It's something that would never happen in New Orleans, swears Galactic front man Theryl deClouet, referring to a recent incident at a gig in Denver.
"These ladies were dancing onstage, and security came to get them," recalls the veteran Crescent City singer with a soft, incredulous laugh. "In New Orleans, people always just drift onstage, because you're giving them joy."
The sextet's spreaders of joy include Stanton Moore (drums), Rich Vogel (keyboards), Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Erik Jekabson (trumpet), and John Ellis (saxophone), plus deClouet, whose soulful lead vocals articulate the band's fervent musical message.
"We give people the vibe. We just try to bring the same feel, a party atmosphere, wherever we go," says deClouet. "We want to move the people. We want people to play into the love."
Devotion to their city is the most palpable love vibe Galactic emits, lushly manifested in the sultry gumbo of styles that is the group's sound. Heavy funk holds sway over ruminative blues and spacey strains of acid jazz. Though acknowledging the band's commitment to serving as musical ambassadors ("We want to expose people to New Orleans, to put culture into the music," he declares), deClouet is equally proud of how hard it is to classify Galactic's sound within the culture that birthed "pure" jazz.
"It's not the straight street beat. [It's] highly disguised," he explains.
Experimental, yes. But with exceedingly intentional results. As deClouet puts it, "We've taken time to put our nuances in, to update it and make it personal."
In the past two years, Galactic has headlined some of New Orleans' hottest venues, including the House of Blues, the Maple Leaf Bar, Tipitina's, Cafe Brasil, Muddy Waters and the Mermaid Lounge. After funking up a crowd of 100 at their very first gig, they bulleted out of obscurity, and have since played with the likes of the Meters, Maceo Parker, Tower of Power, War, Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Walter "Wolfman" Washington.
And some upcoming gigs attest to Galactic's eclectic range: The group will soon share bills with Medeski Martin & Wood, the James Taylor Quartet and LL Cool J.
But their genre-blurring accessibility is no easy accident, maintains deClouet. "This is a business of details," he points out. "We want to be strong, be consistent, have all our energy in one place."
Diffusing the band's feel-good vibe to the masses, says deClouet, relies more on unceasing hard work than it does on divine inspiration. Band members are guided in this work by an exacting standard called the "PPP" (Perfect Performance Principle), whose end product is a seamless melding of purpose and sound.
"So, so tight" is how the singer describes the ultimate results of that close collaboration.
It's still a surprise to the long-established New Orleans singer (who was heading up the soul band Theryl and Reel Life when he met future Galactic members Jeff Raines and Robert Mercurio) that a chance club encounter with the eager young newcomers would lead to such widespread recognition. But, he points out, the chemistry resulted from an effortless formula.
"They're in the learning stage, and I'm a workaholic," he explains. "They're willing to let me school them. Our goals are the same, without being said."
Their success, deClouet believes, is "heaven sent. We hadn't planned on gigging. Sometimes I think I know what it is [that makes the band work]." But mostly not, the singer admits -- not that it matters much. And deClouet isn't shy about pointing out why:
"[People are] suckin' it up with a straw."