Feufollet to bring Cajun music, food to the Foundry Theater
- Published: February 12, 2024
The Foundry Theater will welcome Southwest Louisiana band Feufollet to the stage Wednesday, Feb. 21, beginning at 7 p.m.
The band — featuring Chris Stafford on vocals, accordion and guitar; Kelli Jones on vocals, fiddle and guitar; Andrew Toups on keyboards; Jim Colacek on drums; and Philippe Billeaudeaux on bass — blends traditional Cajun sounds with country, rock and swamp pop for a sound that is, according to the band’s website, “familiar and fresh, classic and yet unmistakably original.”
The News spoke this week by phone with founding Feufollet member Chris Stafford, who said the band, which formed in 1999, takes its name from the feu follet, a bayou spirit of Louisiana folklore.
“It’s kind of a mysterious light, and some people would say that they’re ghosts or spirits — be it a good spirit or an evil spirit, it kind of goes both ways,” Stafford said. “We just thought the name was cool, and it stuck.”
He added: “We’ve been doing this a long time, and the sound of the band has evolved over the years, and members have come and gone. So maybe the mysterious, dual nature of the feu follet could apply to that ever-changing kind of thing.”
Stafford said his interest in the traditional music of Louisiana began when he was enrolled as a child in a French immersion program in Lafayette Parish. As he learned the language, he became interested in the music of the region as well, and began playing accordion at the age of 8.
“Around here, it’s super common for people to start playing music really young, because it’s an oral tradition and a vernacular music,” Stafford said.
It was through the French immersion program, he added, that the young musicians who would go on to form Feufollet originally met.
“There were these kids’ jam sessions where a lot of kids would go and play, and we met each other,” he said. “When we started, everyone was basically fluent in French as well.”
Feufollet released its debut album, “La Bande Feufollet,” in 1999, with a lineup of members whose ages ranged from 9 to 13. At the outset, the band leaned hard into playing traditional regional standards, continuing into their second and third albums, “Belle Louisiane” and “Tout Un Beau Soir,” released in 2001 and 2004. Over those years, the makeup of the band changed as founding members moved on to other projects and new musicians joined. At the same time, Stafford said, Feufollet’s sound began to change, too.
“In Lafayette, there’s this tradition that began in the ’70s of bands that look to the tradition, but expand upon it, creating new songs within the tradition or blending other styles into the music,” he said. “We’re from the south, so country music is really popular here, and honky tonk. We have a regional music here called ‘swamp pop,’ which is basically ’50s R&B music, but then it was picked up by the white Cajun people here and turned into its own style.”
Those influences began to show themselves in earnest with the band’s 2008 album, “Cow Island Hop,” continuing into 2010’s “En Couleurs” and 2015’s “Two Universes.”
“We’re at the point where we have all of that experience and influence and we’re just embracing all of it,” Stafford said. “We basically now are kind of Americana music through a Cajun lens. But Cajun music is Americana music — it’s in French, but it’s very, very American.”
With that in mind, Stafford said the Foundry Theater audience can look forward to a show that encompasses Cajun dance tunes, swamp pop, Zydeco and original tunes.
“Kind of a little bit of everything,” he said. “It’s indicative of what you would experience if you were going around and listening to music in clubs where we live, because people play all kinds of things here.”
Some audience members will also be treated to a Cajun-inspired meal before the show, as well: Linzay Young, born and raised in Louisiana and the host of 91.3 WYSO’s “Louisiana Byways” program, will serve up homemade chicken and sausage gumbo to the first 50 folks who purchase tickets to the show.
Young, who spoke with the News last week, is also a musician, formerly playing with the well-known Baton Rouge Cajun and western swing band The Red Stick Ramblers; he’s also well-known to members of Feufollet, with whom he’s played in the past. He moved from Louisiana to the Miami Valley three years ago with his wife, Emma Young, whose parents, Rick Good and Sharon Leahy, were the founders of the Dayton music and dance company Rhythm in Shoes.
“I was looking for a job change, and the perfect opportunity came up at Dayton Children’s, so we went ahead and made the move,” Young said. “We figured if we were going to move anywhere, we’d move close to somebody’s family.”
Young now plays in local band The Howdy Boyz with his father-in-law, Rick Good, and brother-in-law, Ben Cooper. The band played a fundraiser show for Tecumseh Land Trust last year, where Young met WYSO General Manager Luke Dennis.
“And I kind of jokingly said, ‘Well, if you ever need any Louisiana music on WYSO, let me know,’” Young said. “He said, ‘I know you’re kind of joking, but let’s talk about that.’ … And next thing I knew, it was happening.”
“Louisiana Byways” debuted Jan. 7 this year, and features music endemic to Louisiana’s “byways, highways, bayous and backwaters,” according to the WYSO website, as well as special guests, interviews and live performances.
A ninth-generation Louisianan fluent in French — in fact, Young is part of the second generation in his family for whom English is a first language — Young said both Cajun music and food are intertwined in his cultural community. He grew up “in the country,” where folks “made do” with what they had. Once a year, friends and family would gather to participate in a traditional boucherie, butchering a whole hog and sharing food communally.
“While you’re there, you have a party at the same time, play some music, let the kids play and visit,” Young said. “So I learned traditional Cajun cooking from an early age, like 13 — which is around the same age I started playing music.”
He added: “There’s a synergistic aspect to it, because the music is the music and it’s great, and the food is the food and it’s great, and Cajun food and music are both world-renowned cultural exports — but when you put them together, there’s just an element of the sum being greater than the parts.”
Feufollet will perform Wednesday, Feb. 21, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Foundry Theater, preceded by a pre-show meal of chicken and sausage gumbo for the first 50 ticket-buyers. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $5 for local students ages 17 and younger and Antioch College students. Tickets are available online at bit.ly/FoundryFeufollet.