Louisiana roots band Feufollet has been busy in 2015 with the release of Two Universes, the six-piece band’s first studio record in five years, and several long tours in support of the album. While the band is identified as Cajun, the repertoire ranges from traditional south Louisiana string band tunes to blues, country, and even the occasional old-school rock and roll number. The set list often contains such hard-charging country standards as Mickey Newbury’s “Why You Been Gone So Long,” nods to Chuck Berry and popular local swamp-pop tunes, even Brian Eno‘s “Baby‘s On Fire.” Front man Chris Stafford says the band is razor-sharp after a summer of constant gigging and ready for bigger things.
“When you do something rooted in Cajun music you end up playing where there’s dancing, you play a lot of dance halls,” says Stafford from his Staffland recording studio in Lafayette, “so we decided to try to widen our coverage and get out into some new venues and new towns this year and hopefully find some appreciation from folks who aren’t necessarily Cajun music enthusiasts first.
"I think what we need right now to make it to the next level is to catch a tour opening for someone we're compatible with," Stafford adds. "We're hoping to make that happen, but then a lot of bands are hoping for that same break too."
Stafford notes the band has gone through some adjustments since the departure of original member Anna Laura Edmiston and her replacement by Kelli Jones-Savoy.
“Anna’s mother was French Canadian and her father was a Cajun, so she wrote and sang in French,” he explains. “Kelli is also a songwriter, but she comes at it more from Appalachian folk and from country music, so that is one element of change we’ve undergone with Anna’s leaving the band. Also, Kelli can play just about anything with strings on it, so we have a lot of flexibility vis a vis what we can do with our sound and approach. She definitely lets us make our sound a little more country than it used to be.”
"Tired of Your Tears," the first single from Feufollet's Two Universes.
When Stafford, who plays accordion and guitar and sings, isn’t gigging with Feufollet, he stays busy engineering and producing projects at his studio and also plays in a couple of local ensembles part-time.
“It seems like Fall and winter are my busiest times of the year for studio work,” says Stafford. “A lot of guys work hard gigging during spring and summer and it seems the Fall is when I begin to get busy with recording other people.”
His proudest moment so far has been recently engineering and co-producing an album by nationally known Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.
“He was who we listened to and emulated a lot when we got started,” Stafford laughs, “so you can imagine how blown my mind was when he called and set up the sessions. I could hardly believe it was happening. And we had such a great time in the studio, just a great working vibe with those guys.”
Stafford, who also plays in Cedric Watson’s touring band, has a couple of other local band projects to keep him busy.
“I play in a couple of bands with my buddy Blayze Viator,” Stafford explains. “Blayze is a local singer/songwriter and we have a sort of Sixties-style country band called Blayze and Saddles, and we have a Sixties-style garage rock and roll band called the Viatones. Blayze somehow managed to work his name into both band names. These are both just local bands, sort of neighborhood things, just book a room and play.”
By all accounts from Houston musicians who have been playing in Lafayette recently, the city is going through a renaissance of sorts, with one local old-timer telling us Lafayette feels something like Austin in the 1970s.
Feufollet covering Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire"
“Something is definitely happening in Lafayette right now,” Stafford concurs. “But I think that’s a trend in a lot of medium-sized and small towns. Everywhere I go in South Louisiana it seems like there’s lots of local pride, people concentrating on what is good locally and promoting that, people starting up small businesses or bands, which are just small businesses. Part of that is it’s so easy to get the word out about something new or something going on with the internet. That’s leveled the playing field to some extent. And I just see this independent spirit everywhere. People are cookin’ the food, doin’ the music, dancing, doing their art. It’s a great time to be living down here.”
As for the band’s future, Stafford notes they are already gathering material for another recording and he laughs at the suggestion that five years will elapse before the band records again like the situation prior to the release of Two Universes, the successor to 2010’s Grammy-nominated En Couleurs.
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“We’ve already got some material for the next album,” Stafford admits. “When will we record? I don’t really know yet, but sooner than later would be my guess.”
Meanwhile, according to Stafford, the band’s goal remains the same: push and promote the current album and build on and diversify the audience they already have.
“We’re emphasizing festivals and venues that aren’t necessarily Cajun-centric as far as music," he says. "Cajun will always be our roots, but we like to rock, we like to do some honky tonk and some boogie, we don’t want to be a band that’s pigeon-holed as having just one gear or one sound. We want to broaden our appeal genre-wise, not limit it.”
Feufollet performs at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 25 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main.