BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
Drummer Stanton Moore and Galactic recently became the new owners of legendary New Orleans jazz club Tipitina’s. Galactic, which played the club each year for Mardi Gras for the past couple decades, played for the first time this year in its own vennue. We caught up with Moore just after the crazy week of music leading up to and after the holiday to talk about the string of shows and Galactic’s new album, Already Ready Already.
Drum!: First of all, how are you doing?
Stanton Moore: Doing good, man. Recovering from Mardi Gras.
Yeah, I imagine it takes a little time. You guys played something like three straight nights? Until 6 in the morning?
This year, since we bought Tip’s, we added a night. For years, I played Saturday night and Monday night with Galactic, then last year I added the Sunday night at the House of Blues, playing all Mardi Gras songs. This year, since we’ve got Tip’s, we added the Friday night. So it was Friday and Saturday with Galactic at Tip’s, Sunday downtown at House Of Blues with [singer] Anders [Osborne], and then Monday with Galactic back at Tip’s. All of those were regular gigs with Galactic starting at like 12:30 AM. But then the real kicker was the Monday night, which we started at 1 AM. We play three sets, and we go until 6:15 AM.
Usually I get home at about 7 AM and get what I call a three-hour nap. Then I get up and I go walk—some people call it rolling, some people call it walking—with the Indians. I go with Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagle Indians—Mardi Gras Indians. I go to his house. This year, he actually got married in his front yard, and then everybody rolls with him down to Second and Dryades. That’s one of the epicenters of Mardi Gras Indians culture.
You sound like you’ve recovered pretty well.
Yeah, we’ve been doing this for years, so we try not to overdo it. But we know that Wednesday, we just play nothing on Wednesday. My wife and I, we just rest and watch movies. Then Monday, we pretty much just rest up for it too. Ran some errands, ran by the club and checked out everything, and then by 1 PM I just didn’t leave the house. I set my alarm for like 11, woke up and started getting ready to be at the club by 12:30. And then by 7 Tuesday night, we were having steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris. We learn a little every year, so next year we will have a standing reservation. I was home by like 9 Mardi Gras night, just chilling. I know it all sounds crazy—and it is—but we also know to pad the front of it with rest, pad the back of it with rest, so it’s manageable.
I always thought the night of Mardi Gras was a big party, but it sounds like you stayed in?
Correct. Mardi Gras night, literally by midnight they’re on horses and coming down Bourbon Street, and they say Mardi Gras is over, Bourbon Street is closed, please exit. It’s the only time of the year where they close anything in New Orleans. I mean, places close, but if a place wants to be a 24-hour establishment, it totally could do that. Most places close just because business dies off at 4 AM, but most places stay open until at least 4 AM. Music doesn’t always go until 4 AM, but different places make their own decisions. But legally, you could be a 24-hour establishment if you wanted to. So the big event is Mardi Gras day. My wife doesn’t always come Monday night because she wants to rest for Mardi Gras day. So, some people want to party Monday night but not everybody does. But we get this crowd that wants to party.
That’s called Lundi Gras?
Yeah, Lundi Gras. It means “Monday,” or “Fat Monday.” It’s not a technical thing, people just call it that. It’s really Fat Tuesday, “Mardi” being “Tuesday,” “Gras” being “fat.” And Lundi Gras is the night before. We’ve been doing the Lundi Gras show I think since 1999.
Lundi Gras seems kind of under the radar for folks outside of New Orleans. Do you think it’s getting more popular?
It might be under the radar to the general public. But what we notice is we get a big crowd of younger people. We get more young people at that show than most of our other shows. We think it’s because when kids come to Tulane, when they get to campus it’s become this thing where they say, “Okay, what you’ve got to do for Mardi Gras is you’ve got to go see Galactic at Tipitina’s Lundi Gras night.” So it’s become this, I don’t want to say legendary, but it’s become this show that a lot of people know about and look forward to it. It sells out every year and it’s packed. Of course, some of the people trail off the later it gets—we’re playing until 6:15, ya know? We look at when the sun’s coming up and we plan it so we end then. And it’s not all young people. As our crowd gets older, they can’t all hang and stay out that late, so it’s good that we keep getting this influx, this rejuvenation of young people coming out.
Does that change the show for the band at all? When it’s a younger crowd, and you’re playing until 6 in the morning? How is this a different experience from a tour or a different one-off gig?
Well, we do add in extra tunes. We played Friday, Saturday night, those were more like our A set, B set on the road, two different sets. When we do two nights in a row, we don’t want to play the same exact tunes, so we change up the set a little bit. We do have a few tunes that repeat, especially some of the new stuff, off the new record, but we wanted to make the two sets different. So, for Friday and Saturday night, we did the A set, B set, but then for Monday night, we rehearsed and worked out a bunch of tunes, some of our tunes we haven’t played in a while, some of the tunes we’ve kind of pushed on the back burner because we have the new record, some cover tunes we haven’t played in a bit, some Mardi Gras tunes. We rehearsed all those on Thursday so the third night we could still not repeat too much but have three full sets.
Usually one of our gigs is hour and a half set plus encore. For Lundi Gras, we have an hour and a half set, then a 30 minute break, then an hour and a half set, then a 30 minute break, then like a power set. So there’s a lot more tunes but also trying not to repeat too much. It’s not necessarily like one of our other gigs, because we add in a lot of other things. That makes it fun too, because then we’re just having a good time playing a bunch of stuff that we just don’t always play all the time and playing some Mardi Gras tunes.
Galactic is a band that can stretch out, so I can see people appreciating that.
Oh yeah, absolutely. And we normally tour with a two-piece horn section—Ben Elman, and we usually have Samar Allen on trumpet. And for years we had Corey Henry on trombone, so we brought in Corey so we could stretch out and play extended solos.
Tell me about this new album, Already Ready Already. It’s on a new label. What’s the vibe of this, your 10th album with Galactic? What stands out for you?
We just continue to try to get stronger, songwriting-wise. With this record, I think some of the songs are the strongest we’ve done. Like “Touch, Get Cut,” with Erika Falls, and “Goin Straight Crazy” and “Dance At My Funeral.” But we don’t want to lose the artistic direction of the band that a lot of people have come to dig, some of the more instrumental stuff. With this record, what’s interesting is that the instrumentals are a little looser and the vocals are a little tighter. So, hopefully that’ll give fans who dig both aspects of the band something to sink their teeth into. We’ve been pretty happy with the response so far. We’ve been doing this for almost 25 years now, so we don’t want to make the same record. We want to make it different each time.
What does it mean to you to have Galactic own Tipitina’s now? Was Mardi Gras everything you thought it would be?
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s starting to sink in. At first it was really surreal. Now, when I go in there—I like to get in there a little early before we play, checking to see that everybody’s doing okay, touching base with some of the bartenders, some of the staff—I would say it’s a different perspective. It’s funny, people have been teasing us in different ways, saying, “Oh, in a couple of months you’re going to be walking around here in a white tuxedo coat like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.” I don’t know if I’ll go that far. But we started to realize, Wow, this is our place.
We’ve made a point of saying that we don’t want to feel like we own this place. Really, the way we’re looking at it, is that we’re just lucky enough to be the caretakers, the stewards of this amazing legacy, this amazing cultural icon. We really want to do it justice and just give staff and the place the resources it needs to be the best version of itself that it can possibly be. It’s already an amazing place, and we’ve all been quoted many, many times, in lots of interviews, that this is our favorite place to play. Previous ownership hasn’t necessarily given it all the resources that it can have to be the best version of itself that it can be, so we want to try and do that.
Our main mantra is, “don’t eff it up.” We don’t plan on necessarily renovating the stage, but we’ve already painted the dressing rooms, painted the restrooms, replaced the couches. But the space, we want to keep it funky. We’re planning on putting in new commercial grade toilets, a box office outside. I’ve gotten a whole new Gretsch backline kit that everybody’s digging on. We have a new PA in there, all since we closed on November 30. We can’t do everything overnight, we still have to run a business and make sure we don’t overextend ourselves. But we’re doing what we can as we can, you know?
Every day we have group texts, group emails, conference calls, so it’s definitely like a new job. None of us are going to be ordering the bar or booking the bands, but we’re all overseeing everything, just listening to our staff—the people who’ve been doing this for years. We have ideas, we might come up with an idea and they’re like, Hmm, yeah, we tried something like that and it didn’t work for these reasons. We’re just trying to listen to everybody and not come in there like, “We’re going to do it our way now.” We don’t profess to know anything about running the bar or running a music club.
I don’t think we would have bought any other place. It’s not like we were looking to buy a music venue. We realized that we might have a snowball’s chance in hell to buy this from the previous owner, so we started talking about it and some of the guys were like, Do we really want to do this? And I was like, guys, think about it: In 20 years, are we going to be glad that we did this? Or are we going to regret the fact that we could have done that? I said, look, I don’t want to sound corny, but about 25 years ago we all decided to take a risk, and get in a van together—it was my parents’ 1978 Ford Econoline van—we bought that van and took a risk. And I said, I think we’re all pretty glad we took that risk. I said, now, this is a risk that we’re going to have to take. But the question we’re going to have to ask ourselves is, is it a risk worth taking? And after about 15 seconds of silence—we’re all around a round table—Rich Vogel, one of the most skeptical ones, our keyboard player, says, “Well gentlemen, I guess we’re buying Tipitina’s.”
Well, that’s the time when you’re going to say something. And 15 seconds of silence is all it took.
Yeah. And I’m like, could it go belly up and blow up in our faces? Sure. But at this point we’ve already been looking at the financials, and we already knew that even with the previous ownership asleep at the wheel, it was still making a profit. And we were like, man, come on: Five guys who, this is their favorite place, previous ownership was not a music guy, not a club guy—he just kind of wound up with it, let’s just say that. So, for us, this is our favorite place in the world. So if we just give a shit a little bit, it’s gotta be alright.
So are you now the official house band?
Yeah, I think it’s official [laughs].