Twiddle is my favorite band, so this was a real treat for me as a writer to work with Brook Jordan, Twiddle’s drummer, on an extended interview and feature about his band. In my humble opinion, there are some musicians out there who create music for the money, and some for the fame. But then there are those special groups who create music to capture the entire spectrum of emotion, with the end goal of inspiring a profound appreciation of positivity and fun. For these bands, it’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s not about the bullshit, it’s all about the music.
So without further ado, meet Twiddle: an up-and-coming jam band from Vermont that ascribes to this latter characterization. Ahead of this weekend’s Catskill Chill Music & Arts Festival, I had the special privilege to catch up with Brook Jordan on everything from his musical origins to the inception of Twiddle; from their upcoming album, Plump, to the possibility of a Twiddle festival in the next five years. Twiddle’s playing two sets at Catskill Chill, so after reading this, when you develop an uncontrollable desire to join the fun at Camp Minglewood this Friday, just know you can still snag your weekend passes here. (The featured artwork in this article is an original produced by Sound-Fix’s affiliated artist, Masha Nova, commissioned for this interview. Talk about talent!)
Sound Fix: Hey Brook! First off, thanks for taking some time today to speak with us and answer some questions for our readers and your fans, much appreciated.
Brook Jordan: You got it!
SF: To kick off these conversations, I like to dig in to each musician’s background by first tracing back to the first time you picked up sticks, and then progressively transitioning to where you are now, which is Twiddle. So to start building that storyline, tell us where it all began for you.
BJ: Sure. Well I’d say it probably started around the age of ten when I first wanted to drum. I started playing hockey when I was five, and it was the same kind of thing with drumming. My dad wanted to drum when he was a kid, but his parents didn’t want the the hassle of all the money and the noise, so they got him a saxophone instead. When I was a kid, he had the means a bit more when I wanted to play an instrument, and I guess the kid inside him said ‘You know, hell yeah, let’s do this!’ So at ten when I wanted to play drums, just like when I wanted to play hockey, he got me a drum kit. I really never took lessons, and in middle school you have to play snare drum. Then once I got to high school, I could finally play in the jazz band. So I did that and everything else, but I really didn’t want to learn how to read music. To me it was too confusing, and it stifled what I wanted to do. I don’t have a photographic memory, but I’m pretty good at remembering things very quickly. In fact, my band always jokes about it, because I can hear a song once or twice and know all the lyrics. So anyways, I rejected all of that, and then even in high school, when I tried to continue the jazz band, I couldn’t be in the high school jazz band without being in the marching band.
SF: **laughs** Same with my high school.
BJ: **laughs** I hated the marching band.
SF: Me too!
BJ: I also played a bunch of sports, and I couldn’t figure out how to play football during my freshmen year while being in the stands playing drums. I couldn’t do both, and I did’t want to. So I asked my instructors, “How can we make this work?” And they said, “We can’t,” so I said, “You know what, piss off! You’re missing out on a good drummer, and I’m gonna go do my own thing.” So pretty much from the age fifteen to sixteen I started making my own bands with friends of mine. At that time I had teenage angst, so I was listening to a lot of metal and punk, and that’s what my bands played at the time to begin with. We covered System of a Down and some other crazy stuff, and actually the musicians I played with were pretty good for their ages. Then when I was sixteen I played with a core group called Dic.Tracy. We spelled it Dic.Tracy, after moe., with the period thing. We would cover “Bullets” by moe. We were doing “Blue Sky” by the Allman Brothers. At that point I was already singing while playing the drums. We were playing at bars in Rutland, Vermont, and were playing better than bands that were in their 40s – at least that’s what the bar owner was saying. So from there it went off. I continued with my bands and stopped focusing on sports.
SF: So did you meet the guys from Twiddle while in High School?
BJ: Yeah, exactly. When I was in high school, I met up with the guys from Twiddle through a mutual friend, our first bass player, Billy Comstock. After sophomore year of high school I went from listening to hardcore rock and punk and switched over to everything that I listen to now. Basically, I went from “I’m so pissed off at everything,” to listening to Phish. It was the perfect storm, and that changed my whole musical and drumming sensibility. Still to this day when people ask me, I tell them Jon Fishman (below) of Phish truly opened my eyes. You know, drummers can be drummers, and great drummers in their own sense. But a great drummer in a great band is a different thing. What he’s done with his band, and what he’s done for Phish is something no other drummer’s really done. I’ve really grown over the past ten years with Twiddle, and my place in music has changed and morphed, but Jon Fishman inspired a turning point for me.
SF: Cool man. So now tell us the story of how you first met the guys from Twiddle, and about the inception of the band.
BJ: So it all began when I was still at a VoTech High school in Vermont where students from all over the area could come to study auto-tech or carpentry or culinary. At that school there’s a music program I took part in my senior year with our first bassist, Billy, who I’m still friends with. Billy’s father was also the instructor of our class, and that was how half to three quarters of my day during my senior year was spent. So I met Billy there, but at Castleton College nearby they didn’t have a great bassist in their pit band for the production of “Hair.” **laughs**
SF: Hate to say this, but I’ve seen that production. **laughs**
BJ: **laughs** So Mihali, our guitarist, was in the pit band for “Hair,” and because Billy’s father knew people at Castleton College, being only 20 minutes from Rutland, Billy auditioned and they brought him on. So Ryan wasn’t playing in the pit band but was playing at Castleton College and met Mickey during orientation. They started practicing, goofing around, and writing songs. Billy was obviously great in the pit, so they brought him in, and then they asked him if he knew a drummer. Before me they had brought on a couple drummers and it wasn’t working, so then Billy said, “Yeah, I know this guy, Brook.” So they said, “Let’s do it!” After that, the first time we got together was at this place called the Bungalow. In fact, Mickey talks about it in our song, “Dr. Remidi’s Melodium.” The Bungalow was a super-small apartment complex in the outskirts of Castleton near the college. It was a big-time party house at that time, but pretty much after we were done with it, we had gotten so notorious for parties that it got shut down for its reputation. Castleton was and still is a super small college town, so it was completely understandable.
SF: So the first time you played together was at The Bungalow? Tell us about that night.
BJ: Sure. So, the first time we met it was a weekend night and I was still in High School, so I couldn’t meet during the week. We met at a party and I don’t know what I even told my parents, maybe I lied to them, I have no idea, but I brought my own drums. I remember when I brought my gear right into the kitchen they already had a beer pong table set up, and people were playing, and I walked in the front of door and there was a haze of weed smoke that was so thick. I was still young and unexposed in High School, so at that time walking through I was thinking, ‘”O my god, there’s chicks, and beer, and weed, and anything you want to do,” and I just thought, “all right, this is pretty bad ass, I’m home!” So then we set up and played, and true to form even to this day, Ryan got held up somewhere, so Ryan never organized the impromptu practice jam that we tried to plan for this party. At the time we had two guitarists, and we had Billy, so we played and halfway through the party this dude walks in and asks, “Do you guys have a CD, as in music,” and we were all like, “This is the first time we all really ever met each other and played,” and he was like, “Well, holy shit, you guys got something going on here.” So pretty much from that moment on, we were doing Phish covers and going crazy. I started writing some music, and it really just felt right. I have to say immediately from the beginning, it worked out perfectly.
SF: So the next part of the story that bridges perfectly from here is the first original song you guys put together. Sounds like you did some covers to start off, but what was the first original Twiddle song that was ever written?
BJ: I think it would have to be either “Zazu’s Flight,” or “Jamflowman.” But like most of our songs, you start playing them live, and then practicing them, and then they take on a different entity. It might have even been “Gatsby the Great,” because Ryan had this pet duck, Gatsby, at Castleton that would follow him around on campus.
SF: So what was the first song you wrote for the band?
BJ: It was “Second Wind” for sure. There was this other one that never really had a name, that kind of lost itself in the void. We called it, “The Answer.” I also wrote this one called “Atlantic Mocean” in High School, so I guess that could be considered the first one. It’s an instrumental song I wrote with Billy.
SF: So we’ve collected a couple questions from some fans. We were just talking about “Second Wind” there, and this question leads into Plump a little bit. You might’ve seen this on the iTwiddle group, but there’s this t-shirt being produced right now that reads, “Let Brook Sing.”
BJ: **laughs** Nice!
SF: So everyone wants to know if Plump has a song where you sing. Can you speak about that? That is probably the #1 question everyone wants to know the answer to right now.
BJ: Yeah, there’s at least one, and I’ll leave it at that. There’s at least one, maybe two, actually. And I’ve got one other in the works. Usually it’s myself or Mickey who brings lyrics to Twiddle, so I’ve got a couple more in the works the band has heard. But for Plump, yeah, at least one.
SF: That’s great. Anything else you can tell us about Plump? Whatever you’re allowed to say, whatever you want to say. Kind of an open forum. Just tell us what’s coming out next from Twiddle.
BJ: Yeah, it’s gonna be badass! It’s coming out in December. We want to wait for after our tour with The Werks to release it. We don’t want to do any kind of album release party on the road while co-billing with another band. We want to do it right. Most of the material is done at this point, and we have a lot of guests and special features going into the album that makes it special, so it’s taking a little bit longer than expected, but that stuff happens. You live and you learn. We’re super excited about it, and we feel like it’s going to be a new chapter for the band.
SF: Can you say how many tracks you have on the album?
BJ: That kind of stuff we’re keeping quiet for now.
SF: Sure, no problem. Is the collaboration piece under wraps as well?
BJ: I can let you know on one of the tracks, the one I sing on, there’s a pedal steel guitarist. It has more of a country western feel to it. I’m really excited about that, because it’s a direction I wanted to go with on that song, and I feel like as part of the album it gives us a different avenue and genre to add to our repertoire.
SF: Cool. This is another question from the iTwiddle group. People are interested to hear about the back story of the Kickstarter campaign for Plump. Where did that idea come from?
BJ: Yeah, for sure. We’ve done it one time before. I believe it was to help with the last album. A lot of people do Kickstarter to produce a product like a cooler, or a music player, or some type of engine or something. With us it was more or less funding our main product, which is the album. Our fans totally amazed and floored us with the backing they provided. We reached our goal within a day. **laughs** It proves that our fans love us, and we try to prove to our fans that we love them. It’s taken a bit of time to produce Plump, but we’ve learned from the process. When we were younger we did an album super quick and we didn’t really do it the way it should’ve been done. We were young, didn’t have any advisors, and then we did our second album kind of the same way. Even for this third album, we’re still just learning how to make this all work, and we really don’t have a formula in stone.
SF: Right. Makes sense.
BJ: We don’t have a record company or any backing like that. We can’t just go into some crazy amazing studio with gear set up and spend half a year fucking around. So when we went in for Plump we had an idea of what we were gonna do. In fact, I wrote the shortest track on the album, just under 4 minutes, so everything else is over 4 minutes long. So basically we tried to fit a lot of stuff in really quickly, but I think we bit off more than we could chew with the amount of music we wanted to lay down. We’re also all perfectionists, so you can imagine the struggle. So yes, the people gave us money to invest in a product we’re going to give them by the end of the year. What our supporters got back was exclusive artwork, which included pins and t-shirts, and if you donated enough money, you got personal thank yous in the liner of the album. We tried to be creative with it, too. Ryan would call people and thank them. **laughs** If you gave enough money, which one person did, you get every piece of Twiddle merch for the rest of your life. **laughs** (check out this video interview conducted by our friend, Wiley Griffin)
SF: **laughs** What was the price tag on that?
BJ: I think the price tag was maybe $5 grand or something. I’m not gonna say the person’s name, but he’s a really great friend of ours who told me, “I don’t even give a shit about the merch. I just want to know this money is going to the music, to the advancement of the album, the new sound you’re going for, and to better the band,” and that’s exactly what we’re doing with it. At the same time too, we brought in guests. I don’t want to get too far into it, but a musician’s time costs money, and you have to hire somebody to write out their music. It’s just like a live show. If you ask someone to put on a show or a fest, they will usually have no idea about the costs of security. Even just the audio companies themselves have speakers, wires, microphones, stands, and a slew of a crew. Nobody has any idea how expensive it can be to throw a festival or show, and it’s the same thing with a record. It’s a lot of work.
SF: So where did you record Plump?
BJ: Right in Burlington, actually, down the street from where I live. It’s called the Signal Kitchen.
SF: Ok, right on. So kind of getting into festivals a bit. This is a Catskill Chill-oriented interview, so we’re very interested to know what you have in store for Catskill Chill. I spoke to Tim from Kung Fu and he said he’d be on stage with you guys for the Dead tribute set. Tell us what you have in store for Catskill Chill. We’re super pumped. (see our Catskill Chill Kung Fu interview here)
BJ: So for the Dead tribute set we’re going to have Tim Palmieri handling the Jerry stuff, and most of the singing. Then our friends Ryan Clausen and Josh Dobbs, who both play together, will trade off as the second drummer. We’ll have some other guests coming in as well. I was hoping they’d put us on the bigger stage this year, but you know, it is what is it is. It’s going to be a blast, but I can’t really talk about set lists or anything like that. Twiddle’s doing its own set the next night, so we’re super-pumped for the whole weekend. I love Catskill Chill. It’s one of my favorite festivals because I have a lot of friends who go there, and I always have a friend or two who have cabins, so I can go and hang out with them and get some time away. Also, everybody who works there is awesome. I know a bunch of the production people, and it’s just a great festival all over.
SF: Cool. So what have your Catskill Chill experiences been like in the past. Tell us a bit more about the aesthetic, the feel, the atmosphere. Why is it one of your favorite festivals?
BJ: It’s partly the exclusivity I guess. It get’s capped pretty quickly, and it just feels like a tight-knit community. We do Frendly Gathering every summer, and it feels like that event. I’m bummed it’s the last year with cabins (**this is not true, this interview was done last year and New Minglewood has cabins**) because it makes Catskill Chill feel like a summer camp, which is really cool. Also a lot of the time when you go to a festival, it’s hard to get your bearings because you just show up and it’s huge and confusing. At Chill you’re going to find out pretty quickly if you’re going the wrong way or the right way, because everything’s close, convenient, and super chill. It’s easy to get close to the stages, and to me it feels like it’s a community of groups that know each other and then come together as one group that knows each other.
SF: So we covered Backwoods Pondfest in Peru, NY for the first time this summer. We loved that festival; it had a big-time community vibe. Pondfest kind of sounds like how you’re describing Catskill Chill. I know you’ve done it year after year, so how’s your experience been at that festival?
BJ: Yeah, man, it was super unfortunate we couldn’t make it there this year. We were doing the waterfront and Higher Ground shows in Burlington, and that stuff tends to happen. It’s probably going to happen more and more in our careers, but we love to support Lucid and that whole upstate New York music scene. It definitely is a community, and the people at Pondfest respect each other. It’s for the love of music, and everybody gets together and has a great time. We were definitely bummed the whole band couldn’t make it this year, but we were at least excited Mickey could make it this year for his Storyteller set. And you’re right, it really has the same feel as Chill.
SF: ((**This interview was done last year, before Tumble Down was announced and scheduled. Enjoy this foreshadowing!!**)) So here’s another festival related question, but more catered towards Twiddle. People sometimes say Frendly Gathering is basically a Twiddle Festival, but it’s run by the Burton guys. Hinging off that idea – are there plans to create a Twiddle Festival like Werk Out, Camp Bisco, Pondfest, etc? Has that idea at least been tossed around? Please tell us everything and anything you can say about a future Twiddle Festival.
BJ: Yeah, it’s definitely been talked about between us, our management and everyone else. But like I was saying before, it takes a small army to put on a festival. So we definitely want to do it, we’ve talked about it, but we also know that it’s going to take some time. To put something on like that, we’re going to have to put touring on hold, and we’re going to have to assemble a small army. I think the first year we’d do it, at this point, wouldn’t be a super small couple-hundred person festival. It would probably be at least over 1,500 people, so we’re going to have to think a little bigger. So we’re definitely talking about it, but we’re not fools to think we can just put it on next summer. Not next summer, but maybe the summer after next.
SF: Ok, cool. From my perspective, the summer of 2017 is not too far out. This probably goes without saying, but would Vermont be the state?
BJ: Yeah, I’d say so. I don’t think we’d go anywhere else!
SF: Yeah I wouldn’t think so. So playing off this hypothetical, if you could choose one venue or campsite for this ideal Twiddle festival in Vermont, where would that be?
BJ: Not too sure. Maybe where Frendly does it, honestly. Our intention would probably to be to link up with the Frendly crew and maybe just use their network of people to do what we need to do, because they’ve been doing it for years. That’s the initial idea.
SF: Yeah, that definitely seems realistic because they have a good thing going on with Frendly Gathering. If you could somehow merge the brands, figure some sort of negotiation to evolve Frendly into a variation of Werkout / Bisco but run by Twiddle, that could definitely happen within the next three years. I know tons of fans who wouldn’t even think twice about getting passes to TwiddFest ’17.
BJ: Yeah, absolutely. But again, we’re not naive to how much work it actually takes to get it done. I can say for sure not next summer, but likely the summer after that.
SF: So this next question combines this conversation about TwiddFest with the exploration of your musical influences and the bands you listen to. Who would you invite to TwiddFest ’17? We love Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, for example, we think those guys are great. If you could choose six bands to headline your festival in Vermont, who would they be?
BJ: I like Madaila from Burlington. They’re super cool. We love Aqueous in terms of up-and-coming bands. I would invite Papadosio, for sure. So for the TwiddFest, the top six would probably be Madaila, Aqueous, Papadosio, Dopapod, The Werks, and Lucid.
SF: I’m there. You sold me.
BJ: Beyond those six, I could even go further to invite Turkuaz and Pigeons, as well. I was with all those guys and hanging out with them, talking with them about being younger musicians in our 20s or whatever else, and we started talking about how we are starting to lead this scene. We want to work together to put it in a cool direction. All of these bands are doing their different things, but making a splash in their different ways. It’s pretty cool being young and being able to do that. (**check out this video of Pigeons performing F.U. > Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley Cover) > F.U. at 2015’s Wild Woods Music Festival. We’re covering Wild Woods 2016 next weekend from July 29th – 31st, get your tickets here).
SF: People are interested to hear about your New Year’s shows at Higher Ground. Last year was you guys and Dopapod, but now this is YOUR New Year’s show. How does that feel? Tell us about it.
BJ: Yeah, we’re super pumped. It’s the three nights surrounding New Year’s, and thankfully New Year’s is on a Thursday. So the show is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It’s exciting to be at home, to control our own show, and to be at the same venue for three days, and a familiar venue at that. So we’re super excited, and we’re gonna be in our element for sure.
SF: Got a few more here. So Brook, why do you make music?
BJ: Why do I make music?
BJ: Because the world needs it. There’s way too much bullshit and drama and hatred, and you can make music that emulates all that shit, too, but I like to make music that inspires and evokes a positive emotion, or you know, maybe even a negative emotion as well, but that ultimately gives people hope for a better emotion later. Life can really suck balls sometimes, but as long as there’s music and there’s hope and there’s positivity that you can spread around to people, then the world will keep turning. There are other ways besides music to do that, but this is the way I express myself, and it feels great to be able to do that and to connect with people musically.
SF: Ok here are some spitfire questions to dig in to your personality and tastes, you ready?
BJ: Ready as ever.
SF: What is your favorite movie?
BJ: Recently it’s been Guardians of the Galaxy, but that’s just been recently.
SF: Favorite TV show?
BJ: I watch the US version of The Office over and over and over again. I can watch it doing whatever.
SF: One favorite drummer of all time?
BJ: Definitely Jon Fishman.
SF: Historically, your favorite band?
BJ: Would definitely still be Phish. I love so much music, but, again, Phish touched me the most and on a much more regular basis than any other band. They constantly just hit home and make it work.
SF: Cool, Brook. So to close off this great conversation, is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans? Anything we didn’t touch upon? We like to end our interviews with an open forum.
BJ: For sure. We couldn’t be more grateful for our fanbase, and our growing fanbase. We’re touched by the fact people share our music constantly and find it a place of inspiration, and that it helps people get out of a tough spot or a tough place, or even just helps them get through a long drive. We’re here to entertain, to revel in a positive message, and we also at the same time want people to know we’re just regular guys. I was doing the dishes when you called me earlier, so we’re really just regular guys, and we try to just be positive. Life can shoot you a lot of troubles and hard times, and you just have to get over the obstacles and look for the positives. Glass half full!
SF: Absolutely man. Brook – thanks for this interview, we got some awesome stuff here. We’ll be at Chill, and would like to meet up again. Great to get to know you better this past hour.
BJ: You got it man, talk to you then.
So there you have it guys! Check out the Catskill Chill Playlist we built for Camp Minglewood (Twiddle’s on it), and stay on top of our upcoming interviews with Dopapod, and SOLARiS by following our Facebook Page and Twitter.