It took much more than the butterfly effect to bring together the Honey Island Swamp Band, which will make its Topeka debut Monday at the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival.
Hurricane Katrina blew the band together.
When the levees broke and flooded a good chunk of New Orleans, four of the band’s five members found themselves stranded on the West Coast without homes or hometown gigs, said Aaron Wilkinson, who plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica, as well as sings.
Also displaced to the San Francisco Bay area were Chris Mule, lead and slide guitar and vocals; Sam Price, bass and vocals; and Garland Paul, drums and vocals.
“We all knew each other just from being part of the music scene down in New Orleans, but we had never played together in the same band,” Wilkinson said.
“It all came together one night,” he continued. “Chris and I were sitting together at the bar in a place called the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco, and Garland and Sam walk in the door. It was totally unplanned.”
Not knowing when they could return to the Big Easy, the four decided to make music together, and the Honey Island Swamp Band was formed. The Boom Boom Room offered the band a weekly gig.
That let to more bookings, and the group, which in 2009 added keyboardist Trevor Brooks to its lineup, began recording award-winning albums.
“I don’t think any of us saw it becoming what it’s become,” Wilkinson said. “It’s kind of a silver lining type of story.”
After about a year and a half in California, band members were able to return to the Big Easy.
They brought back some West Coast influences with them.
“There are many nice things living in California that aren’t available in Louisiana. We enjoyed those things,” Wilkinson said.
The band, which has released an EP and three other albums, is touring in support of its fourth full-length recording, “Demolition Day,” which was produced by Luther Dickinson, leader of the North Mississippi Allstars and ex-Black Crowes guitarist.
Wilkinson called “Demolition Day” the band’s best work to date, but said fans shouldn’t expect the group to play its 11 tracks the exact way they recorded them.
“These songs will continue to progress, develop and blossom,” Wilkinson said. “A record is a snapshot in time, a picture of where a song is at a particular moment. But we’ve never been the type of band to stick to one way of playing a song, so we’ll continue to let the music evolve. That’s what keeps it fresh and exciting for us — and we want to share that with our audiences.”
Asked how to describe the Honey Island Swamp Band’s sound, Wilkinson responded, “If you like the Rolling Stones or Little Feat or the Band or the Allman Brothers, you’ll probably be able to pick up what we’re putting down.”
The band’s sound can be sampled at www.honeyislandswampband.com.