AUSTIN DAZE: How did the hurricane affect you guys?
JEFF RAINES: We all left for months. You know, it was really kind of interesting: Galactic was actually in Seattle playing a festival on the Sunday night that it hit. A couple of guys stayed there. I flew to Shreveport and met my family. We thought we would be away from town three days, tops.
The day after the storm I was messing around, getting ready to go home and someone was like, “Hey man, come here”. There’s like a blown levee — I was just in shock. You know, we had always heard that could happen, but I just never thought in my lifetime that I would see that happen. I mean it was incredible. And then you’re there watching that one helicopter drop those sand bags and it was just like, “Oh s**t, here we go”.
So anyway, I live now on what is called the “sliver on the river” which is basically uptown, maybe two blocks towards the lake from St. Charles. So my house survived. Our keyboard player Rich’s house flooded and he was renting it so he lost everything. Our drummer’s house got hit by a tornado and the back wall got knocked out of it. The house is still standing and he still lives in it — you just can’t live in his bedroom, basically. Robert, our bass player’s house survived but he had like two feet of water. Our saxophone player’s house, he had to get a new roof — he was also on the sliver on the river. He ended up renting his house and moving to New York, just cause, you know the city is sort of half uninhabitable. But yeah, everyone is back except him–he kind of got a great deal on an apartment so he’s staying there for a little while, but he’s hopefully returning.
Yeah, so we are all still there.
It’s funny, because I used to really complain about New Orleans because there are some backwards aspects to living there and it was very frustrating at times. But you know there are also these great things and the storm has really brought that home — what a special place it was. So I have this provincial, kind of like, come hell or high water civic duty, to stay and play gigs with some local bands. We all have kind of pick-up bands there so we have been playing shows just so people have something fun at night when they are dealing with what they are dealing with.
AD: How does New Orleans influence your style of music?
JR: The blueprint for our band was always very much Meters inspired. We were always very much into P-Funk and from there we sort of got into the music of James Brown. And then the Meters were always this legendary towering New Orleans influence. So that was really kind of the most profound influence. I think to some degree, emulating your artists, is how you sort of get into music, and that was definitely the band. That was very imprint for Galactic — just as a place to start. To give the music some sort of context.
AD: What do you think caused you to be part of the New Orleans scene?
JR: I think it’s because the one thing that kind of brought us all together — the common denominator of this band — was a love and appreciation of New Orleans music and old school funk, R&B, and soul. All that stuff in general. But we lived in New Orleans –that’s where we all met and became a band. We are really from all different parts of the country except for Stanton — the drummer — who is from New Orleans. But we are all people who found our way to New Orleans, made it a home, and kind of delved into the rich tradition of music that was there. We started out trying to play authentic old school funk and R&B and incorporate some of the brass band stuff that’s in New Orleans. Stanton is a New Orleans drummer and that means everything in terms of how our band’s rhythmic articulation. It’s just rooted in New Orleans music. A lot of it has to do with the fact that Stanton is a great New Orleans drummer. He is somebody who has definitely taken on the tradition of New Orleans music and drumming and delved into it — it’s very deeply studied; very thoroughly digested. So being a funk band or a groove band and having such a strong drummer with such a strong personality which comes out of New Orleans, is a big part of what makes us sound the way that we do.
And then, you know, we also happen to be a young band from New Orleans that decided to get out there and make a way for ourselves by touring the country and building up an audience slowly. Because of that, we have taken on some of this new, next generation New Orleans music. I don’t know if that is deserved or not but obviously, we love that music and are proud to represent it in any way possible.
AD: Do you mind us asking what happened to your lead singer?
JR: Galactic was a band that was almost always primarily instrumental. When we first made our first record we really were an instrumental band — we really didn’t have a singer. But we new Theryl just from hanging out — as a New Orleans musician from other bands and stuff and so we asked him to come sing a track on our first record — which he did. And then we started to compose a track together and we improvised a track. So that’s kind of how he got involved at all. And then he started coming out to some of our gigs and just when we were getting ready to go on the road we asked him if he wanted to come and so he did. Theryl always had this sort of permanent guest kind of status. We’d play a lot instrumentally and then he’d come out and sing a couple of songs a set. We did that for almost 10 years and it worked nicely.
But at one point he was kind of forced off the road because of health issues and at that point we started realizing what we really do is play groovy instrumental music. That’s really what Galactic is all about. And none of us are really singer songwriter types and it was always a stretch for us to write vocal R&B type tunes or things that seemed appropriate to do with him. He couldn’t come out on the road for a long time and at the same time we were kind of realizing maybe vocals aren’t really the natural thing for this band. Really, the natural thing is what you hear us doing now which is playing our own strange version of funk and New Orleans music.
AD: Tell us about your songwriting process.
JR: It kind of mutates a little bit but generally we write pretty collectively. We often write in the course of just working in the studio and recording. We’ve had our own studio in New Orleans for the last couple of years. We usually just go in and start working on stuff. Often there are little germs — little seedlings of tunes or whatever–that have come up on gigs or in sound checks. Like out of jam-type situations. So sometimes we have some ideas for us to work on but sometimes we just set up a drum loop or a rhythmic bass or something and just start composing over the top of it, each taking passes and seeing what the good ideas are and then kind of building it up like that — one step at a time.
AD: What’s next for Galactic?
JR: Well, we’re working on an album currently, which has been set back a few months because of Katrina. And we are trying to sort of incorporate some of the underground hip-hop scene from mostly West Coast rappers. But there is plenty on the table to do a record. We’ve done quite a bit of songwriting but our studio was condemned so we’re sort of slowly putting another record together.
We are doing a project in collaboration with Lurchborne and some of the Quantum Records hip hop artists and some of the more conscious, underground MCs that are out there. So we are kind of making this record that is going to incorporate some of that. It will be in the spirit of old school hip-hop which was so largely based on sampling a lot of old school funk and soul jazz records, which is all the stuff that we learned to play anyway and love.
Aside from that, we are going to keep working on the road at the same pace that we have been. We’ll still be out there — making laps; coming around. We’ve always loved playing in Austin, Texas. It’s a great town.***