By: Kyle DiRaddo
Louisiana is known for a lot of things. Fantastic food, an unparalleled party scene, and swamplands that house all of the snakes and reptiles that scare the ever-loving shit out of me. But the one area where Louisiana truly brings the heat is with its music. From R&B, gospel, and jazz to zydeco, blues, and country rock, Louisiana is not in short supply of musical varieties to sooth your savage soul. And right in the middle of all of that genre-fusing madness is a band of homegrown rockers that go by the name Quarx.
Taking shape in Baton Rouge in 2017, Quarx is made up of lyricist/rhythm guitar player Alaric Fricke, bassist Jonathan Zeringue, lead guitarist Keagan Soto, and drummer Thomas Vercher and is the true epitome of contrasting styles coming together to make something unique and badass. To put that into context, Vercher was a self-described “metal drummer” where the other three come from a more rock and blues influenced background. Worlds collide and good music abounds!
I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with these guys via Zoom (even though Jonathan was pretty late…) and we had a great time discussing their music (including their latest release, “Evil Has Died”), their journey, and their future.
Kyle DiRaddo: The band is Quarx…tell me a little bit about how you guys got together. Where did this band come from…give me a little bit of history.
Alaric Fricke: Well, I started writing tunes and I was living with a my friend Charles and he worked at the fine dining restaurant called Sullivan’s and he was like, “Man, I know this guy, this bass player, he’s a busser with me at the restaurant and he’s a pretty good bass player; you should check him out.” And he lived in the same apartment complex, or some of his buddies lived in the same apartment complex with us, so he was always over there. So, one day we just went over there and hung out and we ended up…another time after that he came over to the house and I showed him a few tunes I showed him “School” and that was the big one…
KD: That’s a great song, by the way.
AF: Thank you, man! Then we just started kind of playing together and we ended up opening up for one of Keagan’s other bands one night at The Varsity. I did solo acoustic with a few songs and then Jonny came on stage and played bass with me and that was 2016 or 2015…I can’t remember. It feels like we’ve been playing together so long that it all kind of runs together.
Keagan Soto: I was playing the blues circuit…that’s kind of where I got my start and I also played a lot of R&B and soul music and I remember seeing Alaric and Jonny playing at The Varsity when Alaric first started and just being like, “Man, we need a guitar player and like, a full band.” At that point, the first band I had ever played in when I first got my start was actually with Jonny. I think that’s how I got that connection with those guys. I came over to jam one day and that was it. We’ve been playing together ever since.
KD: So, it was a really organic progression as a band. The pieces just kind of fell together.
AF: Yeah, we had a keyboard player at first and he moved. We had another drummer also named Tom and he moved. And then I knew some people that were in the percussion school at LSU and I asked them “Hey, do you know anybody who is interested in drumming in a rock band?” And they knew a guy and said, “Let me send you his number.” And we tried him out and…that’s pretty much how it’s worked every time. If it works the first time then we’re like, “Alright, you’re in.” If it feels organic and it feels good then it’s like…cool.
KD: I have a lot of respect for that. If it feels good and it sounds good then why does it need to be anything more than that?
KD: It sounds like everything came together organically. Alaric and Jonny, you guys started playing together and then Keagan came in and then Thomas came in. When was the first time you all got together and realized, “Hey…this is something we could do long term”?
AF: Yeah, 2017. We’d been gigging for a while and we started playing in 2017 with Thomas on February 26 I believe is the day…was the first gig. After that we just kept playing and kept playing and then we got with Adam (Majewski, the band’s manager) and things just really started to pick up.
KS: I would say, if you’re asking when we knew that it was really something organic…I mean, it was always a pretty fun thing that we saw a lot of potential in, but I think when we got Thomas…once he kind of knew the material it just felt very natural. That’s when we knew we had something we could kind of run with, you know?
KD: Talk to me about pre-COVID. Obviously the last nine months have been shitty for everybody, but what was Quarx doing? How often were you gigging; where were you gigging; were you travelling? What was happening?
KS: Man, we were really getting on a roll. We started playing a lot of shows in the Baton Rouge scene, but pre-COVID we had tapped into the New Orleans market. We’d been playing a lot in New Orleans. We’d gone on a couple lasting runs and we probably gigging at that point probably four or five times a month. And then right before COVID happened we had a six or seven show run and we had a six-week tour in the summer that was cancelled. We were just really getting started and hitting up our first major tour.
It was cool. We had some really exciting gigs we were looking forward to. I think one of the shows I was looking forward to the most was the Karbach Festival with Lettuce and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
KD: I love me some Karl D! I love me some Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe! Were you guys opening for Karl and Lettuce or what was that all about?
AF: The Karbach Brewery has a crawfish festival every year and it was in April. We had like, 13 dates in March. And it was like…OK, cool…we’ll do March. We’ve got a slower April and then we’ll go play Karbach Fest and then we’ll get to meet some people and maybe go do more stuff out there. Then we’ll just work a bunch, you know, at our jobs and maybe do a couple shows and then just get ready to go on the road for six weeks.
KD: Talk to me a little bit about how being from the Baton Rouge/New Orleans area has influenced your sound. To me, it’s like early-80’s punk meets 60’s-psychedelia meets Americana meets all sorts of other things. I’m curious to hear how your geographical location has influenced your sound.
KS: Being from this area, for me personally, means a lot. It has heavily influenced my style especially coming from an R&B, soul, funk, blues background. The way that it’s influenced our sound, you know, we all come from very different backgrounds. At the same time, they’ve just been able to mesh and I think it’s because we all have that deep-down roots and the culture of this place. Ultimately, we’re all music lovers and we all have a root in classic rock. All of us love rock music in general in all its forms. That was one of the biggest common grounds we had as musicians coming from these different backgrounds is that we all love fucking rock and roll. A lot of our sound ends up in that vein, in that style, in that realm because that’s just the strongest common ground we have as musicians.
Thomas Vercher: I know, for me, when I started with music, I was always watching my dad and he had a bunch of live DVD’s and band documentaries, so I started out really young watching Fleetwood Mac concerts, Rolling Stones concerts, and Who concerts. I’m probably a drummer because of Keith Moon honestly.
KD: (laughing) You and everybody else, right?
TV: Right! And as I got older, I got my first drum kit and immediately got a double-bass pedal, so after that it was right into Avenged Sevenfold.
KD: Wait…your first kit had a double kick?
TV: Yeah…immediately I was just like, I want to learn how to play Avenged Sevenfold, so that’s what I went into. And from there I really dived hard into that progressive metal scene. The biggest thing for me, before I joined Quarx, every band I was in before this, at least in terms of playing original music, was all metal bands. I was playing with this band from Lafayette and we were doing the whole nine yards with clicking tracks in the ears and backing tracks. You know every single song was exactly the same every time and it’s all about hitting the drums really fucking hard and being as “performance” as you can. And then when I joined Quarx it was more of a “feel it out” kind of process. The songs never sound the same, you might play it at 120 one night and then 135 BPM the next night. That was a weird challenge, but I guess going from metal to this style of music was that you never really know what is going to happen. The feel was totally different because everything in metal is really straight and aggressive and powerful, at least not the stuff I was playing. There really isn’t a lot of dynamics; it’s just loud. Up until recently I was still playing a lot of our gigs with a double bass (laughs).
Jonathan Zeringue: I grew up with, me and all my brothers, we all play and we’re all from Baton Rouge and we all grew up on (Black) Sabbath and (Led) Zeppelin and all that heavy rock. I’ve been in New Orleans for two months and there’s not much going on here, but I love playing in Baton Rouge. I definitely value all of the other local bands out there. We’ve had a lot of good shows out there. And like everyone else was saying, New Orleans…we kind of started tapping into it before COVID and then everything happened. I feel like we were just starting to break through into the New Orleans scene. We’re on our way, you know. We’re doing some really good stuff and we’re pretty happy with the direction we’re going in right now.
KD: Let’s talk about “School” for a minute. You’ve all mentioned that song and that was one of my big takeaways from the EP that I really enjoyed. It had some Grateful Dead-ness to it. If I’m remembering correctly it had some “New Speedway Boogie” to it.
AF: My writing process is kind of difficult to explain, but when it comes it’s like a very fluid, and this is pretty heady, flow of energy that I don’t have any control over. So, when it hits, I have to sit down and write this right now or I’m going to lose it. It’s like capturing a moment in time. I was on top of Mt. Evans in Colorado and all of a sudden, we were there to see Dead and Co. in Boulder. I bought the tickets and we did both nights and it was a lot of fun. Killer China>Rider, but anyway…I was supposed to drive us back down the mountain and all of a sudden I caught the bug and I was like, “You have to drive. I have to write this out right now or I’m going to lose it.” And I wrote all the lyrics to “School” in about four minutes. It was about my experience in the mountains and I had been in the mountains for four days by myself before my stepdad joined me; hiking through the outskirts of Boulder and staying in a hostel. And that’s just how that song came to be.
KD: I want to talk to you about “Evil Has Died”. To me, it sounded like a departure from your “normal” sound. Talk to me a little bit about why this was the track that you decided to put a little muscle behind and how it got to be where it is because this song gets stuck in my head for days.
KS: “Evil Has Died” is just a representation of some of the variants in material we have. We don’t have a lot of material out, but as far as styles that we play we really hit on a lot of different genres. That is more toward a realm of rock that we enjoy playing and that we have some material in, it’s just that is the first one of that style that we’ve released.
JZ: From the time we recorded “School” and the EP to now, I think we’re a completely different band. We have a lot of influences and I think we fall back a lot on a lot of the blues and jam aspects of the band, but I just think as of late we’ve been kind of driving toward that heavier sound. I’ve always pushed for that sound and I’m sure these boys have been sick of that for a little while (laughs), but I’m not sorry, so…whatever.
AF: I’m not sorry! (laughs)
TV: Jonny’s favorite thing to say in practice is “Hey, that went a little slow…think we can pick that up a bit?” (laughs)
JZ: That’s because it is slow and we need to pick it up a little bit! I’m just trying to push my boys to be as good as we can possibly be. I’m sure they’ve gotten tired of my constant nagging on the direction I want to go, but until they kick me out it’s not gonna stop!
KD: Before I let you go, what do you want your fans to know? This is the chance to talk to your peeps, so what do you want to say to them?
JZ: I want people to know that as long as they’re working hard to keep up with us, we’re going to be working just as hard to retain that fan base and we’re eternally grateful to have people listen to us. I’m also excited to have people see us live. I think we’re working toward a newer sound and through that progress I’m excited to see how people see us on stage. We’re using this time in COVID to hone in on our skills individually and I’m excited for people to see our new live performance.
KS: I’m excited about our direction and the music we’ve been creating. I’m excited to share the music that we create with our fans because it really is going in a different direction. We really are grateful for all the support we’ve gotten and we wouldn’t be here without their support. We won’t be the same band when we come out of this experience.
TV: I want people to be excited, especially the people who have been listening to us before the EP, the songs that are coming are going to kick you in the ass. We really have been working on making sure our songs are more collaborative and they are truly the four us. This is Quarx.
AF: We’re turning a page and this has definitely given us some time to hone in on what we sound like. Not just what one of us sounds like per song, but what WE sound like as a group and how we can grow and develop as artists. If everything we wrote sounded just like the EP it would get boring and it would get boring for us. The sound is evolving just like we are as people. And to the fans: thank you for being there and taking the time out of your day to fill the rooms and to connect with us after the shows and beyond.
If there is one thing that was abundantly clear when talking with these fellows is the amount of love and mutual respect they have for one another. They kid around and joke and rip on one another, but it is extremely evident that they enjoy each other’s company and are chomping at the bit to get back out there. The relationship they have is as clear as day in their music and as they continue to put out more music, I think it is going to become clear to a lot more people very quickly.
I want to give a huge personal thank you to the boys of Quarx for their time and the great conversation that we had! Keep an You can look them up on Facebook by searching “Quarx” and to get a taste of what all the fuss is about, check them out on bandcamp.com at quarx.bandcamp.com.