Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” aside, singing largely in the Cajun French dialect of Louisiana may not be preferred way to reach out to a national pop audience. But New Orleans-based Sweet Crude is making headway with that. Not that the band sounds like Hank Williams. Or like other acts that use that language, particularly, you know, Cajun bands. With its multiple drums and bouncy rhythms, echoed in colorfully joyful live performances, Sweet Crude is closer to Tune-Yards’ mix of multi-culti rhythms DIY artiness.
Now, before you go all “appropriation!” on the band, several members of Sweet Crude come from Louisiana French lineages. Among them are the three core members, brothers Sam and Jack Craft and Alexis Marceaux. “French is another instrument with us,” says Sam Craft, who shares lead vocals with Marceaux and plays violin and drums. “We go back and forth between French and English. Louisiana French is more percussive, sometimes more mellifluous if we need that.”
This is showcased nicely on pop-drama “Mon Esprit,” from the band’s new “Créatures” EP (The art-house video for the song released this week features Tarriona Ball, aka Tank of Tank and the Bangas, in the cast. The two bands are very much a mutual appreciation society.)
||| Also: See our interview with Tarriona Ball of Tank and the Bangas.
“From a cultural perspective, it’s something we want to do, preserve a special piece of Louisiana that needs to be documented,” Craft says. “We want to do it in an idiom that’s been little explored … taking the language and applying it to the kind of music we’re listening to and want to write.”
That concept evolved naturally over the last decade or so. The Crafts had played in a wide variety of settings and style in New Orleans since their teens, including regular gigs with Susan Cowsill and their own prog-pop band Glasgow with Marceaux. That led to the Sam-and-Marceaux duo Alexis and the Samurai.
“Alexis and I started to leak little Cajun songs into our sets, loyal to the originals but doing our own thing, which is what you should do,” Sam says. “We got great reactions and said, ‘Let’s form a whole band around that concept.’ We liked a percussion-heavy sound, so, ‘Let’s multiply that, more percussion, more people.’ Messing around with French stuff and making it bigger.”
||| Watch: The video for “Mon Esprit”
||| Live: Sweet Crude play tonight at the Hotel Café. Tickets. They also open for Tank and the Bangas on Friday night at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles; it’s a free show.
||| Also: Stream their album in full via Spotify