Michot’s Melody Makers is a band on fire. That passion, energy and innovation drive Blood Moon, the band’s recording debut.
The Melody Makers are Louis Michot, the singing, fiddling co-founder of the Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers; two other Ramblers, bassist Bryan Webre and drummer Kirkland Middleton; and guitarist Mark Bingham. Together, the modern Cajun quartet gives the traditional music of Acadiana a pulsating new twist.
“We made a lot of choices about which direction to go,” Michot said recently on the back porch at Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville. “It’s been a lot of experimenting and musicians following me on the spot. We synthesized old French tunes to our rhythms.”
Michot’s Melody Makers evolved from Les Brasseurs, which translates to the Brewers. The group played its first gig in 2015 at the Pine Box Rock Shop in Brooklyn, New York. Michot envisioned the Melody Makers as a band with simpler instrumentation that could fit in venues of any size..
“Because the Ramblers’ sound is so massive, it’s hard for us to play a small club,” he said. “The Melody Makers is me being able to play any time and any place I want. I can bring whoever’s available and just have fun with it.”
The Melody Makers planned to record their debut album during a July residency at the Saturn Bar in New Orleans. The process began with making a huge list of songs. Michot liked the band’s initial Saturn Bar recordings, but then decided to continue recording and see what happened. “The whole thing about playing the Saturn Bar is we gave ourselves the space to explore as much as possible within the structures of the songs,” he said.
For Michot, the Melody Makers’ Saturn Bar sets were also his attempt to connect Cajun music’s past and present. “A lot of the songs I play are super old songs that didn’t become standards. So, this was a chance for us to figure out what the original performers of these songs, a hundred years ago, had in mind. They had an unspoken communication and ability, almost on a different level than the way we play music today.”
A promotional appearance on WWOZ that Michot made for the Saturn Bar residency caught the attention of Sinking City Records. The local label expressed interest in releasing a Michot’s Melody Makers album, either recorded on a show or in a studio.
Circumstances aligned at the end of July. Dockside Studio was available and Lost Bayou Ramblers’ New York–based producer Korey Richey, a former Rambler whose studio credits include Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem, was in Louisiana.
Michot and Lost Bayou Ramblers have a long history with Dockside, the Acadiana studio where the Ramblers recorded their albums Vermilionaire, Mammoth Waltz and last year’s Grammy-winning Kalenda. “Dockside is where the magic is,” Michot said. “So, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Richey, the Melody Makers and guest musicians recorded Blood Moon in thirty-six hours on July 28 and July 29. “Korey put the limit on us,” Michot said. “No overdubs once we left the studio. We worked our butts off. We used all that creative energy from the Saturn Bar and put it into Dockside in one short window. I love immediacy.”
Michot’s Melody Makers has gigs booked through January, including the group’s Monday night residency in October at d.b.a. Lost Bayou Ramblers are also scheduled to record two film scores during the final months of the year.
Ironically, the Ramblers announced they’d take a hiatus in 2018. “My brother, Andre, and I talked about it more than a year ago,” Michot said. “We felt that we’d just been pushing and pushing and pushing. We were like, ‘You know what? It’s probably a good time for a hiatus.’ Because the artist’s lifestyle, as everyone knows, is not a simple or an easy way to make a living. But you do it because you love it. We’d been doing it for almost 20 years.”
The Ramblers timed the hiatus to summer 2018. But then, in November 2017, Kalenda received a Grammy nomination. When the nomination subsequently yielded a Grammy win, the Ramblers delayed their hiatus until fall 2018.
Although winning a Grammy has never been a goal for Lost Bayou Ramblers, Michot said, “it has been exciting that we won. So many people expressed so much love and happiness and joy for us. And it’s still going on. But we are definitely ready to take a break. Just because it’s something that we’ve never tried. We had not stopped since the day we started.”
With a few exceptions, including an October 25 appearance at Sony Hall in New York City, Lost Bayou Ramblers won’t be performing in the near future. Individual Ramblers, however, will stay busy with their various musical activities. “Really, it’s a break from touring,” Michot explained. “I think it’ll be really good for the creative process. And we’ll all be playing plenty of music during the hiatus, just not with the Ramblers.”
Michot’s Melody Makers plays Mondays in October at d.b.a.