When the former Continental Drifters' audiences repeatedly told band members the music was too loud, they listened: John Magnie unplugged his piano, guitarists Tommy Malone and Johnny Ray Allen went acoustic, and Steve Amedée joined on tambourine. In 1987, the mellower sound spawned the Subdudes.
"We were doing a kind of music that we thought was really energy packed, but ... it was just loud," says the Subdudes' Magnie. "So we said, 'Let's just go and do a gig with the least that we can bring.'"
The band also moved from New Orleans to Magnie's home base of Colorado. Since the band was playing swampy, rootsy Nawlins music, it seemed an odd choice. But Magnie says: "There's really a lot of musical talent there, and it's hard for a band to get past that step of just making good music." Within a year of the move, the Subdudes signed to Atlantic records and picked up a substantial new following.
By 1996, though, the band was done. Magnie says the songwriting had run its course, but guitarist Tommy Malone says it wasn't writer's block that caused the breakup. "I would call it writer's anxiety," Malone says, laughing. "We had just been out there on the road working real hard for many years, and it got to be that we just didn't want to do it."
The band made a comeback of sorts, in 2002, as the Dudes -- Malone, Magnie and Amedée, plus newcomers Tim Cook on bass, multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Messa, and Sammy Neal on drums. A year later, they'd scaled back to a five-piece, again becoming the Subdudes.
Behind the Levee, recorded pre-Katrina in Lafayette, is swamp soul fueled by Magnie's accordion and Malone's soaring falsetto. "It's the type of music that worked on a little bit deeper level for those who related to it," says Magnie of the band's longevity. "It was more of a sneaky type of music that maybe lasted a little longer."
The Subdudes play the Neighborhood Theatre on Thursday, June 22, at 9:15pm; Dirty Dozen guitarist Jamie McLean opens. Tickets are $18.