Named after the beloved Professor Longhair song, Tipitina's is a famous club that the New Orleans band Galactic has frequented for over 25 years. Now, the longstanding funk band out with its 10th album, Already Ready Already, owns the place.
"I can remember numerous times in numerous interviews where every member of the band has been quoted as saying that it was our favorite place to play," drummer Stanton Moore says about Tipitina's. "It is our musical home away from home, so it's been in the back of our minds for maybe 20 years where it's been a pipe dream."
After two years of talking with the owners and seven months of negotiation, Galactic finally made that pipe dream come true. All the while, a 10th album was in the works, including a track titled "Touch, Get Cut" featuring New Orleans neo-soul singer Erica Falls. Saxophonist Ben Ellman explains that the title 'Touch, Get Cut" is what Falls would always write on her leftover food that she would leave on the bus "to make sure that nobody would eat it."
"It just felt like an appropriate title for a song featuring her," Moore says. "And to use her words, she is intentionally referencing the Me Too movement ... so it had a whimsical beginning, but much more serious lyrical content."
For Mardi Gras, Galactic will be continuing its nearly two decade-long tradition of playing at Tipitina's all night the Monday night before Fat Tuesday. They call it 'Lundi Gras.'
"Now that we have Tipitina's, people ask me 'What goes through your mind?' I say 'Well, play every gig like you own the place.'" Moore says. "But you know, you don't want to be cocky. You just want to play with confidence and joy."
Already Ready Already is out now via Tchoup-zilla Records. Band members Ellman and Moore spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about Tipitina's, concepts behind Galactic's latest album more. Hear their conversation at the audio link.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The music of New Orleans is a gumbo of traditions.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIPITINA")
PROFESSOR LONGHAIR: (Singing) Tipitina tra la la la.
SIMON: Think of the 1950s - this tune by Professor Longhair, a song so beloved, they even named a famous music club Tipitina's. Now fast forward to 2019 - this new album by the New Orleans band Galactic.
(SOUNDBITE OF GALACTIC'S "ALREADY")
SIMON: These two songs may seem - in fact, they are - wildly different. But there is a connection. Band members of Galactic now own Tipitina's, the legendary club on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. We're joined now from the studios of WWNO in New Orleans. Galactic Stanton Moore, thanks for being with us.
STANTON MOORE: Yes, indeed.
SIMON: And Ben Ellman, thank you for being with us.
BEN ELLMAN: Thanks for having us.
SIMON: So you guys have been playing gigs at Tipitina's for 25 years. What made you decide to buy the place? (Laughter) Wait - did you...
SIMON: Was your bar tab that huge?
MOORE: Yeah, right. I mean, that's a good question. Well, to be honest, I can remember numerous times in numerous interviews where every member of the band has been quoted as saying that it was our favorite place to play. It is our musical home away from home. So it's been in the back of our minds for maybe 20 years where it's been a pipe dream. And then for 10 years, we've kind of been kidding ourselves, like oh, well, you know, when we own Tip's. And then for the last two years, we've been talking to the previous owner. And it was a seven-month negotiation process. So here we are.
SIMON: So you going to raze it and turn it into a parking lot?
SIMON: (Laughter) Oh, my word. Well, what changes do you plan to make or no changes whatsoever? What are you going to preserve?
MOORE: Yeah. Some of the changes that we have done so far is repainting the dressing rooms, changing out the couches. We've already put in a new sound system, trying to have the new commercial-grade toilets in by Jazz Fest.
ELLMAN: Very important.
MOORE: You know, so we are doing what we can as we go.
SIMON: So keep the feeling. Just put in nicer bathrooms.
MOORE: Yes, exactly.
SIMON: Let's talk about music now. We're going to turn to your new album. "Already Ready Already" is your 10th record. A track now that has Erica Falls singing "Touch Get Cut."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUCH GET CUT")
ERICA FALLS: (Singing) Backwater woman, roux thick in my veins. Hoodoo mama hit you like a hurricane. Hummingbird rests on Melpomene. Touch me, mister, and I show you who I be. Touch, touch, get cut. Yeah. Back off me, daddy, leave a girl alone.
ELLMAN: Erica is one of the greatest singers out of the city of New Orleans who's been with us for a few years now. And I'll tell you actually about the title. Touch, get cut is what she would always write on her leftover food that she would leave on the bus to...
ELLMAN: ...Make sure that nobody would eat it. And she would always write touch, get cut. So it just felt like an appropriate title for our song featuring her.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUCH GET CUT")
FALLS: (Singing) Never invite yourself, my mama said. Grown woman here, boys, back away. Touch, touch, get cut. Hey...
MOORE: It's become like a tagline for her. And then she started writing these lyrics and made it slightly different subject matter but...
SIMON: All right. Well, I'm glad you say that because I was on the verge of being disappointed because I thought this was all metaphorical, a larger theme about the oppression of women in the world today. I didn't think it was about leaving a snack on a tour...
SIMON: ...Bus (laughter).
MOORE: Right. Right. And to use her words, she intentionally is referencing the #MeToo movement. But your original title came from that. So it had a whimsical beginning but much more serious lyrical content as we developed the song, as she developed the lyrics.
(SOUNDBITE OF GALACTIC AND ERICA FALLS SONG, "TOUCH GET CUT")
SIMON: Stanton Moore, of course, you play the drums, Ben Ellman the sax and harmonica. You folks have been together for a long time, haven't you?
MOORE: Too long.
MOORE: No. Ben and I actually - Ben is one of my best friends. And we've been together since before Galactic. We started touring together in 1994 with The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars. So we've - Ben and I have been on the road together for 25 years.
SIMON: So when it comes to actually running Tipitina's, which one of you is going to bus the dishes? Which one of you is going to wash them? What do you have in mind?
MOORE: We'll draw straws.
ELLMAN: It'll probably be me because I was the past cook in that place. So I'd probably get tasked with the dishes.
SIMON: You were a cook at Tipitina's?
ELLMAN: I was the fry cook there in the early '90s.
SIMON: So you - I mean, you could be called into service again, right?
SIMON: Somebody calls in sick.
ELLMAN: Yeah. Luckily, the kitchen is now gone. So I don't think that's going to happen.
(SOUNDBITE OF GALACTIC'S "READY ALREADY")
SIMON: I noticed, Stanton Moore, you told a reporter recently - I love this quote - that you should play your gig like it's your own wedding.
MOORE: Yes. And I used to say try to play every gig like it's your last. Or try to play every gig like it's the only gig that's being recorded and filmed. And this is the only record. And then I started to realize that's a - that's putting a lot of pressure on yourself. So then I started kind of rethinking that. And then I got married October 13. And I had Shannon Powell on drums. So they got me up to play a couple tunes. I think I played, like, maybe three tunes. And I had so much fun. It was such a blast. So I started saying, you know, play every gig like it's your wedding because it was so much fun for me. And now that we have Tipitina's, people ask me, what goes through your mind? I say, well, play every gig like you own the place. And now with Tip's, we do. But, you know, you don't want to be cocky. You just want to play with confidence and joy.
(SOUNDBITE OF GALACTIC'S "READY ALREADY")
SIMON: We took a look at your tour schedule. You're not playing on Mardi Gras.
MOORE: Well, no.
ELLMAN: But we play Lundi Gras, which is the Monday before Fat Tuesday. And we've been doing that for almost 20 years now...
ELLMAN: ...At Tipitina's.
MOORE: We usually play till about 6:30 in the morning when the sun comes up. So really, we - you know, we do play Mardi Gras morning, just really early (laughter).
SIMON: It's a breakfast show.
SIMON: Stanton Moore and Ben Ellman from Galactic. Their new album is Already - I can barely say it. The new album "Already Ready Already" - wait.
SIMON: "Already Ready Already." Why don't you do it?
ELLMAN: It's "Already Ready Already."
SIMON: OK. Thank you. And the new owners of Tipitina's. Thanks so much.
ELLMAN: Thank you for having us.
MOORE: Thank you for having us.
(SOUNDBITE OF GALACTIC'S "GOOSE GREASE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.