People can’t help but hear the musical similarities between Bas Clas and classic ’70s rock acts Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker.
Bas Clas, an original rock music band that formed in Lafayette in the late ’70s, veered away from the country-rock music that bands were expected to play in Acadiana at the time. The band performs Friday at Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans.
“In the early days,” Steve Picou, Bas Clas’ New Orleans-based guitarist said, “when we heard Dire Straits and Tom Petty, we were like, ‘Oh, my God.’ So we played ‘Sultans of Swing’ and ‘American Girl.’ We also did songs by Talking Heads and Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. We heard all of that and knew that’s where we wanted to go.”
Bas Clas felt a kinship to the raw rock sound of Petty and Costello, said Picou’s older brother Donnie, the band’s Atlanta-based singer-songwriter.
“It was inspiring to hear what they were doing,” he said.
These many years later, the latter influences remain in two recent Bas Clas recordings, 2012’s “Big Oak Tree” and the newly released “Love Food Sex Peace.”
Reformed in 2002 following an 11-year break, Bas Clas — featuring Steve and Donnie Picou, bassist and Opelousas resident Geoff Thistlethwaite and Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.-residing drummer Ted Cobena — will be playing Friday to celebrate the release of its CD.
“Because we’ve been having so much fun playing again,” Steve Picou said, “we really want to do it more often.”
But the band members’ geographical distance from one another, and the fact that they’re not kids anymore, makes them selective.
“We’re not hustling gigs or risking our lives for the thrill of playing a bar somewhere,” Steve Picou said. “But we do want to play where people want us to play. We enjoy it and we are taking the opportunities that come our way.”
The Picou brothers, originally from Eunice, co-founded Bas Clas, a Cajun phrase meaning low class, in part because older brother Donnie Picou wanted to be on firmer musical ground than he’d typically been during years of moving from one band to the next.
“I didn’t want to take the front role, but one day because the bands I’d been in kept falling apart, I said, ‘If I’m going to continue to be in train wrecks, I’d rather be the engineer than just somebody riding along.’ ”
“Because we’ve been having so much fun playing again, we really want to do it more often.” STEVE PICOU, Bas Clas member
Surviving membership changes, Bas Clas performed and made recordings, including a 1981 single, “Serfin’ USA,” that got college radio play.
In 1983, the band attracted the interest of producer John Hammond, a music business giant who helped the careers of Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and, concurrent with his work with Bas Clas, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Nonetheless, a recording deal for the group didn’t materialize.
The final gigs of Bas Clas’ first run included the group’s 1991 debut at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The band members moved on to other things, including Steve Picou’s 12-year stint with the Louisiana Music Commission.
Following a 2002 reunion to play a benefit for the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Bas Clas continued performing. The band also intends to regularly release new recordings.
Guest stars for Bas Clas’ new “Love Food Sex Peace” EP include New Orleans talent Susan Cowsill, Leslie Smith, Alexis Marceau and Sam Craft and Lafayette musicians Roddie Romero and Eric Adcock.
“The opportunity to collaborate with incredible artists has never been greater,” Steve Picou said. “Everybody is sharing each other’s talent. It’s a beautiful thing.”