Arguably the most explosive young jam band on the touring circuit, Vermont’s up-and-coming improv quartet, Twiddle, has made massive strides over the past 13 years with frequent touring and consistent album releases. Founded at Castleton University, formerly known as Castleton State College, the band comprised of Mihali Savoulidis (guitar, vocals), Ryan Dempsey (keys), Zdenek Gubb (bass) and Brook Jordan (drums, vocals, interview), often sites their gig at the Fireside Cafe in Castleton, Vermont on January 26, 2005 as their first official Twiddle show. Hundreds of concerts, three studio albums, and one live release later, Twiddle has built a loyal fan base sometimes called “Twiddiots” and has confidently established themselves as one of the nation’s best-known jam outfits.
Just a few months ago in late April, Twiddle released their latest studio album, Plump (Chapters 1 & 2), which features a remastered disc of previously released material as well as a collection of newly recorded music. The double album was produced by Ron Saint Germain, a record producer, engineer, and mixer known for his work with 311 and Sonic Youth, as well as his involvement with 14 Grammy-winning projects. The album seamlessly fuses an array of genres from reggae to bluegrass to rock and jazz, taking its listener on a diverse sonic journey anchored by narrative lyrics and a positive musical message. Upon its release, Plump (Chapters 1 & 2) debuted on several Billboard Charts including #6 on “Alternative New: Artist Album,” #16 on “Top New: Artist Albums (Heatseekers),” #31 on “Current: Alternative Albums,” and #48 on “Current: Rock Albums.”
Through tireless touring, creative event curation, and celebrated studio recordings, Twiddle has earned themselves a prime time 3-night run to precede and follow the first two shows at Madison Square Garden by the world’s most celebrated (living) jam band, Phish. This Friday, Phish’s unprecedented “Baker’s Dozen” 13-night run of shows kicks off at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Whenever Phish performs multi-night runs in the Big Apple, thousands upon thousands of hungry music enthusiasts from across the globe descend on New York City to catch the legendary Vermont quartet perform. Every show at MSG ends around 11pm each night, giving way for a diverse array of after-hour shows at different music venues across the island. On Thursday night at 8pm, Twiddle will perform a show on the eve of Baker’s Dozen at NYC’s renowned Irving Plaza with up-and-coming pysch pop juggernauts, Madaila (tickets). The following night, Twiddle will perform the first Phish After-Party at Irving with very special guests the Giant Country Horns, the horn section made famous for touring with Phish in the summer of 1991 (tickets). Finally, on Saturday night Twiddle will cap off their 3-night run after Phish at Irving Plaza with the boy wonder Taz Niederauer sitting in as a special guest (tickets). Ahead of the 3-night run, we caught up with Twiddle’s celebrated bassist, Zdenek Gubb, to talk about their upcoming run of shows, Twiddle’s new album, Tumbledown, and much more.
Thank you to Sean Hersch for these stellar photos: Sean Hersch Multimedia
Sound Fix: Hey Gubb, thanks for taking time from your busy summer schedule to catch up. We’re approaching Twiddle’s first three-night run in NYC at the storied Irving Plaza. While the first night is before Phish’s Baker’s Dozen run in NYC, the other two are Phish After-Parties. Can you tell us a bit about your history performing Phish After-Parties in the Big Apple?
Zdenek Gubb: Yes! We are stoked for these Irving Plaza shows. It’s hard to recall all the details of our past shows although I remember we played Kenny’s Castaways and Sullivan Hall years ago. Early in the nights of those gigs, we all had the opportunity to catch some of the Phish shows. Watching Phish play is always a fine way to get your creative juices flowing.
SF: Looking ahead, each night at Irving Plaza has a different interesting theme or special guest. What does Twiddle have planned for these highly anticipated shows, and what can fans expect? Without giving away too much, do you anticipate any debuts or bustouts?
ZG: We just may have some tricks up our sleeves. I’ll try not to spoil anything but here are some things we are working on. First off, we are working out a very special collaborative set with our Burlington boys Madaila. We also have the Giant Country Horns playing with us that Friday. And then of course we have the fancy fresh Brandon “Taz” Niederauer joining on Saturday night, and we all know he is the man!
SF: The band just released Plump (Chapters 1 & 2), which debuted on several Billboard album charts. How does the new material on this album compare to the band’s previous discography?
ZG: These songs are a product of our focus and maturity coming more to light. When you create a painting, it isn’t always meant to be re-created. Music is different because a band writes music, records it, and then recreates it live at their shows. We approached this differently in trying to focus on the painting and leaving the live aspect for later. We always try to write while keeping in mind that only the four of us play it live. This marked the first album we didn’t hold back from being as creative as possible. We still plan to play every song live, it just takes some time to rearrange and reach that feeling we found each song to have.
SF: Your live performances are always multifarious and complex. How does the band go about crafting a live show from night-to-night?
ZG: We are a free-form improv rock band. The best moments in music are enveloped in emotion. We find ways to keep it interesting by learning new tunes, melodies and just staying positive and showing each other things we love or keep us going creatively. Part of the crafting is in all those elements blended with our true emotion. And you know, sprinkle in some songs people want to hear.
SF: Apart from the Irving Plaza run, what other concerts or festivals are you most looking forward to this summer?
ZG: We just got back from Frendly Gathering a couple weeks ago, which is always a favorite time of year for us! We also played Moe.Down which was also a really fun festival. And then to top it all off, this year will be the second ever Tumbledown Festival. It’s so great to be a part of and create an event for everyone to just have an awesome weekend of music, friends, family and creativity.
SF: Looking far into the future, what does 2018 look like for Twiddle?
ZG: Well, I can’t really say. I will say that I know of some really awesome big stuff happening in 2018 for Twiddle but I am really not allowed to talk about it. I could keep leading you on but nobody likes blue balls!
SF: Finally – anything else you’d like to share here that we haven’t already covered?
ZG: I have to just say that I’m excited. Not just for these kickass Irving Plaza shows but in general. We have grown and matured in so many ways and I’m excited to keep reaching.