Originally formed in 1994 as an octet (under the name Galactic Prophylactic) and including singer Chris Lane and guitarist Rob Gowen, the group was soon pared down to an instrumental sextet of: guitarist Jeff Raines, bassist Robert Mercurio, drummer Stanton Moore, saxophonist Ben Ellman and Hammond organist Rich Vogel, later adding Theryl DeClouet on vocals.
The group was started when Raines and Mercurio, childhood friends from the Washington D.C. area, moved to New Orleans together to attend college at Tulane and Loyola Universities, and became enamored of the local funk scene, populated by such legendary acts as The Meters and Dirty Dozen Brass Band and inspired by local legends such as Professor Longhair. There they teamed with noted New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore, saxophonist/harmonica (now producer) Ben Ellman, and Rich Vogel. In 2004, the band parted ways with vocalist DeClouet, and now continue as an instrumental group. They have been releasing ground breaking albums consistently since 1996. Many songs found on their latest album, titled From the Corner to the Block, include underground MCs widely regarded as elite and popular.
The band has developed a unique sound as a result of their influences, including: hip hop, electronic, world music, rock, blues and jazz. Many of their songs include performances by other artists of various styles of music, like hip-hop artists Boots Riley (of The Coup), Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious) and Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5). On the European version of From the Corner to the Block there are two tracks more than on the US version. One of those tracks ("Valley Of Pain") features the German rapper Dendemann.
Over the years, the band's sound has evolved from organic New Orleans funk to a more modern style, incorporating elements of hip hop, electronica, fusion, and jazz. This change has been largely characterized by the increased use of electronic effects on guitar, bass, saxophone, and drums. Drummer Stanton Moore uses phrase samplers to sample a rhythm which he can then play over, producing intricate and layered drum sounds. Ben Ellman, saxophonist and harmonica player, often distorts his instruments to the degree that they sound similar to an electric guitar.
The band is also noted for inviting guest musicians from New Orleans to perform onstage with them. These include: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Neville Brothers, Brian Seeger, Corey "Boe Money" Henry George Porter of The Meters, and Skerik (a saxophone player who is actually based in Seattle, Washington, but is part of Stanton Moore's side project Garage A Trois), to name a few.
The band is often on tour, and have shared the stage with acts including Live, Counting Crows, the Allman Brothers Band, The Roots, Fusebox Funk, Widespread Panic, B.B. King, Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing), Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious), and Jurassic 5.
Galactic's next album is set to include guest appearances from rappers including Lyrics Born (an MC and producer from the Quannum Projects hip hop collective). According to Lyrics Born's Web site, the guest artist line-up featuring MCs, DJs, and vocalists has already been determined, but it is being kept secret for the time being. However, Ben Ellman has said that all of the guest MCs at their Bonnaroo performance (Lyrics Born, Gift of Gab, Chali 2na, Lateef, and Boots Riley) will be featured on the album.
Galactic's most recent album, From the Corner to the Block was released on August 21, 2007. Lyrics Born's Myspace page has stated that "In addition to LB, this record features an array of today's most innovative MC's, including The Coup's Boots Riley, Digable Planets' Ladybug Mecca, Juvenile, Jurassic 5's Chali 2na, Mr. Lif, Lateef the Truth Speaker and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and more. The new album will also feature unique collaborative efforts with New Orleans artists Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Soul Rebels Brass Band and Trombone Shorty."