Over the past year, local folk rock duo Nickels & Dimes has played shows everywhere to which they can drive. From the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge to venues in Colorado and Kansas, their performances have been a hit with audiences.
When Cullen Davezac, 25, and Carson Ducote, 24, formed Nickels & Dimes, it was a long time coming. The two musicians were old friends when they formed a funk rock outfit called The Broken Rubber Band a few years ago. After plenty of gigs and about 10 lineup changes, Davezac said they found themselves questioning the basic definition of the music they wanted to create.
"The Broken Rubber Band was what we thought we were supposed to be," Davezac said, "whereas Nickels & Dimes was what we wanted to do -- this folk rock, broken-down music. I never even played an electric guitar except on stage with that band, but offstage, it was all acoustic."
Davezac seems to have come full circle with his musical calling. Citing an Aerosmith obsession from his elementary school days, he said he has always been drawn to melodies and to lyrics with substance.
"It's the words that get me. Both [Ducote and I] are really big fans of Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens, too," he explained. "With Aerosmith, I heard ‘Cryin' and I just latched on."
That early attraction to artistic expression is not only evident in their sound, but also in their approach to music as a whole. If you chat with them for a few minutes their laidback fearlessness might leave you feeling inspired. Or better yet, just stick around for their breathtaking rendition of "The Sound of Silence."
A folk-rock duo with an unplugged preference might sound simple or typical in theory, but in action Ducote and Davezac project a much more complete sound than that description implies. Onstage, they both play multiple instruments at the same time -- Davezac mans the guitar, vocals and bass drum, while Ducote operates the remaining percussion, keyboard and bass guitar.
"We bought like three drum kits so we could get the pieces we want out of them," Ducote said.
The songs themselves ring as powerful testaments to what Davezac means when he says "broken-down folk rock." He's not just talking about an acoustic guitar. The often-moody melodies give a nod to Simon and Garfunkel, and those undertones lead an impressive waltz with Davezac's Cat Stevens-tinted vocals. Ducote's keyboard parts ebb and flow intuitively, creating a sound more immersive than textbook skill alone. In a manner of speaking, if music is a language, they seem to be native speakers.
As Davezac says, it's the music they "grew up to fall in love with."
Nickels & Dimes' debut album, slated with a tentative Aug. 1 release, will begin a new chapter for Davezac and Ducote. When the album drops, the duo will leave Baton Rouge in their most recent investment -- an aging RV -- with nothing but their instruments and a goal of 200 shows in a year. It might sound risky, but they're in for the long haul.
Besides, they dig the RV.
"The first time we drove it was to New Orleans for a show the other day, and we took it to the Renaissance Hotel gig this week, too," Davezac said with enthusiasm. "It's our ride, man. That's how we go places now."
Nickels & Dimes will be playing at Chelsea's on Saturday, July 13 at 10:30 p.m. For more information on the band, go to http://www.NickelsAndDimesMusic.com/.