Friday, May 3,
Fais Do Do Stage, 11:15 a.m.
T’Monde continues to expand its universe. In February, the Cajun trio of accordionist Drew Simon, fiddler Kelli Jones, and guitarist Megan Brown Constantin, played the Chicago Folk Festival for a second time. The band is now wrapping up its third album, which will be released at Balfa Camp, May 5 through10, 2019, where T’Monde will also serve as the host band. Not bad, considering that T’Monde is a side project for both Simon and Jones, whose primary bands are Pine Leaf Boys and Feufollet, respectively.
T’Monde was formed as a vehicle for Simon to play accordion more, something he couldn’t do with Pine Leaf since the accordion chair was held by Wilson Savoy. Simon was already free-lancing on accordion at small gigs, had recognized that trios were a nimble way to go financially, and invited Jones and Constantin to form the band.
Originally they were the Creole Vampires, inspired by the vampire flick Twilight–a comical name that didn’t make sense in the long run. “We are not Creole and we are not vampires,” Simon says. “We started getting gigs for churches and weddings and I don’t think they would want a band called the Creole Vampires.” Since Joel [Savoy] and Jones used to joke about having a band of the best short Cajun musicians, T’Monde, meaning “little people,” stuck. “Kelli and I are the same height and if she wears heels, she’s slightly taller than me. Megan is 4’ 10,” says Simon. “It means little people, but it also means little world. It’s used in all the terms of endearment in Cajun music.”
Though T’Monde is a trio, there’s nothing little about its sound, which is heavily predicated on Jones and Constantin’s blood harmonies, inspired by the Davis Sisters and the Louvin Brothers. “We don’t really arrange [our harmonies] anymore,” says Constantin. “The parts just show themselves to which person they belong to.”
In the last three years, T’Monde has incorporated ancient French a cappella ballads into its performances. In 2017, the ballad the trio sang at the Chicago Folk Festival was a key reason why it was invited back. “One of the managers came up and said, ‘Just to let you know, the president [of the university] really loved when the two ladies sang the ballad,’” says Simon.
Still, neither Simon nor Constantin ever thought this would last eight years. “We just enjoy each other‘s company and tastes in music,” Constantin explains about the group’s unexpected longevity. “As we continued to learn new music, whether that be Cajun, country or anything else, we incorporate that into this band. We’re all fairly open to any song anyone wants to bring. It’s just nice to be in company that is welcoming to your new ideas.”