In 2012, the Lost Bayou Ramblers released an album so remarkably fresh and distinctive that it retooled tradition. Mammoth Waltz took a cherished musical heritage and amped it up to a whole new level. The record not only featured appearances by Dr. John, Nora Arnezeder, Gordon Gano, and Scarlett Johansson, but it also employed an exhilarating infusion of hammering drums and driving electric guitar. Cajun music will never be the same! This extraordinary new sound, which somehow remained both unquestionably loyal to its heritage and absolutely relevant to current music’s sounds and rhythms, earned the band the admiration of Arcade Fire and eventually led to Lost Bayou Ramblers being a requested opener for Arcade Fire’s Reflektor tour.
Examiner recently spoke with Lost Bayou Ramblers’ founding member, Louis Michot (fiddle and vocals), about the journey to the stage with Arcade Fire.
Examiner: You started out playing traditional Cajun music. How did something like Mammoth Waltz come about?
Louis Michot: My brother (Andre) and I were raised in a family band called Les Freres Michot (The Michot Brothers), and from an early age, we played accordion and fiddle. When I was about 18 and he was about 20, we started our own band called Lost Bayou Ramblers, so you could say that we’re kind of the next generation of The Michot Brothers. We started out as a very traditional band playing the really nasty, gritty, raw Cajun music that we loved — at the time it was kind of trendy to play a clean, traditional music, but we were doing the really nasty, raw stuff. Over the next 15 years, we continually blended our influences of growing up in the 80s and 90s in America with growing up in South Louisiana and being the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Eventually, it all came together and that’s where Mammoth Waltz came from.
Examiner: The drums and guitar seem to be the key instruments you use to pull the music into a contemporary setting.
Louis: Definitely, I think you’re exactly right. The accordion and the fiddle are the essence of what Cajun music is. Andre and I play in the style that’s super old school where we’re almost playing exactly together — we’re not in a solo mentality, it’s more of a communal music. Though guitar and drums are the typical rhythm section to Cajun music, for Mammoth Waltz, I wrote a lot of the drum parts with a very progressive feel. So, there is this very modern rock sound of the guitar and drums mixed with this super, beyond old school approach on the accordion and fiddle.
Examiner: How did opening for Arcade Fire come about?
Louis: It actually goes back to our producer, Korey Richey. We met him while we were doing Vermilionaire at Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana. He had just finished doing Givers’ In Light — they are some of our old friends from Lafayette — and we got him to produce Mammoth Waltz. Korey was really the key to making that album what it is. He joined the band in 2011 and right when we were about to tour Mammoth Waltz, he got a call from Arcade Fire to go engineer their new album, Reflektor. We encouraged him to leave the band — I don’t think there was even a question. We ended up getting a gig at the Montreal Jazz Festival last year, and he was there with Arcade Fire, working on their album. He told them he was going to play bass with us at the festival and the whole Arcade Fire band came up and was in the front row watching us play. They loved it and so they got us to open for them at these two upcoming shows in Texas [4/9 & 4/10].
Examiner: What is it that makes you stand out from the average Cajun band?
Louis: Well, the thing that separates us from a normal Cajun band is . . . everything. But we are still a Cajun band. As far as our shows go, we have a very dynamic live show that goes through a lot of different rhythms and feels, it’s not just all two-steps all the time. We are inspired by bands such as Arcade Fire, and we want people to really appreciate our music for what it is, not because of what genre it falls under.
Examiner: Is there anything important to you that you’d like to bring up?
Louis: When we were up in Montreal, Arcade Fire actually let us record for a couple of days in their personal studio, so we recorded a couple of new tunes that we’re going to debut at these shows. It’s going to be great for us, it’s the perfect opportunity to debut this material. We’re going to finally have some new material coming out that’s going to be on our upcoming album.
Examiner: Do you have any idea of when that new album will be coming out?
Louis: It has no target date whatsoever (laughing)! We make music because we love it. We’re really taking our time and making sure it’s exactly what we want, so we’ll be working on it until it’s ready.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers are: Louis Michot on fiddle and vocals, Andre Michot on accordion and lapsteel, Pauly Deathwish on drums and vocals, and Cavan Carruth on guitar and vocals. For more information, visit: lostbayouramblers.com.