5 questions with Snarky Puppy, performing at Beaver Creek on Feb. 19
Snarky Puppy is a Texas-bred, New York-based quasi-collective gaining momentum in the music industry.
The band isn’t exactly a jazz band, and it’s not a fusion band either — and it’s most certainly not a jam band. Nate Chinen, of The New York Times, said “take them for what they are, rather than judge them for what they’re not.”
Snarky Puppy, with three Grammy Awards since 2014, performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $55. Visit http://www.vilarpac.org for more information.
Snarky Puppy bandleader and bassist Michael League took some time to answer a few questions via email before taking the stage at Beaver Creek.
Vail Daily: How did Snarky Puppy form?
Michael League: I initially started the band at the University of North Texas. I was in the Jazz Studies department and I got a bunch of my friends form there to start the group. I then became a part of the gospel and R&B scene in Dallas with the people who play with Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin, Marcus Miller — and a lot of those people became part of our growing family. Guys like Shaun Martin, Bobby Sparks, and Robert “Sput” Searight, Caleb McCampbell, Jason “JT” Thomas and Bernard Wright, who was a mentor for me and many of the guys in the band.
The list goes on and on but it was kind of like a snowball rolling down a hill. We just started accumulating people who wanted an outlet. I think Snarky Puppy is a band that allows you to play the way you want to play.
VD: How has life changed winning three Grammy Awards?
ML: We never expect to win awards because we were unknown for so long. Although it doesn’t make you a better band, it creates new possibilities creatively. People trust and value you more, so the crazy ideas that we’ve always had in our heads can actually become reality. That’s what I’m most grateful for.
VD: Being in New York, do you perform much in Colorado? What’s it like for the group to perform in the Rocky Mountains and the Vilar Center’s intimate 535-seat theater?
ML: We’ve played at Red Rocks twice and Cervantes a few times, but I wouldn’t say that we play there regularly. It’s wonderful for us to play in more intimate venues as it’s where we spent the majority of our life as a band. You have more flexibility to go where your intuition takes you, rather than feeling the pressure to keep the whole crowd with you (as is common in larger venues). I love it and am very much looking forward to the show.
VD: What’s a Snarky Puppy show like? What can people expect?
ML: It will be a combination of songs from pretty much all of our instrumental albums. We never really play the same set twice, and we have a lot of tunes, so there are so many possibilities for the set list.
As far as expectations go, I try not to go into situations with preconceptions about how things will be. We want to create a unique experience for everyone in the room based on the atmosphere, the vibe, the sound and everything else which is shaping the moment.
VD: What’s next for Snarky Puppy? Are there any limits?
ML: We’re preparing for the second year of our GroundUP Music Festival in Miami, which will take place Feb. 9-11 with artists like Bala Fleck and The Flecktones, Joshua Redman, Knower, Robert Glasper, C4 Trio from Venezuela, Eliades Ochoa (Buena Vista Social Club), Concha Buika and many of the artists from our record label, GroundUP.
Snarky Puppy plays all three nights. Then we go on tour for three weeks and plan to go back into the studio in August. It will be in the same studio as Culcha Vulcha — Sonic Ranch in south Texas.
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