PICTURED: John Lacques and Noah Thomas of Boom Duo. Photo courtesy of John Lacques

by Tim Pompey

If you’re looking for rock, R&B, jazz and other forms of dance music, there is no lack of bands in Ventura County to explore. But among all these options, there is only one Boom Duo.

Created in 2009 by drummer and percussionist John Lacques and multi-instrumentalist Noah Thomas, the duo’s music is meant to be experienced. It’s like being sonically drenched in water. It’s free-form, experimental and completely improvised. It’s influenced by jazz, Bourbon Street, the streets of Jaipur and the experimentalism of Chicago. But most important, it’s meant to be tasted and savored like a fine wine.

Lacques has done it all as a drummer and percussionist. In Los Angeles, he was a touring drummer for Gene Loves Jezebel, Nick Heyward from Haircut One Hundred and the band Hummingbird. He has also composed and performed for many original theater productions in both Los Angeles and Ojai.

Thomas was an anthropology major at University of California, Santa Cruz, and New York University. He has his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. But his real love was music. Primarily a trumpet player, he has been playing professionally for over 30 years and has a background that includes orchestral and jazz improvisational training.  He studied music at Cabrillo Community College, UC Santa Cruz, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, and has played in various projects including the early Nardcore scene of Oxnard, cumbia and Afro-Cuban small ensembles, classical orchestras and traditional big band and small jazz ensembles.

But these diverse music backgrounds only begin to inform the layers of sound that define Boom Duo. Its members’ instruments range from drums and trumpet to all types of Native percussion to the mysterious and weird sounding theremin.

The existence of Boom Duo was a happy accident. Lacques and Thomas had children enrolled in Ventura Charter School when they first met. As their friendship grew, so did their music.

It took them three years to finally come out in the open. The two would meet in Lacques’ shed behind his house and noodle around with their various expressions of percussive and electronic mood music before developing the confidence to play to a live audience.

Lacques describes the music of Boom Duo as “improvisational and in the moment.”

“A lot of it has to do with space, a respect for space, leaving space, filling in space. It’s kind of a conversation,” he added.

Thomas describes it as “a little bit like painting.”

“We have a lot of friends who are painters and artists,” he said. “It’s kind of a parallel creative concept.”

As a point of reference, Thomas points to Roscoe Mitchell and the Art Ensemble of Chicago: “He has this technique that he calls composition in the moment. We attempt to do that as we’re playing.”

More important, their music is meant to be interactive between each musician. This means that as they’re playing, they must be active listeners. There’s a chemistry between Lacques and Thomas that is unique to their musical mission.

“The chemistry happens because we’re only two minds,” said Lacques. “That helps a lot. It takes acute listening, and Noah is one of the best listeners I’ve ever played with.”

In case you’re wondering, Boom Duo does not bring sheet music.

“There’s no set list,” Lacques explained. “We don’t rehearse. Whatever happens, we go there and it morphs. That’s the essence of what we do.”

And so, as they play together, the more they explore, the more they discover. The journey remains an open adventure.

“I know that in my mind,” Lacques stated. “It’s not filled up yet where we’re like ‘Oh, we’ve done it all.’ I don’t feel close to that. I feel like we have this vessel to fill up with many explorations.”

For Thomas, Boom Duo is the adventure of music itself: “That’s the nature of music anyway. Music is always changing. The sound is always changing. The way you’re playing it is always different. The emotions are different. I think we kind of reflect that.”

Boom Duo performs on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. at Leashless Brewing, 585 E. Thompson Blvd, Ventura. The recently released album Live at Leashless is available at store.cdbaby.com/cd/boomduo. Follow the band on Facebook at www.facebook.com/boomduoband.