Mamou

Mamou

 Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
BandRockAmericana

A truly new genre.

Biography

Rising out of the swamps of Mamou, Louisiana (the heart of Cajun Country in Evangeline Parish) in 1985, Mamou flooded traditional musical forms with an unlikely, explosive combination: the energy and intensity of a punk rock juggernaut, mixed with a bit of psychedelic experimentation and jaw-dropping sonic virtuosity.

Led by Steve LaFleur, the visionary singer/songwriter/guitarist, the group recorded three outrageous and much-loved albums (Mamou, Ugly Day, and Comes to Town) and toured endlessly in North America and Europe.

A rebel in his own right, LaFleur set a standard for the evolution of Cajun music, beginning with Mamou, by carving out a new niche in rock 'n' roll that merged two genres of music previously kept separate.

Born and raised in Mamou, LaFleur didn’t take to playing the traditional sounds, generally subscribed to by Festival de Acadiens over the years. “Cajun music was all around when I was growing up,” LaFleur recalls. “But at the time, I looked at it as my grandparents’ music, so I rebelled against it and played rock ‘n’ roll.”

Leading a group called Oddessy of Man was LaFleur 's first calling, though they hardly endeared themselves to Mamou locals. Stints in Fantasia, the Movie Stars, and the Grapes followed. Having moved to New York, LaFleur grew homesick and got his mom to send him food and music from back home. He began to learn traditional Cajun music on guitar and began to re-discover his heritage and culture a thousand miles away. He started incorporating these songs into his sets. While playing places like Trax and CBGB’s, people told him they liked all his stuff but that the couple of Cajun songs he did were really special. Upon returning to Louisiana, LaFleur spoke with a friend, Mark Savoy, and asked what he thought about the idea of mixing traditional songs with rock. Savoy said, “Steve, if it’s Cajun, do it.”

By starting with classic Cajun melodies and riffs, running them through the meat- grinder, then mixing in a screaming Fender Stratocaster with fiddle, accordion, bass, and drums, Mamou has been compared to everyone from the Ramones to Jimi Hendrix. And it is now clear that there is a new genre in town - Cajun Rock.

The eponymous first album recorded for Austin, Texas independent Jungle Records and eventually picked up for distribution by MCA Records, is akin to Los Lobos' . . . And a Time to Dance. Mamou is a lightning bolt, a frenzy of pent-up energy, virtually every song vibrating with a weird mix of jittery, dance-happy rhythms (the gut-punch of "Bayou Teche"; the dark of "Un Homme De Pitie") and hearty fiddle and accordion riffage.

By the time of their Ugly Day album, released by Rounder Records in 1992, LaFleur was drawing on personal autobiography and tales of the Haddyshack Gang, whose partying and shenanigans in the Mamou mudlands in the late 1970s gave rise to Ugly Day, a debauched event legendary in Cajun circles for its wild, pre-Mardi Gras revelry. It was LaFleur's appearance as pickup guitarist during one of the all-night Ugly Day parties that issued the challenge: Could contemporary hard rock be melded to old-style Cajun music?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Present on the recorded results, Mamou's tough-as-nails sound comes to the fore on Ugly Day. Cuts like "Homme a Pitier" (Man to Pity) lift Cajun music from the musty museum and hot-rodded into the "now." "Ugly Day Stomp" immortalizes LeFleur's approach, digging at the cultural tension always present between the modern and the traditional.

A live LP Comes to Town, followed in 1997, and showcased LaFleur’s work on world famous Bourbon Street with a house gig at Patout’s where the house was packed night after night, creating a loyal fan base.

Mamou, despite their accomplishments, has not been LaFleur's only project. He composed pieces for the ballet, "Feu Follet," created by Elisa Monte and was a part of their orchestra for a US and European tour.

An in-demand composer, he has done work in film and television. LaFleur is a composer, songwriter, vocalist, and guitar and bass player. And of course, he's been a road warrior and ambassador, playing across the US, Canada, Europe, and in the Middle East in a variety of venues, from club dates to cruise ships and festival appearances.

After a ten year break, LaFleur is back putting together a new Mamou, composing songs that span the multiple styles of his career and planning to get back into the studio. Now that's something to look forward to.

Discography

Mamou - Self Titled - Jungle Records - 1988
Mamou - Reissued - MCA - 1990
Ugly Day - Rounder Records - 1992
Comes to Town - Self-released - 1994
Lafleur Et Basile - Live at the Tractor