Music Man: The Jody Taylor Story
By Michael Wicks Photos by Jamie Hartnett
Jody Taylor is His Name
“That’s why he’s your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,” quips Jody, as he and I talk about Devin the Dude, one of my favorite rappers. One would never be able to tell from looks alone that he is a walking encyclopedia of music, an individual weathered by a lengthy past in the Lake Charles music scene. Jody Taylor is his name, and he is a true audiophile. We sat down, and polished off two six packs, as he gave me a detailed and interesting viewpoint into the music world of Lake Charles, and his life. How it changed, where it went, and where it’s going.
A Little Elbow Grease
^A small selection from Jody's flier collection.
Jody currently works for the Arts Council, is a Moss Bluff native and went to high school in Sulphur. At the time there were barely any venues for musicians to play, and that irked him and his friends. “I’m not a musician, I’ve never played, but I’ve always been an appreciator, in any way.” These words resonated throughout our conversations, and you can really tell how much passion this man has for art, especially music. He told me about his first show, which was a house party that a friend invited him to. “It was an exciting summer,” Jody told me, “but after the club downtown shutdown, there was a lack of things to do. So I kind of picked up where they left off. We rented a little center, the Entergy event center, which we turned into the Kilowatt punk club.” He spoke very fondly of this club, and its proclaimed notorious past, which helped mold him into the person he is today. Kilowatt had bands such as Less than Jake and Wesley Willis play there, all while cultivating a group of individuals who all came together because of their love for music. Jody handled booking the bands and showing the musicians a good time, which bled over into other facets of his life. At no point, up until recently, was he a paid employee of any of the music work he did. “In the Kilowatt days, we would rent the place out, pay the bands, and then scrape together change to get coffee at KD's. It was never about the money, it was about the love of the music. We actually got Alkaline Trio to play at McNeese. It was one of those things that just fell into place. I was working for The Contraband (McNeese newspaper) and booking them became an option, and so we tried it out. It was in Parra Ballroom, and it didn’t really work out,” Jody told me while laughing. At this time he started working on, and putting out, his own music magazine and website called Sautéed. “It was very DIY; we were Xeroxing copies that we had laid out on Microsoft Word. We would do a run of one hundred and fifty and pass them out at shows. It was something fun to do, and it led me to meeting more bands and working within that scene and keeping up where the other guys had left off. Keeping the shows going.” When asked about his favorite bands from Lake Charles he mentioned Pink Noise, The Loaded 44z, and When the Word was Sound. “It has always surprised me that in a town this size, how much talent there really is.”
When the Word Was (((Telling Us About Jody)))
I sat down with When the Word was Sound’s Brandon Pittman and Amanda Sonnier to see what they had to say about Jody. “Whenever I met Jody, he was basically doing the entire town's booking,” Brandon says. “He did Kilowatt club, Rikenjaks, Breezy’s or 710, Luna. Everywhere. He would set up shows for out of town and local bands, and would do these really eccentric pairings. You would have an alt-country band with a punk band and an indie band. It was really cool because Jody was great at getting people out; it wasn’t like it is today where you have a thing going on and you might get some people.” Amanda added, “He started a scene in his 20’s for all the high school kids, so it formed this group of people who were friends, by Kilowatt club mainly, but also by his expansive knowledge of music. He basically created the beginning of what the Lake Charles music scene is now; a lot of those people don’t live here or participate in it now, and that’s what happened. The kids coming out of high school now never had that knowledge of music because they don’t have any shows to go to. He started all that. He got Wesley Willis to play Lake Charles, that’s crazy. When he moved to Atlanta, the Lake Charles music scene took a big hit.” Both Brandon and Amanda talked about how he was such a big influence on them just by who he was, and Brandon even said, “Him getting the job at the Arts Council is the best thing that could have happened to that place.”
One Forgotten Memory, Two Tickets To the Past
His personal apex in the arts scene, up until now, was Poor Pony. “I get goosebumps to think about that group, and the energy that we all fed off of each other.” He said it really was something special. They may not have been people who would have hung out at a bar, or had been really close friends because they were such different people, but he explained their relationships like this, “I see it almost as the Mick and Keith dynamic. You hear about these guys, that the sums are greater than the parts. They all saw things differently, and so we could expand better.” The group was started without him, but Jody was brought in after it had some momentum going. They approached him about it as a website with a calendar of events, written articles and a general cover of the local cultural scene. As the Poor Pony group were sitting around one day, brainstorming ideas for how to launch their media outlet, they decided to have a website release party. Little did they know, this party would turn into the massive 3 day Poor Pony Fest that many of you drunkenly enjoyed. The free festival started at Central School on a Friday, where artists and vendors peddled their wares amongst the bands playing the grounds, and inside the theater, all day long. Friday night came the Poor Pony downtown pub-crawl, which brought together a crowd of people for a night of rambunctious fun. Then the rest of the fest was at Central School, where bands played all night and day for the remainder of the weekend. “C****** A******** was a huge part of it,”* Jody told me, “A big part of the image and bringing it all together.” One of his favorite things about the festival were the elevators. The elevators were equipped with disposable cameras, hanging from the ceiling by tape, that people were encouraged to use for candid photos. “We did get some lewd ones, but they were mostly funny,” Jody remarks. This stirred the sixteen year old, bright-eyed optimist, who loved music that used to live inside of me, because it was at that moment that I realized I had probably met Jody before, without even realizing it. I remembered taking photos on those cameras and having a good time with my friends while we all watched music we didn’t understand yet. He effectively pulled me a decade into the past with just a forgotten memory, and he was behind this good time I experienced, without me even knowing who he was.
I talked to local person, Charles Talen, to get some more insight on Jody. “He was the one booking shows. He was super passionate about it. He also has one of the most prolific music collections out of anybody that I know. He lives it. He single-handedly put things together; he got the flyers made, he got the bands booked, he got the venue booked and then made sure everyone knew that something fun was going on in Lake Charles, something music related. As far as the position he is in now, he hit the ground running. He was volunteering at these events before he even had a job there. It’s in his DNA; music is just in there. He is all about the experience.”
If You Love Something, Make It Feel Bad For Moving Away
Jody and his fiancée moved to Atlanta after the first Poor Pony fest, where they stayed until 2012. He reminisced about the big ATL as a place that if he wouldn’t have gone to he would have regretted, but by going he gained a deep appreciation for his home. When I asked him about the music scene in Atlanta, Jody had this to say, “Living in Lake Charles, you know, we had to drive two to five hours to see a good show, but there, all you had to do was drive five minutes and you were watching some of the best musicians on the planet.” But even in such a big city, the bands he would see would never measure up to some of the ones who came from Lake Charles. “They were too comfortable,” he said quickly, “The bands in Lake Charles had nothing to do, so they played as their outlet.” What it didn’t have, that he was most upset about, was Mardi Gras. “Living in the South, zydeco and Mardi Gras are things we grow up around. We know in our heads it’s different everywhere else, but we don’t realize it’s just another Tuesday in Atlanta. When I saw people post photos of their Mardi Gras antics online, I just got sad.”
Outlaw Country; Gangster Rap With Steel Guitars
He spoke to me about his favorite kinds of music, and his favorite band, Spoon, saying, “They are what modern rock should be. They are intelligent and catchy, while still being kind of poppy.” One of the things I liked about Jody was that he was a blues purist: in his words, “One man with a guitar is the blues.” Which is something I wholeheartedly agree with. He’s also a big fan of outlaw country like Sturgill Simpson, a man whose lyrics are philosophical and guitar playing twangy. I had the feeling he could go on about music indefinitely and not in an annoying or pretentious way. His passion for music was refreshing to see, almost tangible. He knew information about all kinds of music, and even said, “While talking about genres, I don’t see the differences in the message of outlaw country and gangster rap. It’s a message of dissent, no matter what community it’s coming from. It’s about people who aren’t happy where they are.” He truly is eclectic, a rare breed these days.
Arts Council, Pretty Much Poor Pony
“The Arts Council team is very reminiscent of the Poor Pony team. A group of people who can get together and really make things happen.”
This brings us to his current life and career at the Arts Council, an organization whose entire mission is to help people help the arts community. “If you are an Artist they will ask if they can get the word out for you, or if they could help find you grant money to do this worthwhile thing that is your art. The Arts Council does a lot to help creative people, and it’s so nice to be a part of that organization that really was such a huge part of this highlight of my life.” Jody loves his job at the arts council with his great team.
Everybody Needs A Jody
While the team shares the office duties, his main job is being the event planner. He’s finally in a position now where he feels he can positively service Lake Charles and the community and help cultivate into the place we all hope it to one day be. It really was a pleasure to sit down and talk to Jody. If you know me, then you know my preference for brevity, but he kept me enthralled for over an hour just with stories alone. Lake Charles needs more people like Jody Taylor, people who will sweat and bleed for the things they love, people who are truly dedicated to something like he is.
*We will give credit when credit is given.
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