Psychedelic Garage Rock

Meet Rad Wagon, a trio of 20-somethings who are keeping the scene fresh
romero & romero
The trio is also part of a collective called Cloudheavy Recording|!!| which hosts parties and jam sessions with other likeminded artists.

The Acadiana region isn’t yet known for its psychedelic garage rock, but a small scene of Lafayette bands might change that. “There’s a thriving rock and roll scene here,” claims Alexander Dartez, 23, singer and guitarist for Rad Wagon. “It’s a lot of the same dudes in all of the bands. But people are enjoying our type of music because it’s kind of exciting and it grabs people’s attention. A lot of people just like to drink and talk at shows, but we make sure they pay attention and rock out and dance.”

One of said dudes in seemingly all of the bands, 22-year-old Rad Wagon bassist Frank Novak, clarifies, “I wouldn’t lump the dancing people do at our shows with like traditional Cajun dancing; it’s a more modern form of dancing, where you keep your knees together and your feet in one spot, and you just kind of bob your head, and sway side to side. It’s kind of like head-banging but a little more relaxed – not as thrashy.”

Novak agrees that his last sentence also describes Rad Wagon. “The emphasis of Rad Wagon is not … lazy,” Novak qualifies. “It’s more casual though. It’s unthinking, and comforting in a way. It’s easy to listen to – even though it can be loud. It’s dynamic, not just one thing.”

Dartez says that since he started Rad Wagon two-and- a-half years ago, people have seemed charmed that he, bassist Novak and drummer Zack Derouen, 21, kick up so much racket as just a three-piece. The group has done some weekend touring to Austin and other surrounding areas, and recently self-released their first LP, “Wooden Mind,” with a celebration show at Lagniappe Records. “Our recorded stuff doesn’t usually do us justice,” says Dartez. “But this new LP captures our sound really well.”

As the name Rad Wagon subtly implies, when recording, the band tends to choose comfort over professionalism. “The first EP sounds good but it was recorded in a warehouse, and has kind of a sterile vibe. Wooden Mind though was recorded in houses – and we practice in houses – meaning it was more of a natural environment for us than a real recording studio. And we didn’t feel pressured by some money counting time limit.”

The members all agree that the new record, and the band itself, is “psychedelic,” though Dartez acknowledges that the term “psychedelic” is hard to pin down. Still, he tries: “It’s like a different take on rock ‘n’ roll, a lot less blues-influenced,” he says. “Psych rock to me is like the other side of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Since the new record’s release, Rad Wagon have moved up in the scene to open for celebrated Louisiana rock bands like Brass Bed, and the Givers. Rad Wagon has used this small bit of earned cultural capital to create the Cloudheavy Recording Collective. “Cloudhead is a group of our friends playing music and collaborating, just pursuing art in Lafayette,” explains Novak. “Bands like Neat, Nicest of the Damned, Derek, The Cavemen, TV Man, Carbon Poppies – we try to play with all of these bands, and throw parties where they can play. We just released a new cassette for a band in New Orleans called De Lune Deluge.”

With all Rad Wagon’s recent musical activity, Novak acknowledges the benefits to rocking specifically in Lafayette. “It’s small but you can really make it what you want it. I mean, you have to,” he admits. “But what we are essentially doing with all of this, is making Lafayette how we have always wanted it to be.”

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Categories: Music, Theatre + Art