I was quite excited to get to see one of my favorite bands, Galactic, play at 80/35 this year. I was even more excited when I found out that I would get to interview them at the Meet ‘n Greet tent. However, due to a scheduling mishap, the interview didn’t happen. I expressed how bummed I was on twitter and the kick ass guys of Galactic replied with an offer for a phone interview. So last week I was able to connect with keyboardist Rich Vogel for a chat.
How do you describe the sound of Galactic?
It’s a little bit of a tricky question. We are a contemporary New Orleans band. New Orleans has a rich history of dance music and jazz music. We are a funky band, but I don’t know if we are a funk band, per se. We are a brass band, with some funk. Similar bands and bands we draw inspiration from are The Meters, Neville Brothers and funky bands that made a lot of records in the 70s. We bring together traditions of New Orleans music and funky American music. We put our own take on that.
You get a lot of play on Sirius/XM channel Jam On and are on the lineup of several jam band heavy festivals. Would you call yourself a jam band?
It’s a funny thing. We certainly never labeled ourselves as that, but at the same time its an association we never tried to run away from either. In the 90s we got out there when Widespread Panic and Phish were heavy on the scene. WSP were good to us in our early days and had us open shows for them. Our business model was based on playing shows and touring. Shows could stretch on depending on local curfews and other constraints. That approach to building up our music in the early 90s was when the jam scene took on their identity. It’s not a self-described label, but we never run away from it. Bands in the 60s and 70s, weren’t they all jam bands? Stretching out songs. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin.
It’s s term I don’t find very useful to be descriptive musically, but a term used in the approach to our business model. Playing shows came first and everything else came second. We made our living playing shows and recording next.
You guys are used to having guests appearances in your set. How do you go about deciding on who to ask to join you?
It happens organically a little bit. Corey Henry has been playing trombone for several years with us. He is an amazing player from New Orleans that we knew, and at some point we knew we wanted to bring out another horn player. With brass heavy songs it was hard to play with one horn player. He’s an amazing musician. When you click with someone like that they become an honorary member of your band.
With vocals, it was project driven with the sounds and then who is interested in touring. The Ya-ka-May record was back to our roots and we put together our wishlist and hoped it happened and then we were just really blessed. With going on the road we think about who would be willing to go with us. Two of the best vocalists I have ever heard, Cyril Neville and Corey Glover said yes. We got lucky. Relationships build over time. You have some people in the back of your mind. Boy, if I was looking for a singer I would want that person. Cyril was at the top of the list. He is a New Orleans legend. And Corey Glover is also a legend and also very top of the list. We got very lucky.
Have you been to Des Moines before 80/35?
I don’t think Galactic ever played in Des Moines. We played in Iowa City and maybe Ames. I think I have been to Des Moines as a kid. I grew up in Omaha. I think I played hockey there. I also remember going to Sioux City in those days to see the Sioux City Musketeers hockey team.
Tell me your thoughts on 80/35 Festival.
I enjoyed it. It was a nice day. It a really fun set. I remember Corey climbing up on the PA and that always makes us nervous. Hes’ been doing that since we were all in high school. If you remember Living Colour in their hay day. He’s a performer, incredible singer.
How did 80/35 compared with Electric Forest?
The vibe is a bit different. It’s very different when you are out in the woods and camping. It’s like an alternative universe. I like the downtown festivals as well to have access to restaurants and coffee. Being out in the sticks is fun, especially in a beautiful place like Michigan. I like to be able to walk and find something to eat besides the catering, which leaves something to be desired at festivals. It’s a nice backdrop when the city lights up though.
Can you tell me a bit about Jam Cruise? It’s something I have been curious about checking out for awhile now.
This is the alternative universe on the ocean. It’s a big floating alternative universe on the ocean. It is a festival that takes over an entire cruise ship. One of the more interesting aspects of it is seeing the ship’s crews that are international. You can tell by their reaction that this it is not their average cruise. As opposed to the general cruise with old retired people. They have to stock up a lot more on liquor and beer. In the earlier years when they weren’t sure what they were getting into, I remember seeing big pallets of emergency beer being put on the ship after two days. It’s a gigantic musical party that covers a range of music.
You just released The Other Side of Midnight: Live in New Orleans. Can you tell me a bit about that?
We recorded it last Halloween at Tipitinas, our home base club in New Orleans. We made a live record years ago but hadn’t really done anything since then. We had a show that really represented all the eras of Galactic and a distillation of all that Galactic does so it seemed like a good time to get a good recording of a live show. A lot of live stuff gets out there that isn’t the best quality. There is something to be said about a good recording of a live performance. We thought it was a good time to do it.
If I was going to NOLA, what can you give me as a must do, and more importantly, what to eat?
You’ve already got the attitude and mindset. The way you’ve asked the question demonstrates you are ready to come to New Orleans and experience it.
You could come here at jazz fest time and explore the city that way. It’s a pretty wonderful time of the year to come experience the city. The fairgrounds, the jazz fest, there is tons of great food there. There is so much going on at night in the clubs. So much music. Mardi Gras is a whole different animal. There are many different sides and some are not all that glamorous. There is the tourist side, which is one animal, but there is a lot more, but that other side is harder to penetrate without knowing a local that can take you through. Come in the spring or fall and you really can’t go wrong. I don’t personally recommend August or September. Off beat is a local music magazine that does listings of music you can check before you come. You can’t really go wrong with any music or food.