Like their fellow New Orleans natives the Neville Brothers and the Radiators, The Subdudes play a style of music that is as diverse and undefinable as the Crescent City itself. Blending folk, soul, zydeco, and blues, the band — which consists of Tommy Malone, John Magnie, Steve Amedée, and Tim Cook — has released more than 10 albums in a recording career spanning nearly 30 years. In 2016, The Subdudes released the album 4 On The Floor — and on Saturday, June 10, the band will return to WorkPlay. Darcy Malone and the Tangle will open the 8 p.m. show (Darcy is Tommy’s niece and the daughter of The Radiators’ Dave Malone). Recently, Tommy Malone spoke to Weld about the band’s resumption following a three-year hiatus and the making of 4 On The Floor.
Weld: The Subdudes were on hiatus from 2011 to 2014. Did you feel like a reunion was inevitable? What was the catalyst for the band’s reformation?
Tommy Malone: It was very specific, and I’ll tell you about it. In our minds, we weren’t going to do it again — it was pretty much done. Our friend and original bass player, Johnny Allen, came back into the picture, and he had been running a construction business for 12 years and it folded. He bought a home two blocks from where I now live, so he was coming over to my house all the time. He said, “Hey man, what do you think about getting the fellas back together?” I said, “I just did that for 10 years while you were sitting in an office, but let’s think about it and may be we could promote a tour as the original four and play the first four records.”
So, we did it, and three months into the tour Johnny Allen died unexpectedly. At that point, we had a decision to make, and we felt like we needed to honor the gigs that were on the books. We put Tim Cook — who played bass on the last four records — back into the group and we kept going. That’s where we are today.
Weld: If you will, talk about the creation of the new album, 4 On The Floor.
Malone: All of those [songs] have existed for a while. The only one that we hadn’t really sung before was the Hank Williams tune [“I Saw The Light”] and we just decided that we needed to stick something old in there that we liked. We’ve been doing this thing in our concerts for a while where we unplug all of our electric stuff and go out on the floor, which is the concept of the record — the four of us on the floor just singing and trying to capture the vibe of us singing without too many instruments going on.
Weld: The unplugged part of your shows has become a staple. Was that originally a spur-of-the moment idea that ended up being a permanent fixture?
Malone: That is exactly what happened. We were playing at [Maryland venue] Ram’s Head, and we did it for a song or two — now we’ll do four at the end of the night. People just loved it, and we went up by their tables and started singing and it stuck.
Weld: With more than 10 releases now in your catalog, how do you go about creating setlists for shows these days?
Malone: We’re starting to spread it out a little bit. We’d gotten back into leaning towards the old stuff when Johnny was in it and some of that stuck because they’re crowd favorites. We’ve dipped into the newer stuff more recently. With a lot of that stuff, the cream will rise. Egos get bruised, but you kind of seem to go with the better stuff. We do a nice mix of old and new.
The Subdudes will perform at Workplay with Darcy Malone & The Tangle on Saturday, June 10. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $25 and can be purchased at workplay.com.