Band: Sweet Crude
Date: Friday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $8 at the door
The discovery of sweet crude oil helped propel Louisiana onto the world stage in many respects. The discovery helped generate needed revenue for the state. Crude oil also spurred the creation of roads and canals throughout Louisiana. It also helped spread the Louisiana culture throughout the world, introducing people to terms such as “Cajun” and “zydeco.” The oil industry also played a role in bringing more of America’s culture into areas in Louisiana that still clung tightly to their French traditions. Big oil also tore through Louisiana’s wetlands in its search for more of this valuable natural resource.
Vocalist/violinist Sam Craft uses this analogy to explain the concept behind the New Orleans band Sweet Crude. The SouthSounds Music Festival can be credited with introducing Mobile to the band, which refuses to be grouped into a specific genre. According to Craft, its sound mixes old and new as well as clean and dirty, much like the history of the oil industry in Louisiana. Sweet Crude’s sound also follows the city’s tradition of holding onto “all of the ancient customs that people can’t or don’t understand.”
Sweet Crude’s sound could be considered modern indie power pop, but this ensemble of young New Orleans musicians maintains a passion for the sounds of their home city. Craft and his band mates create a canvas of “successful pop music” and cover it with the aural paint of traditional New Orleans music. This unique mix of sounds also leads Craft to admit the band’s music appeals most to those open to new sonic experiences, and festivals such as Mobile’s SouthSounds and Birmingham’s Secret Stages are key to developing its fan base.
“We rely heavily on people with open-minded ears,” Craft said. “What we do is unconventional. We [sing in] half English and half French. … Our music is not atonal or arrhythmic or anything like that.”
According to Craft, Sweet Crude’s sound started as an experiment in musical elements he considers “primeval” and “primordial.” The members sought to create a “visceral” power pop sound that concentrated on percussion and human voices. However, the group also wanted to give listeners a little lagniappe by incorporating elements of Louisiana culture. Sweet Crude’s first step was to incorporate the Louisiana French language into its lyrics. The next step was simple experimentation. The band began crafting catchy, fun, indie pop songs. Along the way, influences from zydeco and Mardi Gras brass bands were incorporated. Eventually, Sweet Crude arrived at its indie pop second-line sound with the strong New Orleans vibe the band loves.
“We’ve all culled from a whole lot of influences, but we definitely wave the flags of Louisiana and New Orleans, especially,” Craft said. “We’re deeply moved by the music of the Mardi Gras Indians and the brass bands. We wanted to create an indie pop version of that. It was natural. We all feel the same energy and importance of how that music is.”
The New Orleans music scene is a vast and challenging environment filled with a variety of bands. Sweet Crude’s evolutionary sound might be considered blasphemy to some purist fans of brass and zydeco sounds. In the past, some traditional zydeco players have criticized bands such as the Lost Bayou Ramblers for their mix of rock and zydeco. Craft has been pleased with the acceptance Sweet Crude’s music has gained in the contemporary New Orleans music scene, but confesses the band is wary of performing its music at festivals featuring strictly traditional Louisiana music.
“We assume if we ever play a Cajun or zydeco festival they would crucify us, because we’re not playing two-step or waltzes or anything that people are used to dancing to at those Cajun things, but we often get lumped into it,” Craft said. “That’s fine and an honor, but we’ve been surprised at how well it’s been received.”
So far, Sweet Crude’s best means of distributing its music has been the Internet. Using sites such as Bandcamp, the group released singles such as “One in the Hand” and “Hornet’s Nest,” which are included on the 2013 five-song EP, “Super Vilaine.” Since then, the band has been too busy touring to return to the studio to create a full-length follow-up, but that’s about to change.
Last year the band began laying down tracks for its next release at Marigny Studios in the Fauborg Marigny. For the mix-down, the band moved the creation process to Uptown New Orleans to what Craft describes as “a beautiful spot” called Parlor Recording Studios. The new release should be completed by the end of the summer. Sweet Crude then will being publicizing it through singles and companion videos. The band has also attracted the attention of a booking agency which recognizes its infectious sound. The public can expect to sample music from this new album in the near future.
“We’re going to be posting new content and new tracks and leaking this and that,” Craft said. “We’re super excited about it, and people have been asking about it. So we’re releasing some singles before the end of the year.”
When Sweet Crude returns to Callaghan’s, Craft says, the band plans to “leave it all on the stage.” The crowd can expect a dance party that should keep them on their feet for the entire set. Craft says the band tends to get just as enthralled with its music as the crowds do. The bond shared between the members of Sweet Crude as well as their love for the music should make for an evening of captivating music under the oaks of the Oakleigh Garden District.