Leading up to LEAF festival, Xpress is talking to a number of artists from across the country and across musical genres. The Revelers, with members of the Red Stick Ramblers and The Pine Leaf Boys, are a Cajun and swamp-pop outfit based in Lafayette, La. Regular visitors to Asheville, they’re as at home playing to a crowd of dancers as at a concert hall. The band’s most recent release is the EP The Revelers Play the Swamp Pop Classics, Vol. 1.
Mountain Xpress: This is your second show in Western N.C. in under a month — what do you enjoy doing when your in the area (besides performing)?
Daniel Coolik: We all enjoy visiting lots of our friends who live in and around Asheville. Most of us have pretty strong ties to the Asheville area and have tons of musician friends and other artist friends who we enjoy visiting with when we are around.
How will your LEAF performance differ from your recent Grey Eagle show?
I’m not sure which stages we will perform at LEAF but really I think they will be pretty similar shows. We usually change our set a little if we are playing sit-down theater shows, but both LEAF and The Grey Eagle are more about getting the crowd up and moving and having fun.
Do you feel like being featured on Treme changed your trajectory in any way? How important is TV exposure to a band’s career these days?
I’m not really sure how much it changed our trajectory or how important it is. It was a fun experience and we met some really great people and got to see what it’s like to be on TV, but in the end we are musicians, not actors, and so we still travel the world and play music to people in venues. Sing them a song, make them smile, make ’em cry a l’il, and maybe make ’em get up and move.
I think the descriptor “swamp-pop” is super evocative. To me, is says your sound is simultaneously organic and hooky. Does that sound right? And, if so, how do you manage to balance those two forces in your songwriting and compositions?
Swamp pop is a style of music from Southwest Louisiana. For brevity’s sake, it was developed in the ’50s and ’60s when the younger generation in Southwest Louisiana started playing the rock ‘n’ roll and modern R&B of the day. There were a bunch of bands and labels throughout Southwest Louisiana and even into Southeast Texas that were playing this music then, and some songs even made it into the national charts — most notably Cookie and the Cupcakes‘ “Matilda,” or Dale & Grace‘s “I’m Leaving It Up To You.”
And yes, I think it is organic and hooky, and I think when we individually bring new songs to the Revelers, we try and have them be danceable and something that might be old-but-new, as well. Some of the older swamp-pop songs are sort of dated, but I guess to a certain extent we are trying to add to that catalog in a modern sense. An updated Southwest Louisiana Jukebox band.
You also bring a lot of heritage sounds from the American songbook to your music — country, Cajun, blues and zydeco. Are you concerned with preserving those traditions, or do you see your role as being more about forwarding those sounds for today’s music fans?
We all played in bands in our past that were in some part traditional bands (whether those traditions were Cajun music, zydeco, old country, or Western swing) and I completely think that we love and still play many older tunes and try and remain in the past while playing and writing our own new music. Traditions do not remain in a vacuum, and I think we are all aware of how things move and morph, and we like to play old songs or take ideas from old songs and put them in new songs.
The Revelers tend to throw a little French into each album — do you feel like the French heritage of the U.S. is overlooked, especially as Spanish grows more prevalent as a second language in this country?
I don’t know about overlooked, but I think a lot of people in the country don’t know about why people in Louisiana spoke/speak French. We usually strive to have a 50/50 French to English component to our shows and albums. Blake Miller has written countless new French songs (zero English songs) and we have lately been singing some songs in English and French in the same way Clifton Chenier used to sing in English and then next time the same verse in French.
If you were to state a mission for the band these days, what would it be?
A mission? To continue writing and playing new and old songs that make people turn an ear and move a couple feet and grab a partner.