Morning 40 Federation
The Morning 40 Federation was born and bred in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, formed in 1997 as a drunken quasi-dare by Josh Cohen and Space Rickshaw, amateur saxophonist and trombonist, respectively. The name of their rough assemblage of amateur musicians/pro-drinkers was a sardonic admission of non-guilt, and they didn’t know their way around their instruments. Their first gigs took place at house parties and off-nights in bars, and were more like sweat-and-beer-soaked demolition derbies than actual concerts.
But despite their best intentions, the 40's began to develop honest-to-goodness chops. Their sound -- a mutant hybrid of punk and jazz – coalesced, and they began honing their unique take on songwriting, specializing in hilarious chronicles of boozy camaraderie, spinning tales of the assorted noble lowlifes, space cadets and other crazies that populate the parallel universe version of New Orleans nightlife far off the beaten tourist path. They got sharper without losing their anything-goes, gang-of-stinky-swamp-things onstage vibe, and they acquired new members: guitarist Bailey Smith was recruited in a Decatur Street dive his first night in town in ‘98; guitarist Ryan Scully was shanghaied pirate-style from a life of playing cosmic country music, and Mike Andrepont and Steve Calandra’s rhythm section was cemented. Two self-produced CDs 2000's YOUR MY BROTHER (we know that it should be “You’re,” but whatever) and 2002's TRICK NASTY started racking up regional awards, and in 2004, the band released the self-titled MORNING 40 FEDERATION with M80 Records. Their post-Katrina magnum opus, TICONDEROGA followed in 2006.
2006! Goddamn! That was almost 10 years ago. In the meantime, life happened, as it tends to. People had kids, got married, obtained jobs, got semi-respectable. Josh even developed some new conspiracy theories. You know: all that getting older jazz. The band went on a few extended hiatuses, only playing the occasional show. But the 40's never really stopped playing, and they always kept writing, and over the course of 2016, the Morning 40 Federation will release a series of four 7” EPs, each containing all-new songs and made possible by an Indiegogo campaign (there’s that changing music industry for you). The new material is a welcome blast from the past but also shows a band that’s grown, thanks to the band’s multiple side projects.
Will they make it out of this Carnival season alive? Who knows? But we do know that this decade-old description of the 40s music still rings true today:
“Let’s call the time reverse magic hour, that maybe half-hour of grace between when the darkness of the pre-dawn gives way to full blast sunshine, when the colors of the greenery shrouded shotgun houses are weirdly muted and vibrant at the same time. You’re standing on a deserted street; tree roots crack the sidewalks and old cobblestones show through the blacktop. It’s steaming hot already despite the early hour (the humidity hasn’t dipped below 90 percent all week) and the air is alive with the tropical hum of insects. When you take a deep breath of the heavy, wet air, the odors that assault your nose -- garbage, river water, puke and urine, jasmine and honeysuckle, and the tangy odor from a coffee-roasting warehouse -- create a weirdly invigorating stench cocktail.
“The previous night’s a blur. You have no idea whose place it was that you woke up at, or what happened to the girl who brought you there. You only remember coming to on a couch and nodding hello to the glassy-eyed guy watching cartoons in the living room with stoned patience. But even though you’re feeling the indelicate first touches of a wicked hangover, your eyelids are sticking and your pits are stinking, you feel like a king because on your way out you managed to snag a crumpled pack of smokes and a tallboy of beer from the fridge.
“And as you make your crooked walk on home, you accidentally pass one of your favorite bars. It’s still open, and Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls” is rocking on the jukebox. Inside, a couple of cats you know are still going strong from the night before. Your friends yell slurred greetings and before you know it, you’re heading to another joint, sitting on some fools handlebars and singing at the top of your lungs as the squares going to work give you and your pals the stink-eye. Goddamn if it ain’t another glorious, jacked-up dawn in New Orleans…”
Much has changed since those halcyon days of glorious ineptitude and rapturous drunkenness, but much has remained the same. Here’s to the Morning 40 Federation, the once and future kings of New Orleans’s Nighttime World. Long may they reign in benevolent anarchy.
The 40's are:
Mike Andrepont: drums
Josh Cohen: saxophone, vocals
Steve Calandra: bass
Space Rickshaw: tuba, trombone
Ryan Scully: guitar, vocals
Bailey Smith: guitar, vocals