to a record label no longer means immediate fame, fortune and functional vehicles: last summer, Le Meu Le Purr, Ventura’s own throat-slashing genre-blenders, inked a deal with indie heavyweight TVT, the former home of Nine Inch Nails and now to platinum-selling rap acts like Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins; then last month, their van broke down.

The band needed money to get it repaired, so it called on a little help from its friends — not the reps in New York, but one of the guys who has championed the group from the beginning, local scene guru Brian Parra. He slotted them into the weekly Monday night rock residency he books at Billy O’s for April, to get them some extra cash and give them a stage from which to continuing honing their jagged-yet-melodic sound.

“Another band dropped out … and we’re like, ‘Brian, need a substitute?’ ” says singer-guitarist Aaron Johnson. “And he’s like, ‘Really?’ ”

And so it comes full circle: After a year of sporadic touring — a week with Dillinger Escape Plan, a month leading up to the CMJ Music Marathon, a month leading up to South By Southwest — the road leads back to the bar they would probably be hanging out at anyway.

But the scenery may soon change for Le Meu, once their already-completed second album, A New Canvas, is released sometime this year. It is the follow-up to 2004’s The Sweet Smell of Asphalt, which quickly made them one of the county’s most popular bands. However, the group’s fan base remained relegated to its hometown, which makes the TVT deal even more impressive: With the entire music industry in a freefall, for a label to take a chance on an act not yet established on a national scale must indicate something about their confidence in the record.

As it awaits the announcement of a tentative release date, the band is putting together a tour for the summer and looking into possible support gigs for the fall. Any chance of a Lil Jon-Le Meu Le Purr package?

“I never thought Lil Jon would have an affect on my life,” Johnson says.

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