The Iguanas deeply rooted music connects with pro-migrant cause

The Iguanas. (Photo by Dwight Marshall provided)


BG Independent News

When it comes to music, the fundamental things still apply.

“The thing that’s always compelling is bands playing music together,” said Rene Coman, of the New Orleans-based roots band The Iguanas. “That’s the human part. That’s the exciting part that’s not dictated by a machine.”

The Iguanas, who played the Black Swamp Arts Festival back in 2001, will play a benefit show for La Conexion de Wood County, Monday, June 18, at 7 p.m., at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. Suggested donation is $10.

The cause of supporting immigrants is one the band can get behind, Coman said.  The band’s lead singers, Joe Cabral and Rod Hodges, have grandparents who came to the United States from Mexico.

“We definitely see ourselves as kindred spirits in that line of migration,” he said. “People are trying to improve their lives and find opportunities for their children. How can you fault anyone for that?”

That’s not surprising for a band that embraces its American roots including those that extend south of the border or into the Louisiana swamp homes of the French Arcadians.

“One of the things that makes the band work and that contributes to our longevity is we’re all into different kinds of music with a lot of intersections,” Coman said in a recent telephone interview.

Cabral, saxophone and bajo sexton, and Hodges, guitar and accordion, were drawn to New Orleans by the city’s tradition of rock ‘n’ roll. That’s where they formed The Iguanas in 1989. Early on they had a shifting team of rhythm players. Coman joined on bass and keyboards in 1990. A year later he enlisted Doug Harrison, a former bandmate with Alex Chilton’s group, to take over the drum chair. The band has been a quintet at times, with another horn, but they’ve settle in as a quartet. “We’re perfectly comfortable swimming in that big open space.”

Coman, who is from New Orleans, said the city sees itself linked culturally to the Caribbean. That musical tradition resonates throughout the sounds that took shape in the Big Easy. So much of it has “that rolling clave feel,” he said.

“At the same time we’re all fans of country music, and of course, rock ‘n’ roll. We’re huge fans of all these different touchstones that we’re able to draw from and comingle into a true American music.”

The songs take shape in a variety of ways, Coman said. Three band members write songs. Sometimes these are delivered as completed works. Other times, someone will come in with lyrics and “the band will collectively finish it off. … There’s no set rule to it.”

The band also likes to include some offbeat covers, often the B-sides from their musical heroes, he said.

Overtime the music tends to grow and slowly change, like watching a child grow. “It’s a pretty organic process,” Coman said. The musical center is a constant but the sound is always moving and always changing slightly over time.

“After playing together for so long the telepathic communication is undeniable,” Coman said. “You see a band that has that much experience together. It’s not like someone who practices a lot. You can’t replace the years of repetition and the millions of variations. We have such huge common vocabulary. We can turn on a dime, go into different things and nobody misses a beat because you can almost see it coming before it happens.”

He added: “Every time you play the song it’s different. Every time you do it you’re reacting to profile of everyone’s endocrine system, their hormonal system, what their emotional state is that day. There’s so many variables that makes it infinitely intriguing. It’s a puzzle you solve over and over because the pieces are in different shapes every time you put it together.”

The audience has a role in that as well, Coman said. The band can play in any situation, a club, a dance or a concert. “If I had my druthers, I’d like a room full of people dancing right in front,” he said, “so we can see them, feel them, smell them. We like to get up close and personal with whole experience.”