The Brooklyn, New York-based quartet, composed of Eli Winderman (keyboards), Neal “Fro” Evans (Drums), Rob Compa (Guitar), and Chuck Jones (Bass), is group of friends with undeniable chemistry that can uniquely and effortlessly be transmitted to a crowd. These guys have spent a good portion of 2013 rigorously touring the country and festival circuit, all the while working on their live show and fine-tuning every aspect of their performance. The variety of songs and tightness of playing is unmatched by many, and supremely supplemented by the dynamic visual component. This combination yields a product that is not to be missed, and building momentum each day. I was lucky enough to catch up with them at a casual, group-style interview in the late summer, shortly before their set at the Catskill Chill Music Festival.
Question: What was it like to record your last album at Tyrone Farm?
Rob: It was awesome! It was great because we’ve been playing there since +the band begun, and it’s not a studio: it’s just a really nice barn! A lot of times in a real recording, there is sort of this “science lab” kind of vibe, where you don’t feel as creative, and it’s not as much fun. But this is someplace we are comfortable, and we have been there so many times already, it’s run by friends, it just felt like we were in our element. We also had all the time in the world, we just experimented all we wanted. It didn’t always work, but we discovered some really cool things that ended up on tracks through trial and error, because we had so much time to do whatever we felt like.
Chuck: My dog was there also, so if you like listen very carefully in some of the tracks you could hear foot prints in the background, so he was just hanging out there the whole time, which was great!
Question: How did the Dopadosio set come about for this year’s final set?
Eli: I think we are definitely really good friends with them and we have played a lot of shows over the years now. It just kind of happened, I think, in some part of the booking process.
Chuck: It started out as an idea... It was originally going to be maybe like an overlapping set, we were sort of going to just transition into their set. Then it was, “what if we all just did a set, all of us?”. Then Catskill Chill announced we were doing a set and we were all like, “oh ok, this better be good!” We didn’t know it was going to be that big of a thing, and then we saw it on Jambase and we were like, “Wow!”
Rob: It started out like: “Maybe we will just jam out or something, then it was like, “Ohhhhh shit this better be good!” So some planning and practice for sure, and we have some surprises in there for you!
Question: You have played with Turkuaz in the past, how do you feel the festival circuit lend itself to collaboration?
Eli: We go way back with them, I mean we all went to college together at Berkley, we have know them for a very long time, I mean we literally just ate dinner with them. Festivals are the one time that everyone is in the same place: it’s really hard when everyone is on the road to have collaborations like that. A festival is almost like Comic-Con, where all the shows come together and everyone is there.
Question: You guys are doing Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and English Men” set with Turkuaz - how did that come about?
Eli: They just hit us up and asked if we wanted to come play this set with them, we were like, “Yeah, sure!”
Rob: In the past when we played Brooklyn Bowl, we’ve had Josh Sanders who plays sax and sings a bunch with Turkuaz, and also lives with myself, Chuck and Neil. He sang the Joe Cocker version of “A Little Help From my Friends”. So we have already done some of that and he sounds exactly like Joe when he sings, like the best impression ever.
Question: What would your dream festival lineup be?
Eli: John Scofield Überjam Band, love that band a lot.
Rob: That first Überjam album changed my life, man.
Eli: Yeah they did a bunch of shows this summer, but we weren’t on any of those festivals
Chuch: Gwar and Cornelius are like my two.
Rob: Fleet Foxes, I don’t think they play anymore though, definitely one of my favorites. Also the Wayne Krantz Trio, with Tim Lefebvre and Keith Carlock.
Question: How has the addition of Vocals been working for you guys?
Eli: It’s been fun, really awesome. It is a whole new element we get to add to the music. I really like singing, we really like singing together. It’s really cool to look out in the crowds and see people singing the words, it’s like a really cool feeling.
Rob: Yeah that is really cool.
Question: How, if at all, do your prepare differently for a show compared to a festival?
Chuck: I think it depends on where we are. Up here, we are very conscious of what we played last year and also other shows around here recently, so we are very careful it’s not the same setlist as anything we recently had done.
Eli: Rob writes most of the setlists, he is probably the one who should answer this.
Rob: Sometimes if it is a big one, we will calculate it a little, make some segues or something, I mean we always look at what songs we will play. Sometimes have a really cool cover or something prepared, but most of the time we just try and relax, ‘cause I mean, we are improvising so much when we are up there that we don’t wanna be stressed out or thinking too much. We just want to be in a good mood and go out and experiment and stuff.
Eli: We will experiment with planned out segues and other times we will just see what happens. The planned-out ones are really fun, ‘cause you can get some really good ideas. But, the other ones, if you’re just ready for it, you’ll hear someone doing something, it will be this really weird transition of how we are doing it or something and into a new song
Rob: We really can’t force those kinds, they just happen on their own.
Question: You have gone from the B stage, to closing out the festival on the main stage. What does that feel like; and, to what do you attribute your continued success?
Eli: It really sucks, we hate that! (laughing) It’s an honor! I really love this festival so much. Every year we have been really fortunate to move up just really lucky, super lucky. We have had success cause of touring nonstop, keeping our heads focused, and musically sticking to what we want to do and what we want to hear.
Chuck: Biggest thing, it was crazy for us, was when we first started playing weird songs and people actually liked them, we are like, “You like this song?” Like one song, “386”, with a whole bunch of sections, and we said we would arrange it later, and now it’s still the same arrangement. When we first starting playing it and we were like, “This song is insane! This is not a good song!”
Rob: (laughing) Do we even like it?
Eli: It’s like 3 different songs, mashed together in a weird way, like, we will figure it out later.
Question: Are there songs you don’t like, but you feel you may have to play anyway due to the fan’s loving it?
Chuck: Well for me, yes, one! (laughs)
Rob: Ohh yeah I know, but it maybe someone’s favorite song, so, not gonna say anything. (laughs)
Question: To follow up are the songs you may love that the fans just don’t?
Eli: Maybe. I try to not get affected by what other people think.
Rob : We do whatever we think is good.
Chuck: There are some. If we do a big gigantic ending, will get a big applause. But there are some slower ones I really like.
Rob: Royce Road
Chuck : Yes and “We Are Not Alone”, also.
Rob: “We Are Not Alone” used to be the kind of thing when everyone would go take a piss when we played it. Now when we play it, I can usually see someone standing all the way in the back, and I can tell they are like psyched we are playing it, and they have like a big smile or something.
Band: Yeah we like that one a lot.
Question: What is each of your favorite video game systems?
Rob: Sega Genesis, I like the simplicity of it, I don’t really like complicated video games. I play them as an escapism from thinking, and I’m not very good at them so I need easy ones.
Band: Look who shows up this is the perfect question for you to show up on… (Explains question)
Neal: Nintendo, original Nintendo, ‘cause it’s the best!
Eli: Wii is cool. It feels like it is pushing boundaries, it’s good old family fun!
Chuck: Any of the Playstations, because I Love Grand Theft Auto, because it allows you to be the person you’re not allowed to be!
Question: Does video game soundtracks from childhood affect your current compositions?
Rob: We have that one thing in “Bobby”, the very end passage is, the direction, the direction of the notes is… (Trails off)
Chuck: The Konami Kode! In one of our songs, we have this section, if you notated it, and put it out, it’s the Konami code. We got there are were like, “What if we use the Konami Kode?” It goes A,B up down up down and like…. So, yes!
Rob: So to answer your question, yes!
Eli: We are dorks!
Question: What does it feel like to be playing two large festivals coming up: Bear Creek and the Debut of Jungle Jam in Costa Rica?
Eli: It SUCKS! (Laughs) No it’s the coolest thing ever, I mean do you want to go hang out in the jungle with amazing other bands and hang out with monkeys? Yes! Sounds awesome, I’m on top of that!
Chuck: This may sound a little vain, but I’ve always seen bands in the airport and they all have their sunglasses on walking through the airport, but like, that is so cool! Going through with my glasses and my bass out, awesome!
Band: First time we will have ever flown to a show, also out of the country, which, well, that’s pretty cool. We also have one more festival “Fall Down Festival”. We think it’s gonna be great, don’t know what to expect but it’s certainly a great lineup. Just hope it’s not too cold! (laughing)
Question: What are you guys listening to on a way to a festival or show?
Neal: Talk radio, when I drive I listen to talk radio, very inspiring.
Rob: Last couple of weeks I’ve exclusively listened to Duane Allman era Allman Brothers. Most people seem to have listened to them for years, but it’s pretty new to me.
Chuck: Aphex Twin. Love them.
Eli: All of Enema
Jason: Ghost, lots of Pantera and random death metal. At 6am I am privileged enough to drive the 7 hours from Pittsburg while everyone is asleep: I am in my world.
Rob: I was awake for that shit..(sings random metal riff as he laughs)
Question: What is your most crucial piece of equipment?
Rob: Mine is my guitar, a Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II, I’ve had it since I was 18 years old and it’s the only guitar I own, I love it to death.
Eli: I would say my organ is the center piece of my rig, also my Moog, called “Prodigy”, from the late 70’s, I use that for a lot of the melodies I play. But yeah, my organ is what I play the most.
Neal: I just got a new snare from my friend Dean Diamond out in Colorado and that is my meat, my meat and potatoes.
Chuck: I would have to say my tuner, I use that thing all of the time, probably more than I need to but just to make sure I’m in tune. It is very noticeable to me when someone is out of tune, I just want to reach over and adjust them, and, ok! So much better!
Question: Are there any covers you haven’t played that you would like to?
Eli: “Roundabout” by Yes, really like it, but we need…. I, I don’t know, the vocals are really hard.
Rob: I wanna basically cover every song off The Muse album “Origin of Symmetry,” Maybe like do a Muse Halloween show or something.
Band: Yeah that would be pretty awesome!!
Question: What band or bands have you not toured with or opened for that you would love to do so with?
Eli: Umphrey’s for me, those guys are awesome!
Band: Yeah, that would be pretty sick for sure.
Neal: Motet, and even though we have been on the same bill, we haven’t played with Snarky Puppy.
Band: Yeah those would both be awesome
Chuck: I don’t want to open for or have them [Snarky Puppy] open for us, those guys intimidate me for real (Laughs, and nods)
Rob: Scofield, and Jimmy Herring.
Question: What does the future hold for you?
Eli: Maybe a new album or something.
Question: Would that be done at the farm?
Eli: I’d be down for that, we haven’t really thought that far ahead as of now, we are working on some new music and we have this huge fall tour ahead of us, so that is basically that for now.
Question: What does this festival mean to you?
Rob: A lot, to me. I love this…actually this is the site of our first ever, festival as a band. A different festival, though, it was called “Harvest Fest”.
Eli: We were the first band and the first set of the festival, there were like two people there, we were all like, “Ok, cool, is this what festivals are all like?” The people that throw this festival are so cool and they are doing it for all the right reasons. I feel like it’s a private VIP party for the Northeast, this is one of the festivals I would actually go to, not just to play.
Rob: I feel like I have been looking forward to this since last year ended. I’m never in a bad mood at the Catskill Chill; well, except for this morning before I went to sleep, I was very tired and grumpy but that was it.
Chuck: I think they just do a really good job, starting with everything. The whole festival bill, starting with taking care of the patrons and the audience, they are concerned about them. Issues every year like someone getting stuck, they take care of that right away. All the stages are well-maintained and the sound as well as the staff are great. Artist hospitality for no matter what level you’re at. Even when we started and were one of the smaller bands, no separation. They made sure we were comfortable, and that gets noticed by everyone no matter what your place is at the festival!
Interview By: Chason Heins and Other News Outlets
Photos: Mike Geller
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