For Sweet Crude, a joyful return to French

NO HEARTBREAK

Sweet Crude wants to be a deeply rooted Louisiana band in nontraditional ways.

With that mission in mind, the young New Orleans group’s seven members sing, write and play joyous, inventive pop songs that feature lyrics in both English and Louisiana French, aka Cajun French.

But the mournful tales of heartbreak heard so often in Cajun music don’t figure into Sweet Crude’s French lyrics.

“It’s fun to break away from that,” singer and violinist Sam Craft said. “I’m not singing about country life or about the woman who left me for a man from Texas. I have to draw from my own experiences.”

There’s another big difference between Sweet Crude — which appears at the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo festival at 2:45 p.m. Saturday — and just about every other band in Louisiana, not to mention America: No guitars allowed.

Instead, Sweet Crude’s sonic scaffolding is built of vocals and drums.

“We feared that if we had guitar in the band, that would immediately be a template,” Craft said. “We wanted to do something that we didn’t see every day.”

Employing Sweet Crude’s vocal ensemble, five drummers, violin, keyboards and occasional trumpet, Craft said, “we’ve been able to make all of the sounds we’ve ever wanted to make. We don’t miss the guitar at all.”

Sweet Crude sprouted from Alexis and the Samurai, a duo featuring Craft and singer Alexis Marceaux, as well as local rock band Glasgow, which included Craft, Marceaux, Craft’s brother, Jack, and Jon Arceneaux.

“We sang some French songs with Alexis and the Samurai and we were like, ‘We’ve got to make a band out of this,’ ” Craft said. “We reconstituted our other band, Glasgow, which was dissolving, into Sweet Crude and found some other colleagues to come make this a larger band.”

The Craft brothers, Marceaux and other members of Sweet Crude share French heritage.

“There’s a pretty strong movement of people my age,” Sam Craft said, “whose grandparents speak French, who can get it from a firsthand source. It’s not so obvious in New Orleans, but if you go to Lafayette or Houma, there’s a fervent group of young people who have taken the initiative to learn the language. We share the mission of having it be viable in art and business. It’s more than a parlor trick.”

The interest Craft and Sweet Crude have in the French language makes their performances in Lafayette, the largest city in Louisiana’s Cajun region, a special treat.

“When we go to Lafayette, from the time we load into the venue to the time we pack up and leave, there are always Francophone people around — younger adopters of the language, like me, people from French-speaking countries and older folks whose first language was French.”

When Sweet Crude plays in Baton Rouge, LSU French professors and students studying French attend the group’s performances.

“The last time we played there, a teacher gave her students extra credit for coming to our show,” Craft said.

French speakers even went to hear the group at Joe’s Pub in New York City last October. They’d seen Sweet Crude music videos on YouTube.

Sweet Crude released its EP debut, “Super Vilaine,” in December. A full-length album is in the works, and a summer tour is planned, including a return to New York.

“We’re excited about getting our music out there,” Craft said. “We want to get people excited about it.”