Texan instrumental collective Snarky Puppy are bringing a high-energy show fusing jazz, rock, gospel and R&B influences to this weekend’s Hoot! Jazz Festival in the Adelaide Hills. Here, band leader Michael League tells what’s in store.
You describe your sound as “music for the brain and booty” – please explain?
We try to craft music that toes the line between art music and dance music. In short, it’s a sound that anyone can relate and move to, but it has a depth that will stimulate audiophiles, musicians and critical listeners. Hopefullly!
Where does the name Snarky Puppy come from and what are the band’s origins?
The story behind the name is so uninteresting that I had the BBC hold a “How Snarky Puppy Got Its Name” contest on Radio 3, with some very intriguing submissions. We’re still in talks about the winner. As for the origin, it started as a group of friends in the University of North Texas’s jazz department. I was writing songs, and I got my buddies to play them. It was a snowball situation from there.
What musical traditions and influences do you draw on?
We draw from almost every single form of music that we’ve ever heard. The band has set a precedent for being very explorative, diverse and evolutionary. This makes it easy for us to say, “Let’s write a drum ‘n’ bass tune” and not get shouted at for “selling out” or “going in a strange direction”. We’ve been going in multiple directions from the beginning! For us, we pull things we like from all sorts of artists, from Ali Farka Toure and Astor Piazzolla to Led Zeppelin and James Brown. It’s the way you combine your influences that makes you who you are as a band – not the influences themselves.
You have 25 musicians in regular rotation and will be bringing nine of them to Hoot. What array of instruments do they play?
The puppies attending Hoot are a guitarist, two keyboardists, three horn players, a bassist, drummer and percussionist. It’s our standard touring set-up.
What type of show can audiences expect at Hoot? Should they wear their dancing shoes?
They can expect something engaging, high-energy, emotional and soulful. We’re always happy to have people dance, but the music has several sides to it, so we won’t be offended if people just listen. I would encourage everyone to do whatever they feel … that’s what we do.
Snarky Puppy are performing at the Hoot! Festival Club, Mount Barker Town Hall, this Sunday (June 9) from 8.30pm. The full Hoot program is available online.
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