Eclectic Louisiana-based group The Revelers make music for dancing. “It has to be danceable,” says multi-instrumentalist Daniel Coolik. “We pride ourselves on being a get-up-and-move sort of band. That’s where we come from. If you play stuff that people can’t dance to, they’re just not going to come out.” When called upon to do so, Coolik says that The Revelers are a “dance-hall, club kind of band” that can play a four-hour set of “all the old songs you’d want to hear.” The band hopes that people will move tables out of the way and show off their moves at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall Friday, Sept. 11.
Though often referred to as a supergroup — the musicians in The Revelers are previous members of celebrated Americana acts The Pine Leaf Boys and The Red Stick Ramblers — this band doesn’t take itself too seriously. A Wikipedia entry includes a number of fanciful “facts” such as, “[Daniel Coolik] has since renounced his faith in bluegrass music. He’s more into Stax now.” Coolik (who lived in Asheville from 1999 to 2008) admits that much of that information was put in “just to see how much we could get away with.” He and his bandmates do have a deep affinity for Southern soul from the Memphis label, though.
In fact, that open-minded approach informs The Revelers’ music. Less genre-specific than the bands out of which it rose, The Revelers fold healthy amounts of country, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and western swing into their Cajun musical stew. Sometimes described as a Zydeco or “swamp-pop” group, The Revelers consciously aim to create music that can’t easily be described with a simple label. “We’re trying to do more rock ‘n’ roll,” Coolik says, though the group’s deep Louisiana roots — not to mention its decision to sing many songs in French — color the music so that it’s always interesting and unique. And Coolik notes that “there’s a lot of crossover between Cajun and country music,” both of which find their way into The Revelers’ sound. “When somebody [in the band] brings a song, we ask ourselves, ‘How does this fit into what we’re doing?’”
What The Revelers are doing is staying busy, both in the studio and on the road. Last year saw the release of Play the Swamp Pop Classics, Vol. 1, an EP containing four traditional covers. And the group’s most recent effort is the all-original Get Ready. The Isis date is a release party for the new album, the band’s second full-length release.
Swamp-pop is an umbrella term used to describe music from Louisiana, but the label often applies to very disparate styles of music. Coolik describes it as often made by “Cajun musicians coming out of playing French, Acadian music. They listened to Fats Domino, the rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues that was coming out of New Orleans, that kind of 6/8 beat.” The fact that the musicians came out of Southwest Louisiana influenced the way that they played, Coolik says. Like The Revelers’ music, “it was for dancing.”
The band finds itself in demand for a number of different kinds of engagements. “We just played at a concert series in Connecticut, something that we’ve been doing [annually] for a couple of years now,” says Coolik. “We did that, and then we had a nice, easy day gig. We’re playing a club gig in New York City tomorrow and then a couple concert series dates in Pennsylvania.” This time of year is the busiest. “We usually try to fill up the summer. It’s not too fun to be in and around Louisiana during the summertime.”
That touring savvy speaks to the band’s experience. But even though all of The Revelers are seasoned musicians, the history of their musical style predates all of them. “We played a gig in Rhode Island not long ago,” says Coolik. “An older visiting musician came up to me, looked at us and said, ‘Y’all are so young!’”
WHO: The Revelers
WHERE: Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, isisasheville.com
WHEN: Friday, Sep. 11, 9 p.m. $12 advance / $15 day of show