Not all bands from Louisiana have ties to New Orleans. Sure, the Big Easy comes to mind when the music of the Pelican State is mentioned, thanks in part to epic musicians like Kermit Ruffins or Dr. John. Get yourself outside of N’awlins, though, and into other parts of the state, and you’ll find yourself submerged in a more obscure scene, one loaded with players who are putting together music laced with their own culture and history.
The Revelers are one of them. The band represents southwest Louisiana without playing into the New Orleans schtick, and manage to deliver Cajun music in its purest form, without the shiny allure of beads, floats and Bourbon Street.
“When we say we’re a band from Louisiana, people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been to New Orleans,’” saxophone player Chris Miller said. “But to our minds, New Orleans couldn’t be further away. It’s a three-hour drive, but culturally it’s different from southwest Louisiana.”
The Revelers were formed around the music of accordion player Blake Miller, a French-Cajun musician whose second language is English.
“We like to call it Louisiana jukebox music. All of these genres – Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop – there aren’t too many distinctions back in Louisiana,” said Miller. “When you walk into a bar and there’s a jukebox, you’re going to hear a variety of music, and we’re drawing on a variety of influences when we write songs and we feature some of our favorite covers… We throw it all in a blender and what comes out is uniquely The Revelers’ sound. Now, there are distinctions between the traditional Cajun and zydeco styles, and we like to demonstrate that for the audiences when we play a concert. But, when it comes to our original music that we’re writing, we’re drawing from a lot of different traditions.”
The Revelers straddle the past and the future, and present a style of music that dates back decades, if not centuries. History is very much a part of the music, but the band still embraces the here and now.
“We’re one band that isn’t afraid of taking the past and dragging it into the future,” said Miller. “Some people are traditionalists. Some people aren’t so concerned about the tradition. We try to keep one foot in both. We love playing traditional music and making sure people know where our music is coming from, but we’re also taking influences from modern music – rock, pop, country. In 2018, in the age of the Internet, everyone is exposed to so much, and to shut that out from your influences wouldn’t be true to ourselves.”
And, when it comes to dance music, The Revelers are ready and willing to provide the soundtrack.
“We cover a lot of genres, and that’s the one limiting factor when we bring a new song to the band – can you dance to it. Would you want to dance to this? I think the result of that is a high energy sound that stirs people physically, and it’s in our DNA. Dancing is important to our humanity, and it’s a little bit sad that we’ve gotten away from that as a society. There are still pockets of it. One of the cool things of southwest Louisiana is that along with the French language and the music, dance is a part of every day life, and young people do go out to a bar and dance to Cajun music. It’s not a folk reenactment. It’s a living tradition,” Miller said.
The Revelers will perform Saturday at Fort Lewis College.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]