Quintron and Miss Pussycat have undoubtedly left their mark on New Orleans as two of the city’s most eclectic and eccentric figures. John Waters once called the duo “The weirdest band in the world,” a sentiment their cult-like followers would enthusiastically agree with. Their story is one as old as time: sweaty musician-inventor meets colorful puppeteer-artist at an underground club, drops everything to be with her in New Orleans, and forges a romantic and collaborative relationship that now spans a quarter century. The couple’s close partnership makes it difficult to distinguish exactly where one’s work ends and the other’s begins. Together, they’ve already put out over a dozen full-length albums, which include everything from dance floor ragers to fantastical puppet stories. They’ve also produced multiple puppet films, including the 2002 Christmas cult classic North Pole Nutrias.
This month, the couple adds their new album Goblin Alert—produced by Greg Cartwright of the Oblivians—to this already extensive list of collaborations. Songs like “Teenagers Don’t Know Shit” and “Buc-ee’s Got a Problem” are as quintessentially Q and P as anything the duo has done thus far. In addition to preparing for this release, the couple has kept busy with a variety of tasks, such as travelling out of state to prepare Miss Pussycat’s art exhibits and installing a Weather Warlock, Quintron’s invention that transforms weather into music via meteorological sensors connected to an analog synthesizer. They also man the Quintronics store that now takes up space in their home and multi-purpose space, the Spellcaster Lodge.
I called Quintron to interview him on his birthday, thankful that Hurricane Sally narrowly spared New Orleans. While most people enjoy relaxing on their special day, this birthday boy was drowning in emails related to orders for the Bath Buddy, the new invention he had announced just an hour prior. He politely redirected me towards Miss Pussycat. As she worked on baking Quintron’s birthday cake, Miss P opened up to me about pre-COVID partying, the joys of performing first, and navigating the art world.
The following is an extended cut of the print version
What kind of birthday cake are you making?
Miss Pussycat: It’s going to be pink with sprinkles and candy on top. It’s homemade. It’s from scratch. I always make this one that’s just this yellow cake that’s in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and it’s really good.
The video for “Goblin Alert” captures the debauchery of your annual Lundi Gras gig. How does it feel looking back at that footage?
P: It’s amazing. It’s really fortunate that we had Drew Stubbs videotape it. We don’t normally think about videotaping our live shows. Maybe we’ve done that one other time. I just had this feeling that we should videotape it and Drew is someone that we work with a lot. He’s one of my favorite people to work with. Him and Tim Watson and Darin Deluco are like my three favorite people to work with on video projects. Drew Stubbs also shot the Bath Buddy commercial… Also, that was a good show. That was a fun show. You don’t always know what a show is going to be like. Lundi Gras can be chaotic and it was really chaotic, but it was so fun! That was the last show we did really and it was an amazing show. We got the footage from Drew just maybe a couple weeks ago and it makes me want to cry. It’s like really weird. It’s like B.C.—Before Corona.
Every time I see the footage of you in the French Quarter crowds, I can’t help but think “Don’t do it! It’s not safe!” [laughs]
P: It probably wasn’t safe then! [laughs] Even without corona, the French Quarter’s full of germs. [laughs] But it’s amazing to look at it. I feel like it’s a world that doesn’t exist now. I think it will exist again, but it doesn’t exist right now.
You two also played the Geoff Douville memorial at Tipitina’s, which was one of the last shows there.
P: And that was a memorial! You don’t think of memorials as being fun, but it actually was! It’s so strange! Every show that we did this year was so special and I knew it at the time and that doesn’t happen. There are shows where you aren’t having that much fun. They’re all pretty good but those shows, I knew they were extra special. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but the one for Geoff, I got to play maracas with Egg Yolk [Jubilee] for the second line going around the club part and with us on stage. It was a memorial, but it was this happy-sad. It felt very transcendental. It’s something magical. And the same with the show we played at BJ’s.
Yeah. That was a good show.
P: And that was so fun! Quintron and I were just like, “This show is so good!” It was so good! It was so fun! Every show we did! Sometimes, shows are hard and they’re fun for everybody else, but these shows were really special. I felt it and I was aware of it.
Most of the time you record with just Quintron producing and typically at the Spellcaster. How did it feel to record this new album in a real studio in Florida with a producer?
P: First of all, that felt great. I was nervous to do it. The times we’ve recorded in studios before, I didn’t like it. I think the end product was good, but I get really nervous. I wouldn’t say I’m not the musician in the band, but I don’t feel really comfortable in that role. Sometimes, the studio is weird—like you can’t hear things in the headphones or it’s intimidating. But it was great! Greg Cartwright, we’ve known him for years from the Oblivians, and he was a delight to work with! I was nervous, but he was a delight! One morning, I had to write my song and finish it. I hadn’t written it and, when we got there, it was “Goblin Alert.” Greg sat down at the kitchen table where we were staying like he was going to make me do my homework! [laughs] And we did it!
That is one thing that’s very different about working at a studio as opposed to home. You actually have those deadlines you have to grind against, where as I imagine when you’re working at home you can just say, “Oh, I’ll finish this next week.”
P: Yeah! When we recorded Sucre [Du Sauvage] or Too Thirty [4 Love], we would do one song a week! We worked on it over and over and over and over. We probably did those songs a hundred times before we got the right take. [laughs] With this, we didn’t have time to do that! We didn’t have endless amounts of time in the studio. I think we had a week. The other thing is Danny Clifton, who plays guitar on it, also works at that studio in Florida, which is Pulp Arts. Really it’s those people who asked us to come and do it because they were opening that studio and for that first year they were figuring out the equipment and getting the producers to work with people that they liked or thought would be fun to record. We got to be one of those people! We were the first people that they used the two inch tape machine for! Also, I’ve always wanted to record an album in Florida. I love Florida. It’s one of my favorite states and I just thought it would always be so cool to record a record in Florida, so I was really happy to do that! [laughs] Benny Divine is on it and he had routed a tour so that he could come and spend a couple of days with us. Sam [Yoger] on drums is amazing. I’ve known him for a long time. He goes on tour with us a lot as a tour manager and I love Babes. I love all his musical projects.
It is cool to see you expand to the full band approach, which you haven’t really done on a Q and P record. Haven’t you two sort of been mentors to Sam over the years?
P: I don’t know about that. I think we’ve led him astray! [laughs] I hope we led him somewhere good. Sam’s definitely close. He’s part of our family and I love Babes, just like I love Dan and his music, so it was great to work with him in that way. When we went, we didn’t know if we would want drums and guitar on every song. We were going to try it for a couple and that was it. We were like, “Oh my god, this is so fun! Will you all just do this on every single song?” Danny was having to write the guitar parts after leaving the studio and having to stay up all night to figure stuff out because it was so on the fly. He did a great job. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t plan it, but we didn’t plan it to the extent that it worked out. Sam, I think he’s been listening to those [songs] for like a hundred years and has probably been like, “Oh my god! Would you please add a drum part? This is what I would do to every single song!” [laughs]
I noticed that most of the songs on this record are songs that you have been doing live for a couple of years now.
P: Yes! Some of them were FIRST songs like “Teenagers Don’t Know Shit” and “Stroller Pollution” and we (Quintron and Miss Pussycat) just kept playing them. Most of them, we’ve done on tour for a while. “Goblin Alert” and “[Where’s] Karen” we’ve done maybe a couple of times, but that was pretty new. Heather Lee Smith sings on that and she’s got an amazing voice. It’s pretty obvious that it’s not me singing. Heather should be on Broadway. She’s in Room 13 and was in Jane Jane Pollock. Anyways, I want to make sure she gets the credit that she deserves!
But you do add a great goblin voice to the end of “Where’s Karen.”
P: Thank you! That’s my highest note there. [laughs]
You mentioned FIRST. That band was pretty short-lived. I saw what I presume was the only FIRST show. I remember you were dressed as Neptune. What can you say about that band’s short tenure?
P: Well, we actually did play a few shows. We were always first. That was our thing that we would only play first. [laughs] Maybe the band lasted a year. We didn’t play that many shows, maybe four or five. Our last show was at Goner Fest a couple years ago and we played first! [laughs] The band was so fun, but it was also so hard! Oh my god! I thought I could play drums because I play maracas. [laughs] I thought that would make sense! And also I thought it would be really fun for me. I think for Quintron and Heather [Vinz] and probably everybody else it was easy! Olivia Kessler also played drums and I thought it would be even easier if somebody played drums with me and it’s actually harder! [laughs] Neither one of us played drums! It was fun, but it was really hard in a way. The whole thing about FIRST was that it sucks when you’re going to do a show and you pick out bands to play with you and nobody wants to go first. I understand why, but you’ve got to step up and play first! Somebody has to! This is an excellent time slot! But nobody wants to play first, so you ask bands to do a show and then people get bent out of shape. I was like, “We’ll start a band, Quintron and I, where we play first.” It started as a New Year’s Eve show and we opened up for ourselves. That was kind of the idea behind it and then it turned into a political hardcore band.
Yeah. Didn’t you have a song called “Bobby Jindal Suck My Tailpipe?”
P: Yeah! That’s the most political aspect. [laughs] That’s also how I got into doing puppet shows in rock clubs, because I did shows at my house—Pussycat Caverns. I booked bands and nobody wanted to go first so you would hold the doors and just push it back, push it back, push it back. Finally, I was like, “I’m going to do a puppet show and I’ll go first” and it was great and I haven’t stopped!
You started out by doing puppet shows at underground venues and dive bars. Since then, you’ve gone on to do really big shows at places like the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden. Was that something you thought was even a possibility in those early days?
P: No, I didn’t. Not to go too much into that, but the art world can be impervious. It can be really unwelcoming. It’s kind of a commanded performance. I just knew at that point that I didn’t fit in. I don’t know if I fit in now. I didn’t think that would be a possibility. I’m really happy that it has been because I love going and looking at art and I love all things about it, but it’s a pretty cold world sometimes. It’s not something I had thought about a whole lot because I just figured it wasn’t an option.
Speaking of art exhibits, you’ve been keeping pretty busy. You’ve got one in Florida and you’re about to open one in Texas. Can you tell me a bit about those?
P: These shows were supposed to happen last spring and got pushed back. It’s actually been super fun to have a project to work on during this pandemic. I’ve had a reason to get out of bed every day. I get up and go to work. The one in Pensacola is at the Pensacola Museum of Art and it’s actually a group show about comedy. The thing about that show that I’m most excited about I guess is I made maracas. I papermached them and I made them from scratch. Some of them look like Mr. and Ms. circus peanut and there’s witches. These are like puppets on a stick. It was really fun. I used brown paper and wood glue for the paper mache and then I put aquarium rocks inside them to make the rattlely sound. Then I made them each a little silk pillow, a little satin pillow made out of the fabric left over from my show business dresses. They’re laying down on this little stage because they can’t do a show right now. They’re in an art show, but they can’t play music or do a rock show so they’re resting. [laughs] I’m really excited about those maracas and I can’t wait to get them back and be able to do a live show with them. And then I have a show in Texas in Waxahachie at the Webb Gallery. I’m excited because I love the Webbs and I love their gallery. For that, it’s mostly oil paintings. It’s oil paintings of puppets doing things like camping or going to the beach or roasting marshmallows, those kinds of things. [laughs] That’s been super fun. I used to paint a lot and I haven’t in recent years. I’ve just been too busy. But it’s been really fun to paint again and I’ve had months and months to paint! [laughs]
Just before the pandemic, you were doing an ancient Egypt series of puppet shows. How did you all of a sudden become so obsessed with ancient Egypt?
P: Well, I actually find history really fascinating and I love reading about ancient history. You can ask Lefty [Parker] about this. Lefty has been on tour with me and knows me pretty good. I’ve probably driven him crazy talking about ancient history or monotheism. But I just love reading about history. It’s one of the nerdy things that I love to read about and Cleopatra’s really fascinating because she was the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt. A lot of people don’t realize that that’s really the end of ancient Egypt right there. The reason I wrote that show was for Goner Records last year. I was going to do an art show in Memphis, Tennessee for Goner Fest. They always have a special art show and I got to do it and I was like, “I want to do a special puppet show too… Oh my god! Memphis! Egypt! Oh my god! This is perfect!” so I started writing it and it kind of wrote itself. So it’s about Egypt and it’s about history, but it’s also about Goner Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Anyway, it was really fun to do. Although I like history, I don’t usually do puppet shows about history so it was fun to do.
You tried to do some puppet live streaming events when the pandemic began. How has it been trying to navigate that new terrain?
P: That is a really weird one! I did a couple of things online and it was fun early in the pandemic to have a project and kind of feel connected. Puppeteers have been going to town with the pandemic because a computer screen is a proscenium. It’s like a stage. It’s like a puppet theater window. Puppeteers are sharing their secrets of how they make different kinds of joints or what they use for foam, different tricks of the trade, and making videos. Puppeteers are really inventive and I wouldn’t say this is ideal to have a pandemic and be going through this, but puppeteers are really making the most of it, I must say. [laughs] The unique group that I’m associated with, the puppeteers are just going bonkers. In general, it’s all we have.
You’ve done some video projects over the last few years, but it’s been awhile since you last did a big film project. Have you thought about getting back into those at all?
P: Not so much… I’m sure we’ll make another one, but I just don’t want to right now. [laughs] Puppet movies are a huge, huge project. It’s kind of like you say this is all you’re going to do for six months or a year and you just max out your credit cards. No money in it; it takes money! [laughs] It’s the most fun project in the world, so I’m sure I’ll do another one, but I’ve got to pay my credit cards off! [laughs]
You’ve been in New Orleans so long that this is definitely home for you, but you’re not originally from here. Looking back, how do you feel New Orleans has shaped your creative work?
P: It’s had a huge impact on me. So much of what my work is about is about New Orleans. I just turned it all into a puppet show. I grew up in a really small town (Antlers, Oklahoma) and it has a very warm spot in my heart. My family still lives there and they just can’t believe that I left. It’s multi-generations from this one part of Oklahoma, Pushmataha County, and they’re all still there for the most part. It’s OK to be a bohemian in New Orleans. It’s OK to be painted silver and get on the streetcar. Everyone is like, “Oh, they work in the French Quarter. There’s a silver person” or “Oh, you’re a musician.” I didn’t choose to move to New Orleans. I got here and New Orleans wouldn’t let me leave. I’m definitely one of those people and it’s definitely taken care of me and also sometimes tortured me, but mostly taken care of me and let me be creative and given me lots of things to think about and write about.
You and Quintron have a very love-at-first-sight story, but what were your initial impressions of each other’s creative outputs at that time?
P: At that time, I didn’t know what anything really was about with Quintron. I just saw what I saw and I think he was the same way. Both of us were doing what we did before we met each other, but it was pretty early on and it was before the internet really. Quintron is very amazing and always inspiring. It always blows my mind and I get to have a front row seat. That’s the best thing about playing maracas is I get the best seat! I get to watch up close what he’s doing during a live show and it’s amazing! There was one show where we were on tour—I don’t know where we were—I was playing maracas and I turned around. Quintron had taken off all his clothes and he had on like a tiger-striped bikini and I was the first one who got to see it while we were doing the show.
Two hours later, the supply of Bath Buddies had run dry and I finally got to speak with Quintron. He told me about his latest invention, collaborating with senior citizens, and finding pandemic-era peace on the road.
Tell me a bit about what led to the Bath Buddy invention you announced earlier today.
Quintron: The Bath Buddy was one of those things that was directly derived from an absence of something in the market that needed to solve a problem. We have—and we know a lot of other people have—large clawfoot tubs. I know a lot of rural farm-type people who regularly fill these big hundred gallon troughs and stuff. You leave the hose on or you leave the bath running and you walk away. In our busy world, you forget and that shit adds up. It was happening in our house with three people taking many baths a week, only in clawfoot tubs. It was getting left on and people were just leaving it, letting it run over. Our bill was running up and up and up so I built them just for us and all the tubs in our house. It was like, “Oh man! This is making a difference!” Then I thought, “I’m going to get rich!” [laughs] And then proceeded to spend three months making 15 of them, which is not how you get rich, by the way. That’s it. It was derived from figuring out how to eliminate water waste in my own life.
They all sold out immediately.
Q: Yeah! I think it’s something that a lot of people have thought of. Your toilet cuts off, or a lot of times the cause of people’s high water bills is that thing that floats in your toilet that cuts the water off, it sails and then it just keeps running psssssssshh like racing water all day long. I always thought, “Well, why isn’t there one of those in the tub?” But, of course, there’s not because it’s this big clunky thing. It takes up a bunch of space and it looks weird. You don’t want a big ball floating around in your tub and it’s extra plumbing to retrofit. The thing that I made is electronic. It involves no plumbing retrofit. It’s relatively cheap to produce in comparison to hiring a plumber and all this other stuff. As far as I know, nothing like this exists and I can’t believe it doesn’t because when I tell it to people they’re like, “Yeah. I thought about that before. Why isn’t there a thing that alerts you when your water is at the level you want it to be?” Of course, my millennial friends are like, “Well, it should send a beep to my phone.” I’m like, “No, fuck you!” [laughs] There will be a buzzer with a flashing light. It’s all you need.
Do you have any big plans for your birthday today?
Q: That was it, kind of. I like to have work holidays. There’s something about it that I really enjoy. I’ve always really enjoyed working and, by working, I mean working at home, playing music, whatever. [I like] working on Thanksgiving especially and working on birthdays, ignoring it for most of the day. Miss P always makes my birthday really special and she always makes a cake and she’s making dinner.
Back in December you finally got to accomplish your longtime dream of opening the Quintronics shop. How did it feel to finally open that and pretty immediately take this sharp left turn into COVID?
Q: It was actually totally fine if I’m going to be completely honest. The i’s aren’t dotted and the t’s aren’t crossed as far as me being “a business.” I’m making air quotes right now. I never wanted to venture into the nine-to-five regular shopkeep kind of thing. Because of the nature of the business, it’s very boutique. It’s a very small number of people who are into hobby electronics and analog synth stuff and the techy side of that. It’s a destination shop and it can be sort of appointment-only, which is how I’ve operated through this whole thing. It suits me just fine.
COVID forced you to cancel a spring Weather Warlock tour. You had planned to collaborate with local musicians on each stop of that tour. When you reach out to people about sitting in with Weather Warlock, what kind of conversations do you have with the people who aren’t aware of what that is?
Q: It depends on what they play and it depends on their familiarity. More and more, people are familiar with the project and I don’t have to sell it to them, but I don’t want to ever fall into the comfort zone where it’s always only people from my scene… I always want to have some of the guest musicians be unknown people, who are maybe more heavily jazz-oriented that would not know about this project but they’ve got the right musical spirit to suit it. They don’t know who Quintron is, they don’t know what Weather Warlock is, but they know about drone and they know about repetition and improvisation and self-hypnosis, all of these things that that project is about. Those people, you just have to direct them to the side and have long conversations and explain it and sort of sell it to them. We’ve played with a lot of senior citizen, free improv type of players across the country. I have to do some explaining for them, but it has almost always worked out. The big bummer about canceling that tour wasn’t so much Weather Warlock because we’ve done it before, although we had a record that we didn’t really tour on. That sucks. But I was also going to do the solo mellotron set on tour, which I’ve never done except for little snippets opening for Q and P, which was kind of weird. It was going to be a proper mellotron tour and I would perform under a different name. I don’t see that ever happening again because of corona. It knocked that tour out and now we have a new Q and P record and I have to kind of move on to other things. It erased that from the calendar, which is what I’m the most bummed about.
That’s really unfortunate because I really loved that mellotron EP Erotomania you did last year. What inspired you to do that release?
Q: The instrument itself, pure and simple. I knew I wanted one of these things and then just started writing songs that I knew were a different project when I got it. I just started grinding the wheel rounder and rounder and polishing six or seven or eight of these songs into something recordable.
Were these songs you put together all during the same time period or were they on the backburner for a while?
Q: No. They were all kind of written as an interaction through the relationship with that instrument and my organ. They were written… Compared to a lot of our other records that have a lot of backlogged stuff that catches up and makes it to tape, this was really like a glut within a year or half a year or something.
I really appreciated the way that you incorporated the pre-recorded accompaniments, especially the way you manipulate it at the end of “Dixie Disaster.”
Q: That’s part of the mellotron. The mellotron instrument is tape loops and the original inventor was not British—he was from Wisconsin. Part of the instrument back in his day was recordings of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra playing these riffs, foxtrot riffs based around C major, based around C sharp major, based around C sharp minor. Every note of the keyboard, you’ve got three octaves of a live band… You’ve got the Lawrence Welk Orchestra at your fingertips and it’s live. You can screw with that and mess with it and go do things that an orchestra would never think to do in terms of key changes and back-and-forth. You can make it really modern sounding in that way and you can mess with the pitch.
You recently installed a Weather Warlock somewhere in Mississippi. How does that UFO-shaped one compare to the others that you’ve done?
Q: I’ve learned over the years of making these for other people that my mistake in all those previous cases, except for one, was to make them too complicated as far as knobs and labeling and what you can do with it. I think your average person, especially kids or the person who’s not intimate with the language of analog electronics, they see all this stuff and it’s sort of intimidating. It doesn’t really make you want to make music with it. So I simplified a lot of that stuff into momentary switches and buttons and made it a lot more intuitive to just play without having it seem like this overwhelming geek forest of knobs that you’re afraid to touch. In that way, I think this might be the best one I’ve ever built as far as a public one.
You’ve been out on the road a little bit to set up a Weather Warlock in Mississippi and also to set up Miss P’s art exhibit in Florida. How does it feel to be out on the roads nowadays in comparison to the usual grind of touring?
Q: Well, nothing we’ve done during the pandemic could even come close to being “out on the road.” It’s like, drive to Pensacola, stay in a hotel room that the gallery who is showing Miss P’s work bought for us, she goes and installs the show, I lay around and watch TV. [laughs] Then go out to dinner and go home. It’s pretty easy compared to touring.
Does it feel different being out on the road during a pandemic?
Q: It feels great! The healthiest I’ve felt during this whole thing honestly is driving back and forth to Pearlington, Mississippi to work on the UFO Weather Warlock thing. Just to take Highway 90 out and just drive through the country and roll down the window, get out of the city and get out of the claustrophobia: Should you hug this person? Or shake hands? Ahhhhhh! Everybody’s getting close to me! Just get the fuck out of here and drive to the middle of nowhere is mentally very clearing.
Speaking of people getting too close to you, the video for “Goblin Alert” captures a pretty close and sweaty Lundi Gras show. How does it feel looking back at that?
Q: I burst into tears many times during the edits on that video. I would see somebody that I really love and I miss and I haven’t seen in forever and I haven’t had a serious conversation with them in forever. It made me think about shows and the future of shows and the state of our business. I’d get weary-eyed over that. Just this weird nostalgia, you know? But you’re not supposed to have nostalgia until maybe eight years later—minimum, not fucking six months. But I’m looking at it like it’s the Weimar era in Berlin! It’s weird!
It feels the same way thinking back to the Geoff Douville memorial at Tipitina’s. You shouldn’t feel nostalgic about a memorial.
Q: Yeah. I think I had the COVID at that thing. I was sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. I had not heard of COVID. I thought it was the Mardi Gras flu like everybody gets all the time. It was mere days or maybe a week later that we started getting shut down and hearing about all this as the general public, after Geoff’s memorial. I wonder if I maybe had it and gave it to a bunch of people.
Well hopefully not.
Q: We always travel with our own microphone.
You’ve recorded most of your stuff on your own and, a lot of times, at your house. How did you wind up recording the new album with a producer at a studio in Gainesville?
Q: Because a bunch of dear friends and musician friends that we’ve known forever and toured with forever are from Florida, but they moved to New Orleans at some point. One of them is Danny Clifton, the guy who plays guitar and bass on this record. Some of them lived with us and then a group moved back to Gainesville to help a couple other people open this big, very legit, two inch tape recording studio. They were just getting it under way and—years ago when it was still just an idea and they were breaking grounds and stuff—we agreed to be guinea pigs in return for free studio time. We kept talking and took them up on it and, sure enough, we went there and basically got free studio time. We paid for the mix and some other stuff, but we got five star recording studio privileges for a while, seven or eight days for next-to-nothing. It was a great opportunity to do that and it’s a romantic idea to go out of town and cloister yourself and make a record. You know, it’s not a chalet on the Mediterranean in France with a bunch of drug dealers, but it was pretty good anyways. [laughs]
I know you recently watched an Iron Maiden documentary. One of the documentaries about them details them being holed up on some island working on one of their albums.
Q: It’s like the classic second album rockstar thing to do. [In a Mick Jagger-esque voice] “We’re gonna go to the Bahamas and make our next record and stay there for two months.” Then they just get wasted and the band breaks up, somebody dies in a motorcycle wreck, whatever.
You expanded the band for this record. It’s more or less a full band approach, which is super unusual for you.
Q: Yeah. It’s a straight-up full band. It wasn’t like we started a rock band and wrote the songs in this rock band way. They’re still written very much in the same way that they’re all written and still are performed with a drum machine for a two piece. Then I just translated it for a drummer and Danny. I don’t want to call him a guitar player because really a lot of the guitar on there is me playing the lap steel, which I’ve been playing for a long time with the left hand while my right hand is playing the organ. Danny plays a big ol’ hollowbody electric and his job was to sort of be the rhythm section with Sam [Yoger] the drummer.
He sounds a lot like a bass player on this record.
Q: Yeah! I can’t call him a bass player because he wasn’t technically playing a bass, but it’s more misleading to say he’s the guitar player. Really what I wanted was a live rhythm section. I wanted a bass player and a drummer to replace the drum machine and just do what the drum machine did, but with a bit more humanity. By being humans, they achieved that.
And anytime you can get Benny Divine playing talkbox, you know whatever is going to come out is going to be good.
Q: Benny’s the best icing on any cake you could ever make. You could make a dogshit cake and if Benny icing is on it, it’s going to sound great.
Shifting away from the new album, one of my favorite things that you’ve ever done is your version of Keith Franks’ zydeco hit “Haterz.” How did you come across that song and wind up recording it with C.C. Adcock?
Q: I’ve been a huge Keith Frank fan for forever and the first time I heard him play the song was in Lafayette at El Sido’s Lounge live. It was like this weird ‘80s style referencing bass line started and the dance floor filled up immediately. It’s such an obvious hit from the first couple of bars, you know that this is a jammer. C.C. is from Lafayette and he knows Keith. He wanted one of his friends Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys to cover a song that I wrote called “Chatterbox.” He really wanted to do that with them. We did and it was great. Steve still plays it to this day. I said “Hey. Can I release a 45 single? Will you help me record the b-side with me covering Keith Frank if he’s cool with it?” Keith Frank was cool with it so that’s how that happened.
Did you ever hear Keith Frank’s opinion of your version?
Q: I don’t know…Keith, he likes the recording. I’m pretty sure we’re not his cup of tea, but I might be wrong. I don’t know. He’s my cup of tea. He’s my whole pot of tea.
You produced what were Ernie K-Doe’s last sessions, which I don’t believe were ever released. Could you tell me a little bit about working on those?
Q: Oh, I wish we could release those! That’s a project for another day, but it involves contacting a lot of people and family members and band members and stuff. I don’t feel like going into all the history of our relationship with the K-Does, but it was very familial and we were there all the time, spent a lot of time together, and played a lot of music together. I had the means to record and I really wanted to. Ernie was busting out on his Sunday night sets at the Mother-In-Law. He was busting out these crazy great new songs, so we did them there and also at this other studio. I’m embarrassed I can’t remember the name, but it was on Washington and it’s not there now—a Katrina casualty. The band was called Blue Eyed Soul [Revue]. I think most of those guys were from Houma and Ernie had played with them a lot back in the day. They were a crack, top band. The horn section, the rhythm section, all those guys were just—they had the south Louisiana feel that you can’t fake. They were just incredible. Rico, the Elvis impersonator one-man band who would play at the Mother-In-Law a lot, he did this great very Elvis background vocal on “White Boy / Black Boy.” I think “White Boy / Black Boy” was just about…Ernie was having this great revival and all these kids, white rock‘n’roll kids flocking around him and hanging on his every note. It was sort of this hopeful ode to that possibility. It’s a really great song. All of his songs that he wrote at the end of his life—he had a bunch more that we didn’t record— all the themes were just biblical. There were no more little things for that man at that age. They were heavy, huge, world-changing things, which befits the emperor of the universe in his twilight years, or starburst years I guess.
You didn’t grow up here so you probably didn’t have that background of hearing those K-Doe hits all the time during your youth. What were your initial impressions of the K-Does?
Q: Well, I loved them right away and I did grow up listening to R&B. I grew up in St. Louis, where that music is also super strong, and I heard “Mother-In-Law,” but I had never seen Ernie K-Doe. I had never heard anything else. I didn’t really know who it was by, but I had the knowledge that most semi-Southern people had. I call St. Louis semi-Southern,and I lived in Alabama too. Most of the country knew “Mother-In-Law” if you listened to oldies and, if you were old, you knew it as a youngie. [laughs] But I’m not that old. My impression of them, oh I don’t know, like kindred spirits, Antoinette especially. She was a magical schemer and just a freaking artistic genius. In so many ways, that woman broke the mold.
You and Miss Pussycat have a very love-at-first-sight story, but what were your initial impressions of each other’s creative work?
Q: I thought she was a magical genius and I wanted to be around her all the time immediately. I don’t know what her’s was of me. It was sincerely love at first sight. I saw her puppet show on a show that she did with me, which is how we met because I had a tour that ran through New Orleans and I played at her house at a speakeasy called Pussycat Caverns. I saw what she did and was just completely floored and enamored. I thought she was the greatest thing since unsliced bread and she is.
I think your European tour diary book Europa My Mirror was really your first major venture into publishing. How does it feel whenever you see your words in print now?
The book took a year plus to squeeze out because of the editing process and reading and re-reading stuff. You don’t want to get it wrong. In so many ways and on so many levels you don’t want to get it wrong. You don’t want to leave the potential for misinterpretation. When it’s a book, you have the luxury of spending all that time and it’s out when it’s out. I guess real authors had deadlines and shit like musicians do and just get it out but journalism, you’re always on a deadline. I don’t think I have the chops. [laughs] Or what it takes to do it on that level. It’s kind of crazy.
Granted, I don’t think I have the chops to invent the Bath Buddy so I think we’re even.
Q: [laughs] We’re even-steven.
Again, I really appreciate you sitting down. When I was going to Voodoo Fest in high school, I would go to see y’all, not whoever the huge headliners were.
Q: Ahhhhhhh. The worst shows we’ve ever played in our career, Voodoo Fest.
But they were all ages, which is important when you’re in high school.
Q: Yeah. That’s what we realized because they were just terrifyingly awful. There’s another band playing down the football field at twice the volume of you. Maybe there’s a football game projected above your head. You can’t hear yourself, the stage manager is yelling at you to cut off your song in the middle because you’ve gone over your 32 and a half minutes. It’s just the most unconducive environment for music making unless you’re a headliner, I think.
Even then, I have to wonder if headliners only do it because it’s the economic model now.
Q: Oh man, I guarantee you. I guarantee you. Some bands are great at festivals. There are certain musical ideas and acts that they just thrive in that environment and the sound systems and the typical outdoor system is suited to this certain kind of music and it just works and can be really live and really great. But for most artists, I guarantee you they prefer a club show…But you know, it’s something to get good at. It’s something to think about. I started liking it actually in Europe. We had a whole tour in the summer that was mostly festivals. And I was like, “Okay. I’ve got to approach this differently and think about how to be good at this mode of performing and started getting into it. Like anything else, you kind of learn with experience.
Yeah. Well and you even broke your “We don’t play jazz festivals” rule. [laughs]
Q: That’s a lyric in a song he’s referencing for those who have not memorized all of our lyrics. I sat in with Egg Yolk [Jubilee] and Miss P has done the Children’s Tent for puppetry, but she and I have not played it as Quintron and Miss Pussycat. But I totally would! I totally would! I love Jazz Fest, but they won’t have us. I don’t know, maybe they’re upset about that lyric.
Goblin Alert is out October 16 on Goner Records. For more information, check out quintronandmisspussycat.com
Illustrations by Happy Burbeck; all photos of Quintron and Miss Pussycat at BJ’s Lounge, February 7 (as part of the lineup for the 9th Annual Michael Aaron and Billy Ding Lesseps St. Block Party) by Amy Nguyen.