Most would assume that the story of Galactic starts in New Orleans. The real story, though, begins in Washington, D.C. where bass player Robert Mercurio and guitarist Jeff Raines grew up. Together, they played in a number of different local funk bands. When it was time to pick a college to attend, the city the school was in was really more important than the school itself. They wanted to be in New Orleans. "We heard about the Meters and knew about the whole scene," Robert says. "We knew we wanted to play music but we also had to go to school."
Mercurio eventually ended up at Tulane University and Raines at Loyola. But the real classes were conducted in the city's music clubs. On their first night in town, the boys went to Benny's, an after hours club where late night funk and blues went down. The club has since been closed, city officials declaring it a neighborhood nuisance. "We fell in love with that scene," Robert says.
Benny's was also where the two met Theryl DeClouet. He was playing in one of the many bands he was part of -- this one called Michael Ward and Reward. At that time, Mercurio and Raines had their own band, Galactic Prophylactic. DeClouet would soon become somewhat of a spiritual advisor for the fledgling musicians. After letting go a drummer, a singer, and a three-piece horn section, the duo hooked up with drummer and New Orleans native, Stanton Moore. Keyboardist Richard Vogel was added shortly thereafter. The group became complete when sax player Ben Ellman was brought in. (Ellman and Moore were also playing together as part of the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars).
It wasn't much later that San Francisco-based producer for Ubiquity Records, Dan Prothero, found himself in New Orleans dj'ing at a club. He had brought a carload of equipment to record a brass band, but this plan fell through. A friend local to the area suggested Prothero contact Galactic Prophylactic, a band that had been gigging around New Orleans. That night Prothero was listening to a demo of the band, and the next day he had his equipment set up in the band's living room. "Black Eyed Pea" was finished in three days and everyone was pleased with the results. The track made its way onto a Ubiquity compilation album entitled Is That Jazz?, which youcan check out in the discography.
It was at this time that the band thought it would be wise to change their name to something a little more 'serious'. "When the band took a change of sound and personnel, we decided to drop the name and move on," Mercurio explains. "But at the same time, we wanted the people that knew us before to still associate with us and we thought Galactic was the best way." So the band shortened their name and Galactic was born!
It seemed obvious that Dan and Galactic should record a full-length release.
The result was "Coolin' Off". Just before recording the album, the band invited Theryl DeClouet (more commonly known as simply - 'The Houseman') to collaborate on a couple of tunes. He agreed and all were pleased by the results -- so much so that The Houseman hasn't missed a Galactic gig since.
After Prothero failed to find a home for the release at any major labels, he started his own, Fog City Records, and released "Coolin' Off" as the debut for the independent label.
With the album finished, Galactic hit the road with one mission -- to spread the funk. Their non-stop touring helped build a large, devoted fan base and led to a record deal with Capricorn Records. But the road up to now hasn't always been easy. As Stanton explains, "Its not too rough anymore, but it was for a while. We were just sleeping on people's floors not really getting showers, not being able to rent a hotel, moving all the equipment ourselves and setting it up. You know that's what you have to do to get started. But we would have never gotten to where we are now if we hadn't stuck in there. We did about a year and a half of playing in front of fifty people or whatever and schlepping the stuff around ourselves. So that was hard, not drastically difficult, but it was no walk in the park. Now, though, the road is a lot easier. It's only because we've worked so hard."
Starting out in small New Orleans clubs like the Mermaid Lounge, Galactic now regularly sell out such venerable venues as Tipitina's in New Orleans, Irving Plaza in New York, and The Fillmore in San Francisco.