Premiere: High Pulp - Juiced
Future funk-fusion band High Pulp have come a long way since we premiered their Basement Sessions video for "Song of the Heavens" nearly a year ago. This weekend, the 10-piece is playing the Starbucks stage at Upstream Music Fest + Summit and at the end of the month they'll be playing alongside 2014 Stranger Music Geniuses Industrial Revelation and R&B goddess Jusmoni for their album release show at Nectar. That's nothing to scoff at for a band whose only recorded material released beyond the Basement Sessions since their incarnation was the 7-minute "Ezell's" (which we featured on our third DMM compilation album). Today, DMM is excited to premiere the lead single from High Pulp's debut album Bad Juice, "Juiced." The spirited funk track enters with a bang, growing and building until completely crashing for a spaced-out middle section, only to grow yet again. It's a fantastically dynamic track that perfectly showcases why you should be paying attention to this band. Drummer and band-leader Rob Granfelt had this to say about the track:
"'Juiced' is the first song we ever wrote, Gehrig played the guitar riff at a rehearsal back in September of 2015 (jesus that was a while ago), and it reminded us of some 70's era Herbie Hancock-type stuff, so we ran with that vibe as long as we could. It's a fun tune, it has a little James Brown quote in it, and a long acid-jazz middle section. Our goal with the tune was to create music that was uptempo & dancey, resulting in basically an all out sprint from start to finish."
During a sunny Sunday afternoon last week, Granfelt and I chatted about the making of the album, the history of the band, and Seattle's DIY scene.
DMM: So you guys are releasing your debut album Bad Juice, which by the way very clever title, at the end of June, can you tell me a bit about it?
RG: I mean, it’s so funny because we haven’t released anything yet. Like, we’re playing shows, we’re playing Upstream but we haven’t released anything. So, there’s people who know our band and I’m just excited how people respond to it, in general. It’s eight songs, they were written as long as three years ago and as recent as a month before we went into the studio, so it spans a whole lot of time. And over the course of the time we went from four members just like playing in my basement to the full ten-piece and it’s just like kept growing. So, this is the culmination of the first step of this band, I’d say. We formed when I moved back from the Twin Cities with Scott playing bass and Gehrig playing guitar and Antione playing keys and we were just jamming in my basement. Not doing anything serious at all, just playing. It sort of dissipated actually when we were doing some other musical projects. For like four months we were doing nothing and then it started back up again in September of 2016. That’s when we started playing together more seriously and got a practice space set up and starting working towards this goal of this album. We didn’t really even know what it was or what it would be but we were like, “Cool, this is band. We’re gonna write music that we’re really excited and inspired by and it’s gonna culminate with this album.” It took a long time but also a really short time, it’s kinda funny like that. We recorded the album in January, we went up to my friend Abigail’s, who does the Maker’s Jam with me, parents’ house in Whidbey Island and recorded up there for like four days. It was fun, it was a good time. We laid down most of the tapes there and then came back and overdubbed. We did most of the horns and percussion after the fact. Which is kind of an interesting way to do it, especially in our scene, where like jazzy, funky kind of stuff puts a premium on live recording and “the take.” We don’t really give a shit about that. We want the take because of the energy but, really, as long as the drums and the bass have the energy, everything else will be fine. So we did the live band thing and then we went back over and, in some cases, would rewrite parts for the overdub. Which I think is what makes this album sound different from some of the other albums that it might be compared to. It’s not one full live take, if you want that you can see it at the show. We all listen to a lot of beatmakers like Flying Lotus, Madlib, Knxwledge, Mndsgn, and whoever else just as much as we listen to jazz so we come at it from this perspective of “How can put everything in its place and then pick it apart and manipulate it in the computer?” It just gives us more opportunities. So, right now, the band is trying to find an identity within the scene and it can be had to know who we are and this album kind of complicated that even further. But I like it, I don’t wanna fit in any box.
DMM: I think that is interesting, especially considering your personal background, like you interned at Barsuk and you have a very indie/DIY spirit but you’re in the funk/jazz band and those are two different worlds historically but now they’re melding.
RG: Totally, we all come from different places in the band which is cool, like Antoine and I grew up together somewhat. We've known each other since high school and we both grew up like in the DIY scene and we played at Ground Zero all the time. When we grew up there was Vera, there was the Redmond Fire House, there KTUB (Kirkland Teen Union Building), and there was Ground Zero which is old church that they converted into like a DIY spot. It’s where I played my first show, Antoine played his first show, we all like grew up in this DIY scene and Nick from Darto was running that and then Nick was also going to like community college or something with Scott our bass player and then we met we met Scott and Gehrig basically in a roundabout way through the DIY scene as well. We all know Nick Merz of Darto which is a funny thing if you listen to like Darto’s music and listen to High Pulp there like so disparate but all four of us have this common ground of Nick Merz and of West Gonzalez who is the booker at the Royal Room and we all used play in a band together. But yeah it is a sort of like that where we come from that place and then as we went out into college I got really into jazz and I was playing big band and starting to identify as a jazz drummer and just an all-around drummer and what not but then still doing stuff like shows at The Moon [DIY venue in SoDo that shut down last year] and the Makers Jam, so it's sort of like straddling everything. You have the professional world where people think of you as a professional band because we have horns you know what I mean, it’s funny. If you ask any jazz musician if what we make is jazz they’re like “nah” but if you ask any funk musician if it's funk it's also not really funk so it's funny that you bring up that point of Barsuk and all these weird sort of components of the soil that is this band between all 10 of us. It's all fucking over the place and the music sort of reflects that in a way that it's hard to put it into a place.
DMM: So you guys play a lot of great live shows do you find that you have a mixed demographic of people that show up? Or because you guys are young is it still mostly young people that show up?
RG: No, it’s cool this is the first band I’ve been in that my mom likes. We’ve been really lucky to have a lot of this stuff been received really well. it's really humbling and cool and exciting when it feels like it can reach a lot of people and I think a lot of that has to do with the nature that it has no lyrics. People always say like, “Are you guys going to get a singer?” and we’re like no. We’re down to collaborate with singers but I think that there's a universality to it where you're just consuming that thing and it's just sounds, there's no words. There's probably some part of the thinking mind that doesn't have to be activated when you're not listening to lyrics but I’m just speculating. When it’s just instrumental music and people can show up and dance but then also have improvisation where we're looking at each other and you have to communicate, it translates that energy to the crowd and I think that there's something about that that is what people can relate to.
DMM: Right, when there are lyrics a lot of times that’s all people will focus on.
RG: Yeah right it's like “oh this is a sad song” you know because they're talking about a breakup and it's like well you know you could listen to a song on this record and it could be a breakup song but it could also be a falling in love song. I never really thought about it until this moment but I think that’s an element of it that I like. It's also a cool time for it I feel like the music world right now is like in a place that I'm excited about where these bands like Kamasi Washington, Badbadnotgood, Khraungbin.
DMM: Since we’re on the topic of other bands, you’re playing your release show with Industrial Revelation and Jusmoni which is so so sick. How did that come about and how do you feel about it?
RG: I'm stoked about it. I just reached out to both of them and I just was like “Hey we’re doing this.” I've been I've been talking to D’Vonne, the drummer for Industrial Revelation, a lot trying to get these shows together for a while and we just finally found a date that works. I know JusMoni from the the third Big Building Bash, which she played. That was my first summer back after school so is the 2016. I don't really remember where I first heard of her music, probably just around, bu I remember thinking it was so great I was like this is great. Again, booking shows for this band is hard because we don't really fit with anything but Jusmoni going to come on before and she's going to be great. Industrial Revelation is going to close the night and they're going to be amazing. Those are two very different groups and we don't fit with them as well so it's a cool opportunity in a way to play with a bunch of different bands: Jazz, hip-hop, R&B, Rock, Punk, DIY, again whatever because when you don't fit with anything you sort of fit with everything.
Bad Juice is out June 30th, catch High Pulp that night at Nectar with Industrial Revelation and Jusmoni. Don't miss their set this Saturday, June 2 at 8:15 on the Starbucks Stage at The Ninety for Upstream Music Fest + Summit.