Galactic: A Long Time Coming

It was an album we've always wanted to make to get some of the NOLA artists we've loved and admired over the years like Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas. Having done this for many years, we've bumped into everyone and gotten to know them. We're at the stage in our career where we can say, 'Let's call Allen Toussaint,' and he might actually call us back [laughs]."

-Rich Vogel

I feel very blessed having just moved to New Orleans in late July. It seems like such an exceptional time to be here now with Mardi Gras season under way, the Saints having their best season ever, and each day getting further away from the mess of Katrina. How would you describe the energy of the city right now compared to the last few years?

It's definitely at a high point, we had a couple of shitty years there; there's no two ways about it. I think that's why people are particularly enjoying things and are fired up and getting pumped about the Saints. Now we're moving into Carnival season and with each passing year getting further from the past, things slowly do get better, things get rebuilt. It's felt like a slow crawl at times. I live in Mid-City, an area that was pretty devastated, and I think about what it was like in '06 and I just think, "Man, life is good." You just got to appreciate the little things, things you used to take for granted.

Give me a few artists outside of the jazz, funk and New Orleans style that you guys listen to out on the road.

Ben [Ellman - sax] has us listen to a lot more Balkan and Eastern European music than I would have otherwise. He loves blending that stuff with New Orleans music. I listen to a good deal of classical music when I'm home. It gives me a complete departure into a different world. I've always had an interest [in it] on and off. I studied it a little before all my road days.

What have been a few of your favorite moments performing over the last several years as a band here in New Orleans?

Any Jazz Fest; I love that one! First of all, I live near the Fairgrounds, so I get up, have breakfast, walk over, get to play in front of 60,000 people, look out over the Fairgrounds on a beautiful day, go get a soft-shell crab po-boy and walk home.

So, that almost resembles a normal job for you on a day like that?

Yeah [laughs]. When you have a moment like that, you're kind of like, "My job is kinda cool and conveniently located." I kind of miss some of those theatre shows at some of the places that didn't come back because of Katrina, places like The Saenger or The State. I remember the circus [show] we did when we played Bolero, with acrobats performing on and above the stage with trapeze artists. That was a memorable one. There have been so many really.

Try to explain Mardi Gras to people who've never been a part of it. How is music incorporated into the whole celebration?

Wow, that's a good question. There are books upon books about that. Mardi Gras comes out of the Carnival tradition and is celebrated in the Catholic traditions and a lot in the Latin American world, and serves as a sort of blowout before the Lenten season when you're supposed to live this life of sacrifice. Of course, Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras Day and ends the season. Mardi Gras goes way back and New Orleans has a lot of ties to the French and Spanish culture and has those Catholic ties that you don't see in a lot of the more Anglo-Protestant areas of the country. So, that's kind of why it's celebrated here.

The thing about Mardi Gras that I try to explain to people is that there are many Mardi Gras depending on who you're with and where you go. A lot of people think Mardi Gras is just Bourbon Street and people flashing, and that's definitely one part of it. That's something when you're in college and you come down here that you tend to gravitate towards. But, there are a lot of rich, local traditions with the Krewes [and] debutante balls. Then there are the Mardi Gras Indians who go out and parade early on Mardi Gras Day. You're talking about guys that make these incredibly elaborate, beautiful headdresses getting ready for this day. You think about New Orleans and partying late night for the most part, but on Mardi Gras Day it's really about the daytime celebration. It's an incredible party to see if you end up at the right place at the right time. Everybody's out in the streets from Uptown to Downtown. There's an Uptown vibe that's a little more family-oriented and Downtown it's a little grittier, with people partying very hard and less children. It's a huge day of celebration with people everywhere making the most of the day and getting their yee-haws out, if you're a good Catholic, which I'm not... but I pretend that I am.

What has the Saints' success meant to the overall morale of this city?

It's just thrilling for the team to go to the Super Bowl. It's been a lot of fun for a lot of people. It's been fun to watch it build and progress. We've all been working hard and it's nice for everyone to see something built [in New Orleans] that is very successful. Also, the lifelong fans have grown quite cynical through the years from their days wearing bags over their heads.

I'm not from here and I root for the enemy, but it's hard not to take a liking to a team with such a blue-collar feel with stars like Marques Colston, who seemingly came out of nowhere to help lead the team to the Promised Land.

Yeah, guys like Drew Brees, who's not just a great QB but also a great citizen in the way he's embraced the town and given back, and his story of coming here to play and adopting the city as his home [has] been really special. Brees is gonna be the King of Bacchus, he's kind of god in this city and he can do no wrong.

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[Published on: 3/4/10]

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