Originally published by 225 Magazine on June 30, 2013.
By Amanda Wicks
So often, any great reward comes with an equally great risk. A gamble, if you will. And with exactly this kind of risk in mind, Lucy and the Gamblers have emerged on the Baton Rouge music scene, garnering a lot of attention and praise despite having played just a handful of shows around town.
Their sound draws on some classic ideas from the days when funk, soul and gospel reigned supreme, but the band has put their own unique twist on these concepts.
The seven-piece band is fronted by vocalist Lucy Foval, whose strong, bluesy voice has a breadth and depth that’s surprising coming from her petite frame. Lucy’s sweet, modern-day Southern belle demeanor belies her voice, which is layered with vitality, zest and what trumpet player Jeremy Boykins calls an “edgy soul.” Behind Lucy are all local musicians: Lucy’s husband John Foval on bass, Garrett Smith on drums, Ryan Harris on guitar, Jeremy Boykins on trumpet, Matthew Foval (John’s brother) on sax and Bobby T. Lee on keyboard.
Although these seven members form a core group, John sees Lucy as the headliner and “the Gamblers” as a more fluid component. John says there’s a nice “ebb and flow” to the band’s style that allows them to add instruments and musicians as they go. Harris likes the band’s size. “There’s a certain amount of freedom that comes with playing with more people,” he says.
The band actually started off rather different than its current state. John says, “I wanted to put together a really great funky soul band.” He and Lucy talked about starting a band by drawing upon their family and friends, and eventually they formed a quartet with Matt and Smith. While the foursome initially started by playing “funked-up” covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Temptations, they quickly discovered that something didn’t feel right.
John felt compelled to write music and develop the old-school sensibility that he so admired about 1950s, 1960s and 1970s music. This sensibility comes across both in the band’s music and their appearance. They play live shows dressed in cocktail attire, and doing so adds a touch of class and old-school character.
The way the band writes music seems unconventional. Rather than starting with a story or melody, they tend to build the song from the rhythm out. John begins with a bass line, and other band members layer their instruments around that key concept. “We’re groove-oriented,” Harris says.
That funky vibe comes across much more strongly than if they began with a melody and added rhythm. “Baton Rouge should have more music like this,” Matt says.
On stage, the music begins like a slow burn, because the band performs their first song in much the same way they write music: John begins by playing a bass riff, Smith joins in on drums, and one by one, the rest of the Gamblers take the stage and begin adding their sounds. Lucy is the last to step up, and once she does, the entire energy changes, becoming an explosive, collaborative sound that tends to get audiences moving to the rhythm on the dancefloor.
The band is currently working on their first album. They recently posted a song, “Attitude,” on SoundCloud. It can be found through lucyandthegamblers.com.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Lucy and the Gamblers takes their name from the band in Grease called Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. John Foval, who played Johnny Casino in a high school production of the musical, felt the name suited their particular vintage sensibility. The name took on special meaning when he went gambling one night and ended up winning the very amount needed to book time at Dizzy Records’ studio in Baton Rouge.