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Monday, July 9th, 2007

Galactic brings New Orleans funk to Big Easy

By Christin Runkle PLAY contributing writer

The New Orleans-based five-member band — including keyboardist Richard Vogel, guitarist Jeff Raines, saxophone and harmonica player Ben Ellman, bassist Robert Mercurio and drummer Stanton Moore — will visit Boise’s Big Easy Concert House with their enthusiastic brand of music clearly influenced by the Crescent City.

“It all comes out of all of our love for old school funky music and the tradition of New Orleans music,” which is dance and party music, Vogel explained in a recent interview.

After releasing their last album, “Ruckus,” in 2003, Galactic toured extensively — “We’ve always been a pretty hard-touring band, and that’s indeed how we make our living,” Vogel said — before returning to their New Orleans studio in early summer 2005 to start work on their sixth album, “From the Corner to the Block,” due out in August.

We all know what happened next.

“We were kinda just getting into it, maybe been writing new music for a month or two at the most, and we went out of town for a little weekend of gigs,” Vogel said. “We expected to be back on Monday, back in the studio, but we had a little storm that weekend, and that changed everything.”

After Hurricane Katrina, Vogel said the band took some time to deal “with life for a good month or so.” Their studio was demolished, but the band was offered the use of a studio in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, where they wrote most of the tracks for “From the Corner to the Block.”

Galactic found a new studio in New Orleans in early 2006 and whittled down the songs they had worked on in the Poconos. But Katrina didn’t reshape the album, Vogel said — Galactic had already had a concept in mind for “From the Corner to the Block.”

The album features appearances by a number of underground hip hop MCs, including Lyrics Born, Gift of Gab of Blackalicious, Juvenile, and Chali 2na of Jurrasic 5. The idea was “natural” for a band like Galactic, Vogel said.

“We knew we were going to try to work with as many of the coolest MCs (as) we could get together,” Vogel said. “We really had this idea that we can generate grooves all day — we want to hook up with some of the best people we know out there.”

Galactic asked the lyricists to rap about a corner that was “important, interesting or evocative in some way,” Vogel said. It didn’t even have to be a street corner — Ladybug Mecca rapped about the geometry of corners, instead.

The theme, suggested to the band by a filmmaker friend who had read a book called “Intersection/New Orleans,” provides “thematic continuity” that makes the album “not so much a grab bag of guest artists doing completely disparate things,” Vogel said.

The album, sure to appeal to a whole new audience, as well as to Galactic’s already fervent fans, is the result of the band’s desire to keep pushing their music into new realms.

“We know it’s gotta be groovin’, we know it’s gotta be funky, we know it’s gotta be something, hopefully, you want to dance to or put on at a party, but what else can we do with it?” Vogel said. “So hooking up with inspiring vocalists or people who can bring a certain poetry to our music is something that just inspires us and makes us want to keep doing it.”

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