Unlike his elders in the Pogues, the most popular Irish trad-punk band in the world, Spider Stacy still wants to make music at a high level. A New Orleans resident for the past five years, Stacy has recently begun working with top-shelf Louisiana Cajun roots band Lost Bayou Ramblers. This interesting collaboration, which so far has played exactly one gig, rolls into the Continental Club Friday night as part of the first “Poguetry” tour.
Stacy saw the Ramblers in New Orleans in 2010 and loved the band. But it was at a second show early this year that he approached them about a collaboration.
“I saw them and thought, ‘now that’s a real band,'” Stacy says. “They were so tight and so into what they do, and I loved the wildness, the sort of ecstasy, the sense of total abandon they play with. I’d been pondering about how to go forward musically and I knew I really wanted to work with a band rather than start from scratch and try to find people who were compatible, who could work as a unit. The Ramblers are already a proven unit. I was just thrilled when they agreed to take this on.”
Ramblers leader Louis Michot recalls meeting Stacy at the 2010 gig.
“We were getting ready to go on and someone says ‘one of the Pogues is here,’ and I just thought ‘that’s cool,’ you know, ‘nice to meet you,’” he recalls. “But we were blown away when he proposed that we work together.
“But I can already tell after just a few rehearsals and the one gig we’ve done that this is going to be a lot of fun,” continues Michot. “The beauty of it is that Spider wants to be part of a band; he doesn’t want to be backed up by a band. And he’s a player. His tin-whistle playing and his singing just fit right in with us. And he loves to blast along with us on our tunes. We’re all really excited to see where this can go.”
The death of Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron in October 2013, brought the band, who had been touring annually for some years since regrouping, to a standstill. Further complicating their future was a recent accident involving front man Shane McGowan, which resulted in a broken pelvis.
“It’s not as bad as it could’ve been,” says Stacy, “but it’s still put Shane out of action for the foreseeable future. I’m not ruling out that the Pogues will ever tour again, but right now it seems pretty unlikely, which is another reason I decided to jump into this project with the Ramblers.”
According to Michot, the ensemble currently has a little over a dozen songs worked up, but Stacy is keeping the set list quiet for now.
“All I’ll say about which songs we’re playing is that it will be a comprehensive representation of the Pogues’ material,” says Stacy. “But we’ll also be playing a few of the Ramblers’ tunes.”
Stacy was drawn to the Ramblers for their similarities with the Pogues.
“Both bands start at their true roots, which for us was traditional Irish music that we at times seasoned with the punk attitude of the time,” he notes. “The Ramblers are deeply grounded in the Cajun music traditions, and while the two idioms have their differences and peculiarities, at the end of the day they are very similar.”
“I find we have very interesting parallels with the Pogues,” agrees Michot. “We weren’t necessarily big Pogues fans who knew every song and every word. But we immediately got that both bands had certain similarities in attitude and approach. We play Cajun music, but we play it the way we want to hear it rather than replicating the sounds that have been here for a hundred years. Like the Pogues, we want our ties to old tried and true stuff to be obvious, but we want to do it in our style and attitude. I think they were the same way.”
Even with Christmas approaching, one song we aren’t likely to hear is the Pogues’ bawdy seasonal masterpiece, “Fairytale of New York.” Stacy notes the song has taken on a life of its own.
“That isn’t really a Pogues song anymore,” he laughs. “It’s become something much more universal, sort of like something that’s in the public domain now. In the UK, you hear that song everywhere during the holiday season. You’ll be watching a soap opera and they’ll be having a Christmas party scene and the song is on in the background. It’s blaring out of shops, it’s everywhere. It’s become an institution in its own right. It’s now the peoples’ song.”
While this three-day run —- they’ll play Lafayette, Louisiana Thursday night and Austin's Continental Club Saturday – will be the collaboration’s first tour, Stacy believes it has a strong chance of becoming a semi-permanent project for him.
“Obviously they have their own gigs and commitments, but so far we seem to really be in to the whole idea of what we’re undertaking, and our goal now is to really tighten it up and make it a strong show,” he says. “And I think it’s been very stimulating for all of us as well. Playing with them gives me a fresh perspective on some of the songs, which is always good since the Pogues go back over 30 years. And I have to tell you, for me to be able to just jump in and be one of the players on their tunes is a real blast.”
Stacy and Michot both agree it’s too early to think of recording yet.
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“This little run will let us work some kinks out, see what we’re really working with,” says Michot after a fruitless afternoon of fishing. “For now we’re just working our usual circuit of venues, but if this goes like we hope we may have to look to some help from outside. As far as doing a record, that’s certainly possible but that’s not where the focus is right now.”
Stacy seems doubtful that his old band will tour or record again.
“It’s not that everyone’s getting older or that we’re in bad shape, but you reach a point where it takes a lot of effort to all get on the same page and organize a tour,” he admits. “And then there’s the grueling physical and mental part of touring that can get to you. So I think the overall attitude right now is why and what would be the point? But that could change — who knows?”
Spider Stacy and the Lost Bayou Ramblers perform Friday, December 4 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Doors open at 9 p.m.