"I moved here in 1990 for college," says Galactic guitarist Jeff Raines. "I was interested in P-Funk, the Ohio Players, and then I got down here and saw the Meters. At the time, they were still playing with their original guitar player. They were fucking kick-ass."
It was the Meters who convinced Raines and company that a bit of change was needed. After stripping down from a ten-piece, Parliamentesque funk-rock band to an instrumental sextet, Galactic began recording its first album, 1996's Coolin' Off, and added singer Theryl "The Houseman" DeClouet in the midst of recording.
"We just wanted to change it up a little bit," Raines says of the decision to add the New Orleans native on vocals. "And we found we had a really good rapport with him, so we just sort of went with it."
And while DeClouet has remained a fairly peripheral part of the primarily instrumental group, his soul-inflected vocals helped people to sit up and take notice of the band, which garnered even more attention after a touring schedule that has included more than 200 nights on the road each year.
"We took the touring ethic of a jam band, though I don't think we play rock, like the Grateful Dead and that whole thing," Raines says. Indeed, the fact that Galactic's audience can sometimes be dominated by the neohippie set at first came as a surprise to him. "When we started touring, we were on the heels of the acid-jazz movement, and we were trying to go for that scene. But you play to the audience who wants to hear your music. Besides, to me that crowd is one of the best in the country, because they're very enthusiastic and they'll travel to see the band. So it was a match made in heaven as far as we were concerned."
But life on the road is a pain in the rear at its best and hell on earth at its worst. With the constant touring and plans for a new album coming up, Galactic will be taking a bit of time off this fall.
"We're going to take more time than we ever have before in developing material for this new album," Raines says. "We've stressed the touring side of the business so much that we've not been writing as much new material as we like. Besides, every one year on the road, you age, like, five. That's just my own equation, you know, but that means I'm almost 60."