Cikada exemplifies the type of heavy and humid metal that screams New Orleans. On any given night, the band can be found playing sweaty shows at dive bars across town. Singer Rob Anderson screams like a rabid dog over slow, cathartic riffs (from guitars tuned down to C). I expect him to start foaming at the mouth at any moment. The band’s debut album Lamplighter faithfully documents their sound, albeit without the beer, sweat, or smells that define their grimy surroundings.
“It’s like Watergate up in here,” jokes guitarist Trey Burch as I set up my recording device for Cikada’s interview (accompanied by photographer Teddie Taylor). The band plays a seriously heavy mixture of sludge and doom, but members are a light-hearted bunch who typically don’t take things too seriously. Our interview frequently derails as members grab beers and veer into discussions about memes. Although 2019 might be just a drunken daze for them, it was a big year for the band. They released an album this past Halloween through Strange Daisy, a local record label primarily focused on more pleasant-sounding indie rock bands. Cikada also completed their first U.S. tour in September, alongside drummer Ian Hennessey’s crossover thrash metal group AR-15.
Like most bands in New Orleans, getting all members in the same room isn’t exactly an easy task. In addition to their jobs, the five members—which also include guitarist Jonathan Crawford and bassist Brenner Moate—keep busy with a dizzying array of underground bands. Members lend their talents to diverse projects such as goth rockers Missing, asinine grindcore group Pussyröt, and emotive pop-punks I’m Fine. Just when I think I’ve found a night that works for everyone, Anderson informs me that afternoon that he has to work at a restaurant in the French Quarter. Alas, the show must go on. I meet up with the remaining 4/5ths of the band at I’m Fine’s practice space at the Maze. As members crack open cold ones, they open up about cross-country hijinks, interpreting the unintelligible poetry of Eyehategod’s Mike XI Williams, and the swarms of bands named Cicada. Oh, and they even prank call Anderson’s workplace.
Rob isn’t here because he is working. How difficult is it juggling making music and working to put food on your tables?
Ian Hennessey: It’s hard, especially because we don’t have a real jam room right now, but it’s coming together.
Trey Burch: It’s hard to juggle between the five of us. More people, more bullshit.
Jonathan Crawford: I feel like we put something into the group chat and it all works out. We’re all like, “Hey, we’re going to meet up this day.” “Alright.” It works out for everyone. Like he said, we don’t have a jam space right now but you [Hennessey] did just get that new space!
IH: It’s in the works. We have one but we have to put some sound-proofing in before we can move our stuff.
TB: RIP 4201 Tulane.
Has it been stressful since the warehouse closed?
IH: It sucks!
Brenner Moate: It ain’t there no more!
JC: It ain’t there no more for real!
IH: A part of us has died.
Jonathan, didn’t you have a really tough time getting stuff out the day it closed?
JC: Yeah. We were like the last people in there before the cops shut the power off. We had to get our friend’s 8×10 out of there and I tried to take it downstairs but I was like, “I can’t do this myself.” I went downstairs and [thought] maybe someone can help me out, but it was a cop. He was like, “Hey! What the fuck are you doing up there!” I was like, “Hey. I’m just trying to get my friend’s shit out of here. Let me just go grab it.” As I was running up, I guess he thought I was running away from him. He comes upstairs and takes his handcuffs off. He was like, “You’re gonna go downstairs right now!” “OK. I just gotta grab my friend’s thing… Wait, can you help me out with this?” “NOOOOO!!!” [everyone laughs] “Alright, cool. I’ll just leave.” Thankfully, [I’m Fine drummer] Mason [Tucker] got it downstairs, but that was a bunch of bullshit. I’m glad that someone hit us up early in the morning and told us that the cops were there and the fire marshall busted in people’s doors so we were able to get our stuff out before they locked it up.
One of the first recordings that you put out was a cover of Eyehategod’s “30$ Bag.” How do you fit into the long line of New Orleans metal bands?
IH: We’re in New Orleans and we’re a metal band. [everyone laughs]
TB: That’s number one. That’s pretty much all it takes, right?
BM: That’s the headline. [everyone laughs]
TB: [We’ve] always been fans of Acid Bath, Eyehategod, Soilent Green, and all that shit. And the song is easy to play, ain’t gonna lie. [laughs]
JC: The lyrics though. We had to get Rob to just listen to it over and over again one night to just try to decipher [it]. There’s no lyrics for it online so when we were recording it, we just listened to it over and over again. He was like, I think this is it and we just went for it.
It’s funny you mention that. I was listening to the Cikada album a lot getting ready for the interview and I kept thinking, “Rob is great, but I can’t understand a single word he is saying.”
JC: A lot of people say that.
IH: It’s a blessing. [everyone laughs]
TB: I was on video chat with him the other night and he had a little composition notebook, one of those mini ones. He kept waving it to me. I was like, “Open it up! Let me see the lyrics! Everybody wants to know what you’re saying!” I don’t think there’s anything in there, but he’s acting like something is in there. I was like, “Everyone wants to know! The world wants to know what you’re saying!” [Everyone laughs]
Left to Right: Crawford, Hennessey, Burch, Moate, Anderson
You finally put out the album. Why did it take you so long to go from starting the band to putting that out?
JC: I think it was just finding the right person to master it, and it took us a second to pay for it.
TB: [jokingly] We’re a sludge band. We smoke a lot of weed. We take our time. Nah. We just wanted to make sure that everything was done right and also… money. It costs a lot of money to do that shit. That’s the main big factor. We just wanted to find the right people, make sure things were 100% right. Also, the artwork, the visual side of it, took a second to put together too. Between the five of us, we’re trying to make sure we’re all on the same page with everything.
You mentioned mastering. Dexter Gilmore from Sexy Dex and the Fresh mastered it. How did that come about and what did he think of the record?
JC: Rob [Landry from Strange Daisy (and ANTIGRAVITY associate editor)] referred him.
TB: Through the label. He recommended to go with Dex. He was like, “Yeah. He’s legit. He’s local.” So why not? That’s how we got to him.
You sampled the famous speech from Patton [“…We’re not just going to shoot the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel…”] on the album. Why did you put that on there?
TB: Because I’m just a war nerd.
IH: We love Bolt Thrower.
JC: When I grew up, my dad showed me those movies.
TB: Jonathan is a big war nerd too. Hennessey’s grandpa was in World War II. We’ve got a song called “Ardennes.” It’s in that song. It’s about people dying. Ask Rob for the lyrics. [laughs]
IH: Shout out to vets, ya heard! We’re fans of the History Channel.
It’s interesting that you are on Strange Daisy because their roster is mostly calm indie bands. Now, they have this New Orleans sludge doom band.
JC: Yeah. What I told Rob [Landry] was, “Really?” He’s like, “Yeah. I want a lot of diverse stuff on Strange Daisy.” Him and Pat [Bailey] have been really cool ever since working with us and making sure that what we want is great. I’m really glad to be on Strange Daisy. It’s pretty tight.
Does it ever feel weird being the metal band on their roster?
IH: It’s kind of cool.
TB: We’re different from a lot of the other metal bands in New Orleans in general, not like different different. There’s not a whole lot of the doom sludge anymore.
Speaking of different bands, you aren’t the only local band named Cicada.
[Everyone shouts “Oh!!!”]
Do you know which band came first? Have there been any fights over this?
TB: We started the band and when we got the members together we still didn’t have the name yet. We juggled some ideas and then me and Jonathan together, without knowing about the other band, came up with Cikada. We just thought it was really cool and we thought of the K with the spelling. Between Jonathan and [former member] Matt [Thomas], one of them found out about the other Cicada—one of the other Cicadas, because there’s multiple. We were like, “Should we change it? Should we not?” We were juggling the other band name Barrack. Last minute, we were thinking about it and I said, “No, we’re going to be called Cikada and that’s it!” We just stuck with it and said “fuck it” because it’s spelled differently anyways. All the other Cicada bands are different shit so fuck it.
IH: Also, we want to play a show with the other guys.
JC: We were going to play another show with the other Cicada, the grindcore one. It was us, Cicada, and Wreck and Reference; then they dropped from the show, which was really upsetting. Now, there’s also a local indie band called Cicada around here. I would love to play a show with them.
TB: If you’re reading this, we’re begging you.
Do fans of the indie band ever show up at your shows expecting to see the other band?
TB: Vice versa.
JC: There have been people showing up to their shows thinking it was us.
TB: A lot of times our friends will be ask, “Cikada is playing tonight, right?” And we’ll be like, “No.” [insistently] “It says right here that you’re playing at Banks [Street Bar]!” [everyone laughs]
IH: I get a bunch of phone calls about it.
TB: It’s actually a good marketing maneuver! [laughs]
IH: Yeah. If anybody else wants to name a band Cicada, come on!
This group is very representative of a lot of the underground stuff that is happening in New Orleans. Most of you are in other bands.
BM: It’s a super group if you will. [everyone laughs]
IH: I wasn’t going to say it.
JC: When we asked Hennessey to be in the band, he was already in three other bands at the time.
TB: I was like, “He’s going to say no, dude.” But it would be tight if he joined the band. Then he said yes and, [ecstatically] “He said ‘yes!!!’”
I really do appreciate the diversity. Brenner is in a goth band and a hardcore band, in addition to this sludgy doomy band. But you go to the shows and it’s a lot of the same people.
TB: He’s the metal guy in the goth band. [laughs] The hardcore guy in the goth band.
IH: Someone’s got to be loco.
You finished your first U.S. tour in September. How was that?
JC: It was great. Shout out to [AR-15 bassist] Dave Boss for booking it all.
TB: Shout out [AR-15 guitarist Mark] Luvis!
[Everyone collectively shouts “Eeyup!”]
BM: And Serial Hawk.
TB: Shoutout to the CEO of Serial Hawk, Rob, who couldn’t make it tonight.
JC: It was fun. Dave really came through with places to stay. The shows were great. There were two or three shows that were kind of like eh, whatever; but most of it was a blast. Even the places we were staying at for the shows that weren’t that great were still really fun. In Pittsburgh, we stayed in this old church. It was next to this dilapidated church that this woman owned who Dave knew. It was great.
TB: We spent about three hours practicing our Halo theme song in the church and T-posing. Every room we walked in, we tried the song.
BM: To check the acoustics. [laughs] And then we had grandma’s house in Chicago.
TB: Shout out Nelson at grandma’s house! Love you, buddy.
JC: We got kicked out of this house we played at, with the promise that we could stay there! I don’t know if it was me and Luvis passing out upstairs that pissed this guy off but I feel like we were all about to pass out, everything was good. The lights turned off and, ten minutes later, our host was like, “You guys gotta leave my grandma’s house.”
BM: It was 5 a.m. or some shit.
TB: Brenner was passed out drunk in the back of the van.
IH: Shout out Malört! [laughs]
TB: We honked the horn and just rolled away.
BM: Just laid on the horn, driving out the neighborhood at five in the morning. [laughs]
TB: It’s like the uptown of Chicago.
BM: On a Thursday night or whatever it was.
JC: We found a park.
IH: Lincoln Park! We slept on Lincoln Park. We tried so hard.
Do you feel like the tour improved after that?
JC: Oh yeah! It was a blast from there; it just got better.
TB: Besides getting sick in Pittsburgh, it was all up from there. In New York, shout out to Kim.
JC: Kim and Nelson! That was the good Nelson!
TB: Full Nelson!
[IH cracks open a beer next to the recorder and everyone laughs]
Teddie Taylor: You need to promo it. You need a sponsorship.
IH: Karbach Brewing Company, Love Street, Kolsch-style blonde ale!
JC: Please sponsor us! [laughs]
This reminds me of that scene in Wayne’s World where they’re talking about corporate sponsorships.
TB: Use promo code “CIKADA.”
IH: I’m here to say right now that we are in it for the money.
BM: Are you going to flavortown?
IH: Yup! This beer is sending me straight to flavortown. [laughs]
So what was the reaction when you played out of town?
JC: It was great.
BM: Really positive.
TB: We made pretty good tips at a generator show, which is kind of unusual.
BM: We played at an abandoned lot in Buffalo.
TB: And then we got 100 wings that night and we crushed almost every single one of them! Talk about one of the most epic moments of our lives. [laughs]
JC: We also played in Little Rock, Arkansas and the show was booked a week before the tour started because we were going to play in Memphis but then that show fell through. Our friend booked us a show in Little Rock and was like, “Yeah dude. I’m gonna make it happen.” I thought they were going to tour sandwich it but we ended up playing last. I remember the guy telling me, “Don’t worry! A lot of the locals stick around for the show!” I’ve heard that before! But he was true to his word; there were a lot of people there for a Wednesday night!
IH: Shout out Gunner!
JC: I thought most of the shows were going to be tour sandwiched but they were like, “No! You guys are gonna play last!” Do you guys book shows? What’s going on here? [laughs]
IH: Tour sandwiches are a lie!
So the tour was disaster-free besides getting kicked out of that house?
IH: It was great!
JC: We got kicked out of the Packard [Automotive] Plant in Detroit when we tried to infiltrate that bitch. [laughs] We drove around a bunch. We were walking past these train tracks to this one spot and these dogs were barking at us. We were like, “Whatever.” We all get to the Packard Plant… we’re all taking pictures. Luvis was like, “Yo! Take a picture of me!” I could see someone down behind us in the video of his camera. I turned around and all of a sudden this loudspeaker comes on. “Y’all better get out!” but it’s breaking up so it’s, “Ya – Bet – Get – Out – O – Ya – Jail!” “Oh fuck! Guys! We gotta go!” [laughs]
BT: We just heard “jail” and were like, “Gotta go!” [laughs]
JC: That’s the only brush with some crazy shit we ever had… In Detroit, we played at Kelly’s and before that we played at Lance’s.
IH: Buzzy death chair! We watched the Saints game there!
JC: Off of a reddit stream. It was great. They hooked us up with some Michigan legal and gummies as well.
TB: We were in another dimension for a good day and a half off of the gummies.
JC: After Detroit, it was Buffalo.
TB: We were CBDed out, fam.
JC: From Pittsburgh to Detroit, that was a little cushion ride. The woman who we stayed with, she farmed out in California so she had a bunch of THC oil. She put gloves on and was like, “Here you go guys.”
TB: She put a full tablespoon on each piece of bread for each of us.
JC: She was like, “Who wants to lick the spoon?” Me!
TB: I woke up in Buffalo and was still pretty fucking baked.
So I guess y’all are officially a stoner doom band now?
JC: Well Hennessey doesn’t smoke and Brenner—Well, Brenner did smoke a joint with me in Central Park in New York.
TB: I wasn’t there for the Brenner joint. I’m very disappointed. Many memes were made on the trip.
This isn’t even a band. It’s a bunch of meme lords.
TB: More memes than music.
IH: I lost a lot of brain cells that I’ll never get back on that tour and that is not a complaint. I didn’t need those anyways.
BM: They won’t be missed.
JC: What was that place we played at in Baltimore?
JC: That place was tight. We played upstairs. I wish they had an elevator. Tugging that 8×10, that was the only thing: tugging that bitch up there.
TB: And Rob watched. [laughs]
Speaking of Rob, Henney and Rob are both in Pussyröt.
IH: Can we say that?
Yeah. You can say that.
TB: This ain’t no WTUL.
Could you not say it on WTUL?
JC: You could say it after 12.
IH: We gotta say “P-Rot!”
JC: I hear that after 12 they can say whatever the fuck they want.
IH: Well next interview is gonna be after 12.
So how would you describe that band to someone who hasn’t been to one of those shows?
IH: A whole lot of fun! An all around good time! Fun for the whole family! Bring the kids!
TB: Beer will be spilt. Trash cans will be thrown.
IH: Cops might be called. Meatballs, tampons. You name it. All bets are off.
Pussyröt opened for Eyehategod’s 30th anniversary show at Tipitina’s. Tell me about that.
IH: That was a dream come true because we all grew up on Eyehategod. Those are our dudes. I actually got a text message from Aaron [Hill, drummer] asking if we wanted to play. I don’t even know how he got my number. I was just like, “Eyehategod texted me! This is sick! How the fuck did that happen?” Of course, we said yes and we did it. The rumor is that we got banned but there are new owners now so I don’t think that we’re banned anymore.
TB: The banned list gets refreshed. [laughs]
How did Rob get banned?
IH: He got naked on stage, which I guess is a no-no at a place like that. We also spilled a whole gallon of fake blood up in the greenroom two seconds before we had to go onstage. He was pouring it on his head and then dropped the thing. It splattered all over the walls and everything. It was bad. [laughs] That was a great show.
TB: We’re a professional band. [everyone laughs] Rob wears all of his clothes for Cikada shows. He might take his shirt off and maybe his shoes too but that is as far as he goes. He’s very professional. [laughs] He has like a uniform.
IH: We have a dress code for this band.
So Cikada hasn’t been banned from Tipitina’s yet. [laughs]
IH: I don’t think we’ve been banned anywhere except grandma’s house.
JC: I don’t think we’re going to play there again. [laughs]
How do you feel that the city has shaped you musically?
IH: We’re fortunate enough to grow up around so much cool stuff.
JC: We grew up listening to a lot of the music from around here. The fact that those guys still play and are still in the scene is cool. Outside music shaped me a lot and then I came back to New Orleans music and started listening to it more from there.
BM: We could’ve grown up in a butt metal city like San Antonio.
IH: Yeah. You don’t realize how good you’ve got it until you go someplace else and you’re like, “Damn. This place sucks!” We’re very fortunate and we take it for granted. It’s a very small town and we’re fortunate enough to get on cool shows. In any other town, there are a million local bands fighting to get on one cool show. We’re very lucky.
TB: The size of the city helps us. Everybody knows everybody. In the metal scene, everybody is really friendly and helps everybody get on different shows. We got on some pretty big shows with Weedeater, Bongzilla, and Vital Remains from friends.
TB: To be able to have those opportunities is awesome. I think the way New Orleans works and the size of it helps us get those opportunities. In bigger cities, there is so much more and it’s so much more spread out. That definitely helps us for sure.
Is there anything else y’all want to talk about?
TB: Our album release show is going to be coming around real quick. We got merch. We got tapes. We got stickers. We got memes. You name it, we got it.
IH: Can we shotgun some beers now?
I was never trying to stop you.
IH: Can we call [Rob’s workplace] and ask for Rob? [laughs] Someone who has unlimited data, look up their phone number.
[IH calls Rob’s workplace]
PHONE: Hello. This is Michael speaking. How may I help you?
JC and IH: [simultaneously and nervously] Hello.
[JC hangs up phone]
JC: That was bad. [everyone laughs]
[JC calls them again]
PHONE: Hello. May I help you?
JC [in a mature voice]: Hi. Yes. Could I speak to Robert Anderson? I’m his brother James Anderson and I need to get in touch with him really quick.
PHONE: Let me see if he is here.
IH: “James Anderson? I don’t have a fucking brother.” [laughs]
Rob Anderson: Hello?
JC: Hey Rob. What up. It’s Jonathan.
IH: [yelling] What’s up Rob!!!
BM: Is there anything you want to say?
IH: We’re on ANTIGRAVITY live right now.
RA: [awkwardly] ANTIGRAVITY live? I mean I’m closing up work right now. Slow, fast, and heavy. I don’t know.
The band or your job?
RA: This is a very spur of the moment thing. I don’t know.
IH: Can you answer some questions for us?
RA: No. I’m not in the mood. What are the questions?
TB: What are the lyrics?
IH: Where is your lyrical inspiration?
RA: I guess Burning Witch.
TB: Now recite the lyrics.
RA: Alright. Goodbye.
IH: We just got him fired.
Cikada’s debut album Lamplighter is out now on Strange Daisy Records. They play at the Goat on Sunday, January 19 with Critical Condition and God Shell. The band also plans to host a release show for Lamplighter in January, date and venue TBD. For more information, check out facebook.com/cikada or cikadadoom.bandcamp.com.
photos Teddie Taylor