Over the second week of September, Vulfpeck took over New York City. Their four-night streak opened at Central Park’s SummerStage, where the quartet welcomed famed drummer and musical icon Bernard Purdie for a guest-filled variety show. The theme continued throughout a three-night stand at Brooklyn Bowl, before the funk pack headed across seas for a night in Dublin, and three more nights at Brooklyn Bowl in London – marking them as the first band to play three consecutive sold-out shows at both Brooklyn Bowl locations, all in the matter of ten days.
For keyboardist Woody Goss, the NYC domination would not have been complete without a proper fix of his own favorite activity. In addition to playing music, the Ann Arbor-based musician has a unique interest in birdwatching. When the band travels, Woody spends his free-time waking up early to catch rare species of birds in their natural habitat. So, L4LM’s own Kendall Deflin decided to join Woody for one of these 7am adventures in the midst of his New York craziness. Enjoy this short clip of the four-hour adventure, courtesy of Jerry Media:
We then followed up with Woody after his European stint, and talked at length about what this year has had in store.
Live For Live Music: We met back in April at Fool’s Paradise in St. Augustine, FL. Since then, you’ve gone on to play Bonnaroo, Tipitina’s, Red Rocks, Lockn’, North Coast Music Festival, Central Park SummerStage, and now you’re on your way to three sold-out nights at London’s Brooklyn Bowl. Tell us what the last six months have been like for you.
Woody Goss: I’m just so grateful. I never expected to be able to do anything like this, really.
L4LM: Compared to the intimacy of a small venue, how did you feel playing these large-scale events and festivals?
WG: It’s really tough making so much more money, especially when it comes with the baggage of hordes of adoring fans, many of them serious musicians themselves so you can’t just ignore their opinions. Seriously though, I love playing to any audience that is engaged. Playing to a large audience is just a really powerful and rare experience that I am very grateful for. And our audiences are simply the best, as you yourself have experienced. Everyone is so happy to be there connecting over something so light and joyful. As far as acoustics, I think indoors packs more of a punch for funk music. That’s why the Chili Peppers only perform in meeting rooms at public libraries.
L4LM: Vulfpeck has just experienced a huge transitional period in the band’s career, gaining a place on the map for many. Was there a particular moment when you noticed this?
WG: When one day I discovered Cory Henry playing organ on YouTube and had an existential crisis in front of my band, and then a few weeks later I was sitting across from him playing organ on stage [at Fool’s Paradise] and had to try and hold it together while we traded fours. That was also the moment I quit music.
L4LM: For you, what has the highlight been so far?
WG: Meeting the Ween guys. Meeting Stephen Colbert. I guess being in the same room as people that I’ve looked up to creatively for so long, and knowing that I’m finally better than them.
L4LM: What kind of pressure did you experience as a band, going from an Internet/ YouTube sensation to one of the most anticipated sets of the summer?
WG: Transitioning from the internet to real life is really challenging. Sometimes I don’t do it until well into the afternoon. Basically, all we had to do was construct a live show, which we did completely on stage by playing live shows. Everyone kind of found their role, except for me. So I just play music, but Joe already took that role so I just kind of do his role but not as well.
L4LM: Vulfpeck wouldn’t be Vulfpeck without Woody Goss originals, like “Fugue State”, “The Birdwatcher”, “Mean Girls”, and “My First Car”. You are clearly an instrumental character of the team, but you are perhaps the least theatrical on stage. Your subtle greatness doesn’t go unnoticed, however, as fans still flock to your ivory tastebuds on the regular. How would you describe your role in the band?
WG: Thanks for noticing my subtle greatness, Kendall, you will be rewarded for your loyalty. My greatest gift as a musician might be my ability to be quiet. I mean this when making music, and also when a group of people is coming up with ideas. I’ve seen a lot of musicians and artists have trouble working in groups because they always need to feel like their voice is being heard. That’s how a lot of bands break up. If you feel like being a minion is the right move in one group, it may be wise to have another outlet where you can call the shots. That’s why I’m also in politics.
L4LM: We all are patiently awaiting the new album. Can you tell us about the songwriting and recording process?
WG: The recording process is really special. I have a great boss; Jack [Stratton] has a comfort fetish, and that works out for me, because I love to be comfortable. It’s kind of how James Brown didn’t treat his band. When I’m recording a Vulfpeck session, I know that I will have: a good night’s rest, a filling breakfast*, no idea what song I’m playing that day, a great deal of laughter, a great deal of dancing in my seat, at least one melt down about how talented my coworkers are, and plenty of leisure time after we finish recording. If we’re in Ann Arbor, I get to contemplate the hummingbirds in the backyard of Tyler Duncan Studios.
*The breakfast deserves special mention, because Joe [Dart] and Theo [Katzman] were really meant to be chefs, but strayed from their spirit path and somehow got wrapped up in the music racket.. it’s so sad to see Joe Dart perfectly poach eggs for us all and then go and be an utter disappointment on electric bass that he is.
L4LM: What’s next for Woody Goss?
WG: I’m going to spend the next few weeks in Uganda to try and save my friend’s burrito store. It’s located in a small village on the fringes of a forest that is home to a couple of the five remaining chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, our strongest surviving link to the web of life, so it makes sense that we destroy them and thus severe our final emotional ties to this planet and live in a platinum synchronistic paradise on Mars. Ecoburrito uses local ingredients, employs local people, and gives all profits to local conservation efforts to try and protect our local hairy cousins. I think it is a beautiful dream! And apparently the guacamole is unbeatable.
L4LM: If you were traveling to space, what album would you bring to share with the aliens? Why?
WG: I’m SO glad you asked. The Voyager 1 space craft, launched in 1977, is now close to 12 billion miles from Earth. In about 40,000 years, it will pass by a star in the Giraffe constellation at a distance of 10 trillion miles, which I guess is close enough to include a playlist onboard for the aliens to intercept and hear our tunes. The DJ committee was headed by Carl Sagan, of course. You can check out their selections online, just search the Voyager Gold Record. There’s definitely a bias towards Western Classical music, with multiple Beethoven and Bach pieces, while Chuck Berry had the only song with a back beat that made the cut (and even Carl had to fight for that one). I was happy to see a gamelan selection on there, as well as some folk music from around the world. If it were done today, maybe Clair De Lune would be on there. Apparently they tried to include the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” but EMI wouldn’t allow it. Can’t have aliens listening to the Beatles for free. Among the many items included on the record is an hour-long recording of Ann Druyan’s brain waves, including her thoughts on falling in love. She and Carl Sagan were married four years later.