We sat down with Kristi Guillory, one of the founding members of Bonsoir, Catin, to talk about their new album Light the Stars. She shares with us how the band got started, how their sound has evolved and what she wants people to get out of their music. Kristi also shared a few tracks with us off of the new album, which you can preview below. If you would like to purchase the digital album on iTunes click here or you can purchase the CD by clicking here.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Bonsoir, Catin began more than 10 years ago when three ladies, Kristi Guillory, Christine Balfa and Yvette Landry, started jamming around a campfire during Louisiana Folk Root’s Balfa Week. Kristi and Yvette met one evening at the Blue Moon Saloon. They started talking and Yvette mentioned to Kristi that she played bass. Kristi, who was on a hiatus from music, had been looking to start a band and the wheels began turning. Later that year Kristi met up with Yvette at Louisiana Folk Root’s Balfa Week where Kristi was volunteering as a folklorist interviewing the master artists and Yvette was a student. “After spending a week together and hanging out, Yvette and I were jamming around a camp fire with Christine Balfa, who I’ve known since I was 10 years old and first starting out on accordion,” says Guillory. “We all instantly recognized how easy it was to play with each other so I asked them if they wanted to start a band and luckily they both said yes.” They started throwing around ideas of what the band could be and sound like. Balfa Week ended and they all went back to their day-to-day lives.
“About a week or so after Balfa Camp I called up Christine to see if she was serious about starting a band,” Kristi continued. Christine was not only game, but she had fiddle player Anya Bourgess in mind to round out the band. One thing led to another and before they even had a repertoire Yvette was asked to put a band together as part of the grand opening ceremonies for the Butte La Rose Visitor’s Center. Not long after that Kristi called up the Blue Moon Saloon and booked the band’s first full length gig. “We started rehearsing and brought some different tunes to play and before long we were playing like we’ve been together for years,” Kristi says. The rapport was instant and the rest, as they say, was history.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The name Bonsoir, Catin comes from an old Amede Ardoin song called Amede Two-Step, where he says the phrase in the first line. The phrase catin is an old term of endearment that meant something along the lines of baby doll before French was nationally standardized. Since the standardization the term has taken on a negative connotation, think woman of the night. “We never had any hesitation in using the name. We really liked how it sounded in the context of Amede’s song,” Kristi says. As a result they are forging their own meaning of the word with women referring to themselves as a catin, meaning an evocative, creative, strong female who is smart, thoughtful and sexy with a little bit of sass and edge.
A CHANGE OF TUNE
Bonsoir, Catin went on to record two full length albums, Blues à Catin (2006) and Vive L’Amour (2009). Their original drummer Jude Veillion, a band member from Kristi’s high school band Reveille, had to step down in 2011 due to time constraints. To fill the gap the band picked up the multi-talented and multi-instrumentalist Danny Devillier. Danny is well versed in music theory and plays for several local bands around the area in addition to being a well-respected musician. With the addition of Danny and his knowledge of music from a scholarly perspective, the band was forced to really up their music game. “Danny really made us think of things differently, like how our songs were composed, melodies, rhythms, stuff like that,” Kristi added.
With Danny on board and the band thinking about their sound in a new way, they started playing around with adding new instruments, mainly the electric guitar. They hired a few electric guitarists for some gigs to see how it would change the dynamic. “I started seeing Maegan Berard out and about after we spent some time together at a festival in Nova Scotia. After watching her play and doing a couple of gigs together we decided to invite her to join the band and she accepted.” The result added a whole new element to the traditional sound. With the addition of Danny and Maegan and the fact that the band had not recorded an album in six years, it was time to get into the studio for their third record.
LIGHT THE STARS
“After the birth of my second daughter I made a conscious effort to be a stay at home mom and work on my music,” Kristi continued. The result was nine original songs in little less than a year that mixed the styles of her solo effort and traditional Cajun music that would become the beginning of their third album. “Six months before we were scheduled to be in the recording studio we started rehearsing a couple times a month.” To learn the new material, the band took it one song at a time until they felt they had a general structure. They recorded a rough demo of the album and sent it over to Joel Savoy, the engineer they chose for the new record. “When we got into the recording studio, Joel had some incredible ideas about the arrangements and before long his role shifted naturally to co-producer.” Once the record was complete Joel offered to release it on his Valcour Records label, and the band agreed to continue their partnership.
Bonsoir, Catin’s third album, Light the Stars, is a collection of fresh, evocative new Cajun music that pushes the limits of imagination and form. It stays true to their fresh Cajun sound, a unique blend of ancient ballads, dancehall era gems, swamp pop stylings and rock n’ roll blues infused with a more modern sound. The name Light the Stars is taken from a line in one of the cover songs on the album by Natalie Mae Palms called Personne que toi (No one but you). “We wanted to capture the unforgettable feeling we had when recording the album,” Kristi added. They took the name Light the Stars, meaning to do something with complete passion. This, perhaps more than anything defines what Bonsoir, Catin is all about. “We value our personal relationships with each other more so than the musical entity that is Bonsoir, Catin.” The band is more of a small family and considers each other dear friends, something very rare in a musical group with such talented musicians.
As for what she wants people to get out of their music Kristi says, “We’re not just a Cajun dance band, we’re songwriters and innovators.” Kristi went on to say, “The Cajun songs recorded in the 30s, 40s and 50s are referred to now as traditional standard tunes, somebody had to write them. I think that’s how music will keep growing in this area. We have to promote creativity in this type of music.” Kristi continued, “If you’re creating from within the culture it’s real, it’s not forced. I hope our music inspires other people to do the same.”
BONSOIR, CATIN IS…
Grammy-nominated Anya Burgess is one of the most important figures in South Louisiana fiddle culture. Anya is a renowned luthier and she owns and operates a violin shop on the Bayou Teche in Arnaudville, LA. Originally from Boston, MA Anya came to Bonsoir, Catin as an old-time fiddler. She has since taken the Cajun repertoire and infused it with her own unique style. Anya’s fiddling and singing is powerful, rich and infused with a deep reverence for the old ways of doing things. Anya also performs with the Magnolia Sisters.
Kristi Guillory became a child prodigy of accordion in the early 1990s and has since earned her place among the modern masters. Kristi is obsessed with sad, pitiful Cajun songs, raunchy drinking ones and the fantastical lyrics of old Cajun a capella ballads. She is a poet, a scholar, an emotional and passionate vocalist and a fearless songsmith. Kristi penned 9 songs for Light the Stars and her vision for creating new Cajun music is uncompromising.
Christine Balfa is one of the most respected and revered Cajun rhythm guitarists and singers. She is an inspired musician, fueled by her passion for her culture and the Balfa family legacy. Christine grew up watching and playing alongside her father Dewey and has since become a mainstay in Cajun music in her own right first with her band Balfa Toujours. Christine is also a gifted French speaker, writer of Cajun songs and a youth teacher at the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra. She is a founder of the Louisiana Folk Roots organization.
Yvette Landry is a sought after Cajun bassist and vocalist. She began her Cajun music career with the Lafayette Rhythm Devils and later Bonsoir, Catin. Since her start of the Cajun music scene she has since gone on to share the stage with a number of Cajun acts and has joined the lineage of great Cajun bassists. Yvette’s straight on beatruns are part of what define the Bonsoir, Catin dance sound. Yvette is also a successful author and songwriter and can be seen fronting her solo country act, The Yvette Landry Band.
Danny Devillier has been a staple of the South Louisiana music scene for over 20 years. Danny is a musician’s drummer; always tasteful, always creative. He is a gifted composer and holds a Masters degree in Theory and Composition. Danny’s playing is deeply rooted in rock n’ roll and jazz. As a Cajun drummer, his approach to rhythm is innovative and fresh. Although Danny has been playing live with Bonsoir, Catin for a number of years he makes his recording debut with the group on Light the Stars. He is backbone of the Bonsoir, Catin rhythm section and his musical compass always points true North.
Maegan Berard joins Bonsoir, Catin as electric lead guitarist. She began playing guitar at age 12 and calls Jimmy Page and her father her “guitar heroes.” Maegan’s father is Grammy nominated Cajun musician Al Berard and she has toured extensively with his band, the Basin Brothers. Light The Stars marks her debut with Bonsoir, Catin. Her melodic playing, rock n’ roll stylings and energetic presence is an added layer depth, soul and excitement to the group. Maegan is a prolific songwriter and native French speaker. She also performs with the group Sweet Cecilia.