Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

An artist's inspiration can manifest itself in many forms. And when you're a Southern punk duo from Houma, Louisiana, you may not be moved in the most traditional of ways. Just the mention of Houma struck a cord here since we visited the town on the Bayou several times in recent months, so when the pair who make up Dead Boy and the Elephantmen came to the Washington area, NPR's Jesse Baker went to meet them and hear their music.

JESSE BAKER: For 28-year-old musician Dax Riggs, inspiration roots itself in his greatest fear, and it sounds like this:

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

BAKER: Like a swampy funeral march mixed with a hillbilly backbone beat and sex appeal, Riggs, along with bandmate Tessie Brunet, crafted an entire album out of his fear of dying.

Even the name of the band, Dead Boy and the Elephantmen, was born out of fear. As a child, Riggs stayed up late one night to watch David Lynch's film The Elephant Man on TV and has been haunted ever since.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

DAX RIGGS: As a child, I was greatly, like, affected by the idea of a person being born in the form of the Elephant Man.

BAKER: Behind Lynch's monstrous façade, The Elephant Man was a sensitive, intelligent guy. Riggs isn't saying he's the Elephant Man, but maybe relates to the idea of not fitting in. After his parents' divorce, he moved from Evansville, Indiana, to Houma to live with his father during the oil boom in the early 1980s. Riggs did his best to adjust, but after failing the seventh grade, he dropped out of Oaklawn Terrebonne Parish High School and has since found his education through other means.

RIGGS: Yeah, I have a comic book education. It's true. I would read at school, but not what they wanted me to read and then eventually I met up with some people who wanted to play some music, and we ran off and basically, I've never had a thought in my head, like, that I should go learn something.

BAKER: With the engine running on a cold February night, drummer Tessie Brunet closes the door. Their mini-van, loaded with food wrappers and a pile of clothes whose cleanliness factor is in question, offers evidence of their long road trip. The 23-year-old, soft-spoken, doe-eyed Brunet moved to Houma as a child. She was adopted as a 3-year-old by a family there and now finds the quaint little fishing town to be suffocating.

TESSIE BRUNET: Your typical, like, strip mall, like, the place to be on a Friday night is Olive Garden and an hour-and-a-half wait to have dinner and like that's thing to do.

BAKER: Brunet has left a couple of times. She tried New York and L.A., but strangely keeps finding herself back in Houma with the same inner conflict as Riggs: afraid to leave, but equally afraid to be stuck in Houma. Brunet met Riggs about a year ago, when she was home for what she thought would only be a couple of weeks. A year later, they put out their first album, We Are Night Sky.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

BAKER: And are slowing making their way across the country on their first tour, because, Brunet says, the music scene in Houma leaves a lot to the imagination.

BRUNET: There's no music scene there. It's just, there's no places to play, there's almost no room for it. I mean there's a couple of bars there and they do like a, they love cover bands, it's like their thing, and it's just, they want to sing songs that they know and that they hear on the radio.

BAKER: And for right now, you can hear this on the radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

BAKER: Riggs is learning to play his music in the face of fear. And he's okay with that, for now.

RIGGS: As long as I can go home, as long as there's some date where I'm like then I'll go home on that day.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

BAKER: Jesse Baker, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEAD BOY AND THE ELEPHANTMEN)

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.