This week, I caught up with Seratones frontwoman AJ Haynes, who was busy navigating traffic in her home state of Louisiana and getting ready to head back out on the road in support of the band’s much talked about “gospel in the garage” new album, Get Gone. We talked about AJ’s career as a teacher, Marlon Williams, and why punk and jazz go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Are you still teaching?
I had to quit at the end of the last academic year. I miss my kids. But it got to the point of taking calls between classes, and it was too much.
Were your students in awe of their rock star teacher?
Not so much in awe, but they were into it and thought it was pretty cool. What I did really enjoy was using music to teach thematic units, dissecting lyrics, or starting a class with music. Also, using a song as a way to form a connection with a particular text. I remember I had a teacher that taught Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? with “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” and that has always stuck with me. I miss my kids!
I saw that you played The Regent Theater with Thao & The Get Down Stay Down back in April. Was that your first LA gig?
Yes, it was our first LA gig. We’re still a baby band.
Did you have any time off in town? How did you spend it?
We squeezed in some surfing. We got in late the night before, met a friend to surf in Malibu, and then rushed back to the hotel to rinse sand out of our hair before the gig.
I read that you said punk and jazz “go together like peanut butter and jelly.” Tell me more.
I think my brain was fried by SXSW when I said that, but they do! Maybe it is because I discovered them at the same time. I found a Billie Holiday album in my dad’s collection around the time of finding Jello Biafra. There’s something about the diction and inflection in voice [in both genres]. They can be heartfelt and sarcastic at the same time.
I see that you’ve recently played covers by Neil Young, Prince, and David Bowie. Are there any new ones that you’ve been working on that people might hear at The Wiltern?
We’re working on one, but I can’t say. When choosing covers, you have to do it justice and give it your own interpretation. I tend to pick songs sung by men. Maybe it’s something about the gender bending? I was in a cover band called AJ Haynes and The Monkey Business. We had an insane work ethic. Jesse (Gabriel) and Connor (Davis) (drummer and guitarist of Seratones, respectively) were in that band. We were a working class band.
What have you been listening to lately? Were there any particular festivals that you played this summer during your European tour that blew you away?
A lot of rock ‘n’ roll, lately. Some South American and Afro-Cuban music. We played the Le Cabaret Vert festival (in France), and beforehand, we got to play a session in Arthur Rimbaud’s house. I grew up with his poetry, so that was special. End of the Road (in Wales), too. There were sheep everywhere. It was pouring rain, and people still came in droves.
I saw that you were a fan of Marlon Williams.
I heard Marlon Williams’ voice through the bushes at Hotel St. Cecilia (in Austin). There’s just something about his voice. I took my friend to Dallas to see him. It’s my favorite thing to introduce someone to new music. You get to have that moment where you get to be like, “I told you so!”
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