"Kelly Ripa" from the album Fearless
"I'm a showman and kind of a crazy person at the same time, so people often assume I play a lot more than I actually do," admits Fred LeBlanc, singing drummer and ringleader for veteran alt-rock band Cowboy Mouth. "You know, I'm from New Orleans, where the drummers there to create the groove."
He can goon around like Keith Moon and execute a plush drum roll across the snare drum like Ringo, but LeBlanc is probably best known among fans for his upbeat attitude and his fierce dedication to the pure American rock music art form, as it's presented in the crowded-club setting. He's still grinning.
"I've always been somebody who counts his good fortunes," LeBlanc says. "I play in my dream band and we make people happy and feel good. We do a fun show. Whether you're stuck in a cube or in a classroom, a Cowboy Mouth show is a great place to go and celebrate and let go of all the trouble and bullshit that gets you down. Anyone who comes to see us is going to leave having a ball and feeling a lot better. That's really the most important thing. You can spend your life finding things to get ticked off about, but in the long run, it's all about how much fun you had and how much joy you gave to others."
LeBlanc got his start playing with Louisiana's rip-roaring Dash Rip Rock back in the so-called "cow punk" days of the early '80s before stepping out and putting together his own collective of like-minded rock 'n' rollers. Through the '90s, Cowboy Mouth played the college town circuit and even enjoyed a bit of "alternative" radio airplay with 1996's "Jenny Says."
On the band's most recent studio album, 2005's New Orleans-themed Voodoo Shoppe, the lineup included guitarist and longtime songwriting collaborators John Thomas Griffith (formerly of New Wave band The Red Rockers), Paul Sanchez, bassist Sonia Tetlow, and guest bassists Mary Lasange and George Porter. The album's fast-tempo, punk-spirited lead-off track, "Joe Strummer," enjoyed generous airplay on the late 96 Wave (alongside "Jenny Says"). The funky title track epitomized LeBlanc's Crescent City experience.
Last November Cowboy Mouth released a live DVD shot at the legendary Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles called The Name of the Band Is Cowboy Mouth. The band's forthcoming album, a 12-song collection of rockers and anthems titled Fearless, hits the streets on Sept. 23.
"I wanted to make an album that wasn't quite as heavy in terms of emotional content as Voodoo Shoppe," he adds. "This album has a little more levity, like with the song 'Kelly Ripa' [the band recently performed the pop-punky tune on Live with Regis and Kelly]. We do funny stuff, and we tackle the deep, emotional stuff, too. I think people will really enjoy it."
Veteran New Orleans rhythm guitarist Jonathan "JP" Pretus and bassist Regina Zernay (of Halfcocked, Méchant, Big Violin) joined LeBlanc and Griffith for the sessions and the recent tours.
"It sounds great on stage, and we're having a ball," LeBlanc says. "Everything's going really well. We've had some of the best shows of the band's career in recent months. People are loving it and the numbers are going back up. The lineup is really enthusiastic. They're great players, you know. They give a thousand percent every night. There's no B.S. There's a lot of energy and a lot of fun. And that's all I ever really ever wanted."