When Live For Live Music sat down with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore aboard Jam Cruise, we found him at a significant crossroads in his life and career. Moore just got married last year. Galactic is getting ready to release their latest studio album, Already Ready Already, on February 8th. And, as you’ve surely heard by now, he and his bandmates just finalized a deal to purchase iconic New Orleans venue Tipitina’s—a club they’ve been visiting as both patrons and performers for nearly three decades. With so many exciting new chapters beginning, it was no surprise that his spirits were high. There’s no doubt about it—it’s a good time to be Stanton Moore.
The most imminent of Galactic’s various new beginnings is Already Ready Already, the new studio album that has already generated buzz with several pre-release singles. However, the individual songs only tell part of the story. As Moore explains, the band approached this album as one larger, overarching, complete thought. “With this album, we bookended it with two instrumentals—[opening track] ‘Already’ and then [final song] ‘Ready Already’—so we’re still thinking of sequencing and still thinking of how an album fits together.”
“We’re excited about it,” Moore continues. “It’s interesting. I think that the record has some of the strongest songs that we’ve put out to date, but then there’s also some songs that are a little bit more exploratory and a little bit looser and not as structured. So hopefully that’ll find a place with our audience to where it’s kind of satisfying two different expectations that they may have for us. People like the vocal stuff, but then they also like the instrumental stuff. So I think that what people can expect is a little bit of both when you listen to the whole record—if anybody does that anymore these days.”
Galactic’s commitment to making their albums represent full, cohesive musical thoughts led them to a particularly fruitful period of creative productivity this time around. “We actually have a whole bunch of other songs,” Stanton explains, “A whole batch of other songs that we thought about putting on this record, but we’re like, ‘No, they don’t quite fit with this batch of songs. So let’s put out this batch of songs and let’s be ahead of the curve for the next batch of songs.'” That next batch of songs is slated to be released later this year as the band’s second LP of 2019.
Many groups’ bandwidths might be maxed out with so much time, energy, and careful thought dedicated to curating and releasing this truckload of new music. However, the members of Galactic just picked up a notable new side hustle—as the new owners of New Orleans’ Tipitinas, a club with which the band is uniquely familiar.
A knowing yet mystified smile creeps across Stanton’s face as the topic of Galactic buying Tip’s comes up. “It’s something that’s … it is still a little surreal, but in the same token, it also kind of feels like we’re where we should be, in a way,” Moore muses. “It’s been a dream of all of ours, a collective dream, for 20 years. We’ve been joking about it with each other for 10 years—like, ‘Well, when we buy Tipitina’s,’ or ‘When we own Tipitina’s’—and keep in mind, we’ve been playing there for 25 years.”
“We’ve been, hopefully, lovingly referred to by the staff and people affiliated with Tip’s as the Tip’s house band for almost 20 years now, and we’ve been playing New Year’s Eve, Halloween, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras [at Tip’s] for the last 15 years or something, every year. We’ve been a band going on 20+ plus years now. I played there a couple times with some other projects before Galactic, as well. So it’s somewhere that we’ve been for a long, long time and we’ve always considered it our musical home. I think, at some point, every single one of us has been put down on record, in writing somewhere, as Tip’s being our favorite venue to play. People ask us, ‘Well, where’s your favorite place to play?’ And we always say Tip’s. For the last 15, 20 years. So we’ve been teasing ourselves about it. ‘Oh, well, you know, when we own Tip’s…'”
Late last year, reports began to emerge that Tipitina’s could be sold amid ongoing financial missteps and legal issues facing its previous owner. Almost immediately, rumors began to surface that Galactic might buy the venue—a seemingly perfect, “if only this were true” scenario. Less than two weeks later, the band confirmed that they had indeed agreed to purchase Tipitina’s. However, while the story seemed to play out for the public as Galactic swooping in to save their beloved home, Stanton is quick to clarify that the purchase was anything but a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“We’ve been talking to the owner for about two years, and we were in negotiations for seven months, so it’s not like we just woke up one day and were like, ‘We own Tipitina’s!'” Moore jokes. “We’ve used this analogy sometimes, but it’s like having a puppy. You have the puppy and you’re with the puppy every day, and so if somebody comes around and they haven’t seen the puppy in a year or two years, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, they’ve grown so much! Last time I saw them, they were, like, this high!’ And you’re like, ‘Well, yeah. I remember when she was this big.’ But when you’re with it the entire time, even working on something for so long, when the rest of the public gets wind of it or sees it, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been watching it every step of the way.’ So for us, at this point, we’ve worked so long and hard on it and the negotiations and trying to get there that it just kinda feels like this is where we’re supposed to be. It feels natural yet surreal at the same time.”
Before Stanton and his Galactic bandmates entered into talks to buy Tip’s, they had zero experience running a concert venue. What they did have was a deep, intrinsic connection to this specific club. Empty jokes eventually evolved into genuine interest as the band began to ask themselves a crucial question: “Well, if not us, then who?”
As Moore notes, “Who else would have the perspective of having gone there starting as teenagers, having worked their way up from feeling blessed to be the first band on the bill to headlining there to being regulars there to playing there more than almost anybody else? Having toured the world and being able to pull ideas from other places, you see what works. Knowing that place as well as we do from a musician’s perspective and a patron’s perspective, and then being able to go out and see all these other venues and other situations… Who else really has that perspective? Who is as passionate about this place as we are? Who’s been quoted as many times as us, saying that it’s our favorite place in the world?” Moore laughs, “So it’s like, ‘I guess, maybe it should be us?”
[Photo: Marc Pagani Photography]
Galactic owns Tipitina’s. It reads like a fairy tale ending—but the story is far from over. Now that they own the place, they have to run the place. So how involved will the new owners be with the venue’s operations?
“I would say, very involved with the visualization,” Stanton explains. “Very involved with the planning and the strategizing and the overseeing. We’re in multiple group texts, email threads, slack channels, conference calls, and physical meetings. Every day we’re dealing with stuff for Tip’s. None of us are gonna be behind a bar, stocking the bar, ordering the bar, or doing the bookings, but we’re overseeing that stuff. What we’re trying to do is make sure that we have the right people in place and we’re also trying to make sure that we give those people the resources they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.”
He continues, “We’re just doing things, specific things, to make sure that the staff feels appreciated—because we can’t do it without the staff. And when we’re in town, there’s usually at least one or a couple of us there at the shows. So the staff and the patrons have all been telling me that the vibe of the place feels great, they can tell that we care. We’re not experts. We’re not pretending to be experts at running a bar, or running a music club, because we are not—yet. But we love that place and value that place, I think, probably more than anybody else. I will say that.”
Stanton likens this new challenge to Galactic’s gradual evolution as a band. “When we got on the road, we didn’t know how to be a band on the road, but we figured it out, and we’re still together, the five core members,” he explains. “As soon as we could, we hired a tour manager and a sound guy, right? So, luckily, Tip’s came with Tank and Mary, our two managers. Tank’s been there for about 15 years, and we know and love Tank and have been working with him for a long time. Now we’re just trying to give Tank and Mary and Nick, our talent buyer, the resources that they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. We’re just smart enough to oversee everything, but also listen to them and listen to their input. They’ve been on the ground level, doing this, for years! So we just wanna try and help them do their jobs as best they can and not get in their way.”
Moore pauses, smiling. “Our biggest motto right now is, ‘Don’t fuck it up.‘ We’re not going in there to renovate the club or change the vibe. Eventually, we wanna put in commercial grade toilets. We’re on our third trial sound system, and we’re trying to find the right system for the room. We’ve repainted the green rooms and replaced the couches and are definitely in the process of continuing to make all of that better. We want to create an amazing experience for the bands and the patrons so that every time somebody’s in there, people are turning to their friends and elbowing each other, being like, ‘Oh my god. Can you believe that this is happening in Tipitina’s?’ And that’s all we wanna do. We’re in the business of creating amazing experiences, and that place has already been doing that for decades. We know what it should be, from the back and the front. So now, we’re just gonna try to not fuck it up.”
[Photo: Melissa Stewart]
Stanton Moore and the rest of Galactic have frequented Tipitina’s as patrons and performers for years. Now, when they go there, they go as venue owners. So how different is it playing shows at “their” venue now that it’s their venue?
To illustrate the deep well of emotions evoked by playing at Tipitina’s as an owner, Stanton recounts a story from his wedding last year. “I had some of my favorite musicians from New Orleans there to play,” he explains, “And so I sat down and played drums for a few tunes, right? So people ask me, they’re like, ‘Man, what goes through your mind when you’re playing?’ And I used to say, ‘Play every gig like it’s your last.’ Right? Or, ‘Play every gig like it’s gonna be the only gig that you’ll ever be remembered for.’ … I used to try to play with that kinda attitude. And then I was like, ‘Well, it’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, so maybe try to ‘play every gig like it’s your birthday.’ Right? Then, at my wedding, I had so much fun playing … surrounded by all these people I love, playing with my favorite musicians. I was like, wow, another frame of mind that I can put myself in is, ‘Play your gig like it’s your wedding.’ Right?”
“Now, after playing at Tip’s, it’s like, ‘Wow… Play the gig like you own the place,” Stanton declares, grinning. “So when I’m on the stage, I try to play with different varying degrees of that. Play like it’s your birthday, play like it’s your wedding, play like you own the place. You don’t wanna be cocky, but if you do own the place…”
He trails off with a laugh. “It’s a really exciting time right now for me. Getting married, and then Tip’s, and the record coming out, and all of that. So it’s really great to have been doing this for so long and still have so many exciting things going on. It’s fun. It’s a good time for the band right now.”
For a list of upcoming tour dates, head to Galactic’s official website. You can listen to the new Galactic album, Already Ready Already, on the platform of your choice when it drops on Friday, February 8th.