Quintron and Miss Pussycat Ain't Your Average Electro-Rock Puppet Show 

Monday, July 9, at Neurolux

Quintron's Robert Rolston is always surrounded by his Buddys.


Quintron's Robert Rolston is always surrounded by his Buddys.

He might be a visionary or a kook. These days, it can be hard to tell. But there's no denying the inventiveness of the Big Easy organ-rocking iconoclast Quintron.

The son of an electrical engineer, Quintron, or Robert Rolston, has constructed a bevy of odd musical devices, most notably the Drum Buddy, an oscillating light-activated drum machine. He's also released more than a dozen albums during the last 18 years, synthesizing a blend of exotica, garage and swamp rock, girl-group pop, New Orleans funk and Sun Records rockabilly into something vibrant, unbowed and a bit gritty. His music is not unlike the city itself.

While not a native of New Orleans, Quintron has always felt the music scene's pull. The son of a military man, Rolston was born in Germany in the late '60s, but soon wound up in St. Louis. Sick of his hometown, he went to Chicago when he graduated high school and started an underground club in his living room called the Milk of Burgundy.

"It's the same old story--nobody will book my band, so I'm going to turn my place into a venue and people will come," said Quintron.

As much a showman as a musician, Quintron was drawn to theater early on and attended the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago for a year before dropping out to pursue his band MATH. After the band broke up in 1994, Rolston embarked on his first solo tour and was booked in the Pussycat Caverns, an illegal club operated by, naturally, Miss Pussycat. The connection was instantaneous and the couple have been together ever since.

They've even united their creative pursuits. Not only does Miss Pussycat offer backing vocals for Quintron's performances, but she puts on extraordinary puppet shows that precede his performances. She's been doing puppetry for years and even had an online series, Trixie and the Treetrunks on Vice's since-deceased online TV station, VBS. In 2010, she and Quintron were invited to do an exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Since Miss Pussycat works in a visual medium, a display of her creations was a no-brainer, but Quintron was puzzled by what he might contribute. He decided to record his next album, 2011's Sucre Du Sauvage, at the museum behind the display glass. He vastly underestimated how he'd feel as a zoo exhibit.

"It was a terrible idea on my part, thinking that I could really tune people out. I fucking hated being there when there were a lot of people. It totally froze me up," he said. "When it came to singing, thinking and songwriting, there was no way I could do that in public."

Instead, he spent the daylight hours editing and devising parts for the ambient second half of the album. It's drawn from thousands of hours of field recordings taken walking around City Park in New Orleans, layered with often-subtle instrumental parts and ambient drones. After hours, he worked on writing the songs and performing them, creating his own A Night in the Museum.

"I would not trade that experience for the world--being able to be there until 3 a.m. surrounded by the artwork in the museum by myself, just jamming out and making new songs," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's just an album and I have to go write another one."

While Quintron is customarily humble, he acknowledged that this might be his most-polished release--if such a term can be applied to his grimy, organ-garage sound. The album certainly has some of his strongest songs, including the infectiously greasy and epic jam "New Years Night" and "Face Down in the Gutter," which is grimly upbeat, like Suicide covering the New Pornographers. In fact, the song's genesis came from just such a moment.

"I got beaten up, my eardrum punched out and ended, literally, face down in the gutter," Quintron said. "It's about being as low as you can get. None of my songs are about one thing in particular, but that was like an instant that sparked that phrase. It's also about the certain way some of us live our lives for the benefit of others to vicariously live through."

When not dealing with the personal matters that have consumed much of the duo's energy the last year, Quintron and Miss Pussycat have worked on the second season of Trixie and the Treetrunks. Now independent, they raised money for the project via Kickstarter and filmed it over the past few months. They plan to edit it in August and take the show to film festivals in the fall.

Quintron has also been tinkering with a contraption that he calls the Singing House. He has created an analog drum synthesizer with a sustained tone that changes based on the weather outside. King Crimson may have written, "I Talk to the Wind," but Quintron has given it the tools to talk back.

"There's a wind-speed anemometer, rain and humidity receptors and a sun intensity detector constantly modulating an e-major chord drone, which is always present. It's piped into every room of my house," Quintron explained.

He even uses it as an alarm clock--the gathering tone of the sun's rise gently waking him.

"It slowly creeps in and, all of a sudden, your eyes are open. It's a much more healthy way to wake up than a dinging bell or something that jars you out of sleep," he said. "I think there are health benefits to being bathed in constant major chord drone at low volume. I could see it being useful in hospitals, hotels or offices. It's novel and cool and being connected to the weather, which makes you feel whole in a weird way."

One might describe a Quintron and Miss Pussycat show the same way.

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