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Monday, June 17, 2019

SERATONES find “POWER” in SOUL

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A.J. Haynes and the Seratones set to release second album

Receiving positive reviews for their first album – from fans and critics – you might expect the Shreveport-born band Seratones to go with a similar beat for their second release.

But with A.J. Haynes as lead singer, expect the unexpected.

“Power,” due out in late August, trades the “punk-funk” sound of “Get Gone,” for a sound from deep within the band’s soul.

Especially Haynes’ soul. “I just found myself drawn more and more to soul music,” Haynes explained. “It’s something that I kept seeking as a comfort … It’s really difficult to navigate the world as a black woman. It’s tough. The odds are stacked against me in a lot of ways. But I’ve found comfort in soul music – in listening to other women’s stories.”

Soul music has a long, rich history. In recording “Power,” the 31-year-old Haynes – who grew up singing in the churches of Columbia, La. – tapped into that history. She spent time listening to everyone from Rick James to – especially – Sam Cooke.

“For me, Sam Cooke is a really important figure,” Haynes said of the legendary singer who died when he was just 33 years old. “There is an ease to his voice that I just wanted to emulate and wanted to play with. He was also outspoken about the political landscape and how it’s important for us to be engaged. We have this privilege, and if we don’t recognize that privilege and use it in a way that amplifies whatever is necessary for change, then what are you doing?” What Haynes and Seratones have been doing is winning over audiences in quick fashion. Their debut album was just three years ago. The lead single from their second album has already caught the attention of Rolling Stone magazine. In its “Song You Need to Know” feature, Jon Freeman writes:

“Building on the soul and garage-rock elements of their debut album, Haynes and the Seratones keep the pace by laying down a ridiculously tight groove, sprinkling in some spacey synth effects and live-wire guitar skronk along the way. But it’s clear this is Haynes’ show: ‘Feel the heat of my fire/I gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta get to get to get to know ya,’ she sings, switching from smooth, Lenny Kravitz-style layered harmonies to full- Lemonade Beyoncé righteousness in the space of one quick couplet. With a track that picks up this much momentum in such a short amount of time, there’s nothing to do but comply.”

Though rooted in Shreveport, Seratones has bloomed across North America and overseas. They’ve already shared – and continue to share – the stage with some of music’s biggest names. For example, in October, Seratones will play the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in New Orleans – along with Guns’N Roses, Post Malone and Brandi Carlisle.

But Haynes hasn’t spent much time – doesn’t have much time – to think about her and the band’s success.

“I’m just a workaholic, and I’m a catastrophist,” Haynes said. “That’s probably not what people want to hear, but I work really hard, and I’m also juggling irons in the fire and spinning plates at all times. There are moments when I get to relax. We will have an offday in places like Iceland, and I will say, ‘Oh shi_,’ this is my life!”

It wasn’t that long ago that Haynes’ life was in the classroom. She taught at Caddo Middle Magnet and C.E. Byrd High School before the demands of trying to make a life-long dream come true took center stage. From August through October, Seratones have 49 tour stops scheduled. On any given night, Haynes finds herself anywhere from Portland to Phoenix, from Montreal to Minneapolis.

“Shreveport has been incredibly nurturing to me,” Haynes said. “There are enough challenges in that it is a very DIY (Do It Yourself) culture right now. We are lacking a lot of infrastructure, but that requires more of you. I think I can survive in that environment where everything is by your own hand. If you want something, you have to do it your damn self because there’s no one else to do it. That definitely helped cultivate my resilience. I’m stubborn by nature, so if I set my sights on something, I’m going to work damn hard to get there.”

Haynes says the change in sound you will hear on “Power” was not premeditated. Instead, it is an extension of life.

“Just getting older, you are coming toward the end of the adolescence … You’re having to come to terms with things you didn’t deal with before. If you don’t deal with them, they’re going to deal with you. Part of that is traumas that we don’t think about – traumas that we live with, like things that happened in our past – in our childhood.”

And, according to Haynes, in our present-day adulthood.

“Honestly speaking, the 2016 election was really traumatic for me. I think we’re all figuring out ways to deal with these really nasty truths about our nation’s history and revisiting them. I think we’re all trying to heal in different ways.”

But Haynes is quick to dismiss any perception that “Power” is an attempt to make a political statement.

“If I’m just speaking from my experiences, is that political? I don’t think so. I’m just trying to share my story, so hopefully, someone else can hear it and not feel like they’re alone. That’s how we make real changes – in recognizing how we can help each other, and also recognizing our differences as strengths – how we can learn from each other.

Just as Seratones has grown in popularity, it has grown in numbers. They are now a five-piece band. Newcomers Travis Stewart (guitar) and Tyran Coker (keyboard) join Haynes (vocals/guitar), Jesse Gabriel (drums) and Adam Davis (bass).

And that brings us back to Haynes’ search for “comfort.”

“I’ve found comfort with my band. Our communication is just so much more at ease, and I think that comes through the music. We’ve all been through a lot together. They’ve been my support, and I’ve been their support for such a long time. I think we’ve grown to be better communicators, and I think the band’s relationship is showing through the music.”

For more information on Seratones, you may visit www.seratones.com.

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