Originally published in The Hindu Metroplus Bengaluru on June 2, 2016
What was it like at the Grammys this time?
Yeah it was cool man, it was crazy. It’s not my scene. The red carpet, music celebrity vibe is not really my favourite part… Not only is it not my favourite part, I would say it’s as far as you can possibly go from the creation of music (laughs). You know what I mean? Like, why we play music, why we all started as kids and what it means to sit next to someone and play a guitar with them. It’s as opposite as you can get from that.
Going back for the second time. You had an idea.
Yeah, sure. Well, I guess… Once you go the first time and you figure out what it’s about and all that stuff, I think you’re better prepared. I felt more prepared for what was going to happen this time and what to expect. A lot has changed in the last two years, since we won the first Grammy. We’re a little more visible. That’s really – sad to say – but that’s what the Grammys are about. It’s not the music scene. I shouldn’t say shit like this in an interview.
The first time we went, we were just completely unknown. We walked in, got our award and left. Nobody knew us before we came in and nobody knew us before we came out. This time, some stuff has changed and we’ve worked with artists that are a little higher profile. We’ve become a little more successful. As a result of that, we did what you’re supposed to do at the Grammys, which is talk to people that are in the music industry and meet other artists that you always wanted to meet. There was one moment where I turned around and I was walking down the red carpet with David Crosby and then he wasn’t there anymore. And then he was a couple of feet behind me and he was talking to Alice Cooper and Joe Perry. And I was like ‘Woah!’ I snuck in and got a photo with the three of them. It was really weird, but that to me, was when I got what it was all about. It’s an opportunity for all these music industry to connect with each other and for me, I was just spending it having meetings with people. Trying to constructive and not to focus on anything like glamour. That’s not what we’re about and I don’t really care about that shit. I’m trying to get into film scoring, so I was meeting with people like that.
Do you get asked what you’re wearing?
Yeah there were some interviews on the red carpet, where they asked, ‘So why did you choose to wear…?” And I went, “Honestly, I don’t care, man.” You know, you have to be nice about it. It’s not who I am, it’s not how we are, the guys in the band. We’re like the kids with the dirty faces who snuck into the rich peoples’ party. I think that’s our scene and it always will be, even if things continue to go well. At heart, we’re just people who like to play music.
But I don’t want to make it sound like we’re not grateful for everything. Because we’re very grateful for the things the Grammys have brought for us. We were very surprised to win that award, especially people like Marcus Miller, whom we consider awesome.
Family Dinner Volume II released right after the Grammys, right? How has it been received?
Yes, the record came out three days before the Grammys. That was just coincidence, though. It’s been amazing. The response has been so good. I never stop being surprised when people are receptive to our music. We’ve made so many records and in so many forms that I’m just waiting for the record that comes out and people say, ‘All right, this one sucked. They’re done.’ People seem to be open-minded about what we do. (Laughs) Our last album was a symphonic album and then we made a record with eight singers from around the world. People are receptive to both those things and they’re opposite things. I’m just grateful that people put faith in us and trust us and open their minds to new music. It’s special; not everyone’s fans are like that.
I heard it was recorded during Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
Yeah, we did. The only bad thing was that it was a pain in the ass to get to the studio, because of all the parades, but it was cool. It was really so that people who were coming to the recording would stay and have a good time in New Orleans, you know?
Did you guys all party after recording?
We were out every night! After the shows finished at 11:30 PM, we would roll out and go to the Maple Leaf or DVA or Blue Nile – or any of those badass New Orleans clubs that have music until 3 AM. We’d be there and when the music ended, we’d start playing (laughs). Carlos Malta, from Brazil, he brought his flute and every night, we’d have a samba party. And in New Orleans, they love it. They don’t give a shit. They close when you stop playing, so it was fun.
What are the logistics of putting together a live DVD with so many collaborators? Have you put someone else in charge of that?
I used to do all of it, until Sylva was the first time… although [with] We Like It Here, I had some help. But Sylva was the first time we really had a production management unit. So now, I don’t do that, but I do the front end of the logistics, you know? Stuff like picking the artists, scheduling the rehearsals, building timetables… and other people execute it, which is much better (laughs).
So that means you’re still the point of contact between all these artists and the production?
Yeah. I reached out to the artists, for sure. I don’t like the… somebody’s manager reaching out to another person’s manager? I don’t know, it just feels funny to me. Especially if I know the artist. Like Jacob (Collier) – whom I have been friends with for three years.
What are your touring plans like for the rest of the year?
Yeah we’re doing a little South America thing. We’re going to Mexico, which is not South America, but after that we’re going to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. It’s like five gigs in South America.
After that, we have our 11th record Culcha Vulcha coming out, at the end of April. As soon as that comes out we’re on tour for three months – that’s like North America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia. All over the place.
Could you tell me a bit about Culcha Vulcha?
Well it’s cool. There are 12 brand-new Snarky Puppy instrumental songs, old school, regular, no special guest vocalists or orchestra. It’s our first studio album in seven years. No audience, no video. We went into this ranch in West Texas. It’s a total desert and it’s five minutes from the Mexican border and we stayed there for a week and we cranked up 12 tunes and with overdubs. Sonically, it’s very different. It’s much more ambitious and much less natural. It’s a little warmer and sonically explorative.
Because our audio engineer – the guy who mixed all our records – he passed away very suddenly this year, so now we have a new engineer. Rather than have the new engineer do what Eric Hartman used to do, we have a guy who’s the exact opposite. We’re trying to give him an opportunity to really express his voice as an audio engineer. Which is important – to let people do what they’re best at. I love the combination of us and him, I think it’s going to be really cool. That’s the music we’re touring.
What was it like working on Culcha Vulcha? Who was involved?
The way it works in this band is always that whoever writes the song, writes it by themselves. We don’t co-write. For this record, I wrote six songs. Six other guys wrote one each. I wrote half the record and then half the band each wrote a song, which was really cool. The music is going in a really interesting direction, I feel. With this record, it’s darker and moodier. It’s really more of a groovier record. It doesn’t have the kind of bombastic, fireworks shit that We Like It Here has. It’s more patient, it feels more mature to me, more sonic… just deeper, you know? I’m curious to see how people respond to it, especially since there’s no video. Our fans are so used to video. Maybe people will hate it, I don’t know.
Will people be able to tell which songs you wrote and the ones the others wrote?
I don’t know. I feel like my writing is kind of going into a different space. While I was listening to the stuff I wrote on the record, I feel like there’s a sense of unity. The record’s all over the place, like all our stuff. They go in many different directions. You’re going to be a better person to tell me that. I have no clue, but you probably will.
Is it going to make people headbang, like that one guy in a 5,000 capacity venue?
Oh, I don’t know about that. I don’t think it’s a headbanger. Maybe it is, though! It’s like a slow headbanger, I think.
When you’re on tour, I’m guessing people would want stuff from Family Dinner, but you’ll only play Culcha Vulcha, right?
Yeah. We’re only going to play from Culcha Vulcha. We can’t do that stuff without those singers, you know? Sylva and Family Dinner, these aren’t Snarky Puppy records. They’re special projects. It’s not who we are as a live band. That’s what I love about touring, we always get to go back to who we really are and remind ourselves about that. This time, the material is great, so it’s going to be fun.
Have you got any more offers from India?
I don’t know, man. When I was going to India, I was just going as a tourist. I taught a masterclass at the True School of Music in Mumbai, but man… I’ve been dying for an Indian tour. Please, somebody make it happen. Call Oranjuice or whatever. I really want it to happen. India’s one of my favourite places in the world and I’m waiting for the day I get the call saying, ‘We got a tour in India’.