Rising Stars: Ship of Fools

These pop rockers bring a young, creative energy to their cello-heavy tunes

If acoustic band Ship of Fools is about anything, it is about breaking stereotypes.

“You don’t have to have strings that only sound like beautiful lines of melody,” singer Ashley Monaghan, 19, says. “He can shred that thing.”

The “he” in question is LSU music major Raudol Palacios, who grew up in Venezuela listening to more classic rock than classical music.

“It bothers me that strings are often in the background, that you can play a lot of songs without the strings, and it still sounds the same,” Palacios, 21, says. “I try to put the cello in a challenging place. I play it as a lead instrument.”

Palacios’ lines flow like sharp currents, swiveling the band’s intricate arrangements through a race of alternating rhythms and rolls in tandem with 21-year-old drummer Eric Brown, a jazz-studied disciple of New Orleans icon Johnny Vidacovich.

It’s these dramatic shifts that give the music an uplifting, whimsical feel as if it were the soundtrack for the leaping, bounding theatrics of a stage play.

“Not saying that our music is the most unique ever, but I don’t want to do something that’s already been done,” guitarist and songwriter Michael Blount, 24, says.

Singer Monaghan’s poised, pucker-lipped voice, at times a vulnerable flutter or a boom, contributes to that unique sound—a blend of brooding, film noir romantic pop. The group’s irreverent approach to music doesn’t stop at curious time signatures. This experimentation is often woven into sly melodies or allegorical lyrics.

There is one song that explores a pride of place for the city these undergraduate musicians find themselves in for at least the next two years.

Called “Bells,” it finds the band evolving the iconic chimes that ring out from Memorial Tower high above LSU’s Parade Grounds into a swooning slow jam collapsing on a bedrock of Delta blues.

Ship of Fools recently released a live video for NPR’s recent Tiny Desk Concert Contest but has not recorded any of its dozen or more tunes. Blount doesn’t want to overplay in Baton Rouge until the band has a product to offer a growing fanbase.

“We do need to stop and record soon,” Palacios says with a short laugh. “But we have a problem; we keep coming up with more music.”

Where to get Ship of Fools’ music

The band has not yet released an album, but until they do, check them out at soundcloud.com/ship-of-fools-trio.

Where to see the band live

Ship of Fools performed recently at Chelsea’s Cafe, Happy’s downtown and Spanish Moon. Stay tuned to the band’s Facebook page for updates: facebook.com/shipoffoolstrio