Lost Bayou Ramblers: Redefining Cajun music for the 21st century
Louis Michot, the fiddle player and singer for Lost Bayou Ramblers, has quite the résumé. In addition to fronting one of the most exciting and acclaimed Cajun bands of the 21st century, he has collaborated on the soundtrack for an Oscar-nominated film, serves as Bayou Teche Brewery’s “Official Ambassador to the United States,” and founded the Cultural Research Institute of Acadiana. If there was an award for "Most Valuable Acadian," Michot would hands-down win it every year.
But its his main gig, playing with his brother and friends in Lost Bayou Ramblers, that has garnered Michot international acclaim. LBR's appeal comes from their ability to take traditional Cajun sounds and infuse them with a shot of punk adrenalin that makes for an undeniably good time. Fiddle and accordion reside comfortably next to electric guitar, bass, and drums as French lyrics are shouted in a psychedelic cacophony of epic proportions.
Louis and his brother Andre grew up in Broussard, where they cut their teeth playing in their father’s band as teenagers. They started out playing triangle, guitar, and bass before moving on to the more challenging fiddle and accordion. Once the fiddle and accordion were mastered the two brothers started their own band and took to the dingy clubs of New Orleans.
“You get a lot of feedback in New Orleans," says Michot. "With so much competition in the city, if people come out to your show you know you’re doing something right.” The band considers New Orleans their “artistic home” because of the city’s appreciation for all types of art. “If you’re making something of quality and substance in New Orleans, the people are right there to support it and grow it.”
Louis and Andre Michot have served as the core of the band for the past 15 years, with a rotating cast of fellow South Louisianans bringing their own flavors to the band. “We seek out folks who have never actually played Cajun music, but are from this area so they have been exposed to that music their whole lives.” Working with musicians from that unique background allows the band to operate within the Cajun genre while exploring new sonic territories. “It’s basically about keeping it traditional but at the same time being open to playing whatever we want.” This refusal to operate strictly within the confines of Cajun music has been the key to the Ramblers’ success.
The band was nominated for a Grammy award in 2008, helped score the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild, and collaborated with Dr. John and Scarlett Johannsen on their excellent 2012 album Mammoth Waltz.
After a chance encounter at d.b.a. in 2007, Violent Femmes’ frontman Gordon Gano has worked with the band both on stage and in the studio to add yet another layer to the Ramblers’ sound. “It’s so much fun to play with Gordon," says Michot. "He’s such an awesome musician, but more importantly he has such a great, humble mindset that makes him such a badass.” Gano will join the band for three shows in Louisiana this weekend.
In January, Michot and Ramblers' bassist Korey Richey holed up in New York's famed Electric Lady studios to record the demos for the band’s next album. The band is currently working through those demos and experimenting with some new sounds for an album that’s set for a summer 2015 release. There's also a "super top secret" project coming out soon that involves the original wax press that Louis Armstrong recorded on.
Michot says, “At this point, we’re really happy that it keeps getting better and better. We’re just trying to stay true to who we are and keep making the music that makes us feel good.”
Here are three chances to check out Lost Bayou Ramblers with Gordon Gano this weekend around Louisiana:
- 2/27 @ One Eyed Jack’s (New Orleans)
- 2/28 @ Spanish Moon (Baton Rouge)
- 3/1 @ Blue Moon Saloon (Lafayette)