by Rae Dinsmore and Susan Woods, October 1995
Dave Lang from Seattle's Cajun/zydeco band, How's Bayou, answers questions below about the band's beginnings and future in music.
How's Bayou, formed in 1979, includes Dave Lang (accordion, vocals), Karen England (fiddle, vocals), Paul Mooney (rubboard, guitar, vocals), Mike Bristow (bass, vocals), and Jay Weaver (drums).
How did How's Bayou come together?
Dave Lang: The core group of this band, Karen England, Mike Bristow, and I, have been together since 1979. Scott Nygaard came and went as lead instrumentalist. The most recent change was 3 to 4 years ago; Ben Lang on drums left, and Jay Weaver joined the group. We have been a pretty stable group for 8 to 9 years.
How did How's Bayou get it's name?
Dave Lang: Paul Elliot gave us our name during a jam session in 1979. He just said "What about How's Bayou?" and the name stuck.
Does the band have a favorite song?
Dave Lang: I don't think we have any one favorite song. The band knows about 80 to 90 songs. There will be times when some won't be played for years and then they will be revived with a new twist.
What do you like the most about zydeco music?
Dave Lang: I like that it is not in-your-face music. The Early Years of Zydeco album illustrates this point well. The sounds are simple and unpretentious, not designed for the spotlight. There are no individual stars, just people making music together. I feel that this music is an expression of old cultural idioms, true "soul" music by folks without social or political commentary in a non-commercial fashion. What I like about our local bands is that each band has people who were once in the audience.
Have you been to Louisiana?
Dave Lang: I have been there enough times over the last 13 years to have visited 37 different dance venues. Mike and Karen spent a full month there once. The band, as a group, has been down 3 or 4 other times. Through the years, we all have played a lot with the old musicians.
Do you play as often as you would like to?
Dave Lang: For the most part yes. We all have day jobs of a wide variety, and have virtually never solicited gigs since in the past we have gotten about all the playing we could handle. We have played as many as 50 gigs in one year. Things have tapered off a bit in the last couple of years now that there are so many new Cajun and zydeco bands competing for the dance gigs. For the first ten years of our existence, we were virtually the only Cajun music available in Seattle.
What's next for the band?
Dave Lang: As a band we have never had much of a focus, an artistic director, or a leader. What we do and what you hear is mostly the result of band anarchy. We all continue to grow indepenently as musicians and bring home to the band new insights and skills from which the band as a whole benefits. We just want to have a good time, and when we cease to have that we will probably just fade away.
What thoughts or ideas would you like to leave with the zydeco dance community and do you have any ideas that might help keep this community growing?
Dave Lang: The community should try to tune into the roots of the dancing, much the same way the musicians do, by visiting out-of-the-way country dance venues in Louisiana which are not subject to the ravages of "city-fication" or "re-interpretation" by others. The musical idiom is simple, but subtle, and I have found that the dance idiom as practiced by the old folks in Louisiana is too. This music and dance have historically been one of the major sources of fun and relaxation for the originating culture. Explore what has drawn you to this strange idiom, and try to dig out more. This is a rich culture, so look deeply and try to do with your dance what is almost invisible to the eye. Ignore the flash, find the spirit. Above all, if the scene remains open, friendly, and accepting, the dance community will have no trouble maintaining a healthy and growing existence.