Galactic's Robert Mercurio on Carnivale Electricos

It wasn't a serendipitous event that New Orleans-based funk combo Galactic released its eight studio release, Carnivale Electricos, last week on Tuesday, February 21 (you know, Fat Tuesday).

Galactic's blend of hip-hop, marching jazz, and Meters-style funk endears it to the jam band crowd, but Carnivale is a straight ahead, direct, and funky excursion into the Big Easy's signature sounds (emphasis on the bounce). (Widespread Panic allegiance most definitely not required.)

We didn't get Galactic on Mardi Gras (like we get Flogging Molly on St. Paddy's), but we do get to hear them on Friday, April 13, when they take the stage at McDowell Mountain Music Festival. To get ready for the Treme-starring group, spin the new record, and read on for our conversation with bassist Robert Mercurio about the new record and New Orleans favorite daughter, Big Freedia.

Galactic is scheduled to perform at Friday, April 13, at The Compound Grill.

Up on the Sun: You guys picked a good time of year to release Carnivale Electricos, as I imagine was no accident.

Robert Mercurio: Yeah, it was definitely no accident. Actually it was the first time we've ever had a hard deadline to have an album done. It was like, "We've got to get his album done," otherwise this potential would be lost. No one wanted to say, here's the new record, a month after Mardi Gras. [laughs] So it was different for us, because usually our albums are just done when they're done. But this one had to be done on October 15, or we were going to be in big trouble.

So how did that alter the creative process?

You know, I think it was actually kind of good in a way, because it put pressure, and made us get in overdrive with anything. It's like a painting, you can always do a little bit more to it if you have a little bit more time. I think having a deadline was good. Listening back, there's stuff I would change or do differently, but sometimes you've got to give up and let it be done.

It sounds like a very direct record. You really made a straight party album.

Another way I could say it is that we didn't have time to over think it, which I think we did with our previous album, Ya-Ka-May. I think the label was like, "Whenever it's done, it's done. Do whatever you think." We ended up with 10 different versions of some of the songs on that album, because we just said "Let's start it over, let's do something different with it." It's kind of nice to go with an idea and just finish it. That was the idea, keep it driving, and because it's a Carnivale/Mardi Gras album, we wanted everything to have an upbeat feel.

There are no sprawling, long songs. It's very foot on the pedal.

We wanted it to be the sort of thing you'd play at a party. We didn't want to many lulling moments. Keep it moving, keep it tight.

"Ash Wednesday Sunrise," is kind of the album's mellowest moment, and it starts of quiet, then gets pretty rowdy.

We wanted to conjure the idea and the feelings you have on Ash Wednesday. You know, you feel this calmness...but then you have these sudden moments of "whoa," kind of reliving what you just had happen. So it's a duality with those feelings and we wanted to get that across.

"Magelana" really has a lot of bounce influence.

It's cool to hear that. Ya-Ka-May we collaborated with a lot of bounce artists [Big Freedia, Cheeky Blakk, Katey Red, Sibby Nobby). But yeah, we live in New Orleans, and we hear that music a lot. It's our kind of hip-hop, our indigenous stuff. It's what we hear on the streets, in the bars, that kind of stuff. It just worked its way into our souls over the years.

You've got East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South...but bounce is so unique and singular sounding. I know a lot of folks who dig your band are into more traditional stuff, and that stuff probably surprises them.

I'm sure that there are people who are into us who don't have any idea what bounce is. It's something that hasn't really made it outside of the region.

It's starting to break through. The stories I heard about Freedia's show here in Phoenix were bonkers

[Freedia] is something else. She's so happening. It just gets you moving. I was kind of turned off from it when I first moved to New Orleans in the '90s. I don't know if it's just worn me down or what, but now I love it.

Galactic is scheduled to perform at Friday, April 13, at The Compound Grill.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.

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