Wiley Griffin has been tearing up the guitar since he was just 10 years old. He has played in various bands in the festival circuit including Mun before moving to Brooklyn-based band Teddy Midnight. Having only been in the “electro-dance-funk” band for a year, Wiley Griffin brings a whole new energy and range to their sound. We sat down with him right after a killer set at Disc Jam in Stephentown, NY earlier this month for light and fun interview to talk about the band, favorite collaborations, and breakfast food.
EC: What has the year been like since you joined Teddy Midnight back in August 2015?
WG: It’s been amazing! When we first got together that very first rehearsal we realized that more than one of us produces in the band on Ableton Live. We had like four or five tracks that we could just pump out right away that we had worked on separately before, had ideas and then just brought them to the table as a band so they kind of just went right away. So it was nice that right away we had a set and then we hit the road pretty hard. I think we’ve done 60+ shows since August, probably more. We’ve been everywhere. We’ve been in New Hampshire, Vermont a bunch. We’ve been playing at Nectar’s a lot. Everywhere. It’s been great!
EC: How has the experience been different than some of your past projects such as Mun?
WG: I’d say Teddy Midnight is a little more electronically based. We use backing tracks and do the livetronic thing. Other than that it’s just been…I can’t say one was better than the other but as far as where my artistic…I really like where Teddy Midnight is and what we are doing. I have a lot of fun working with these guys.
EC: So many bands have different goals. Some want to be festival headliners, others want to be Top 40 – I’m guessing that is not your intention. What is the goal of Teddy Midnight?
WG: It’s the number one goal to take over in 2017 (laughs). We have an album coming out. I spent all day yesterday editing our very first music video for “Turkish Silva” and that was awesome. We actually started that process last October so to have that 90 percent ready to go is a great feeling! Other than that it’s just, we’re pushing to get more of our artistic assets out. We have a lot of songs on the back burner. We rehearse a lot. We record a lot.
EC: When does the new album come out?
WG: We don’t have a date.
EC: Is there a theme to the album?
WG: Well I would say that when we first got together to play music and write songs, all the songs that were the impetus to Teddy Midnight are on that album. So I would say that was the theme; a new birth to the band. New music and a new sound.
EC: You’ve spent a lot of time in Albany but Teddy Midnight is a Brooklyn based band. What are your ties to Albany?
WG: So interestingly enough, we go way back. I can’t remember the name of this one bar…Jillian’s! So the first time I was ever in Albany I was in band called Mophat and that was like my hometown bar band. We opened up for Twiddle there I think in 2008 or 2009. I remember going there for the first time and it was just a ghost town but like a music ghost town because you could hear acoustic ramblings all up in the bar and in the distance. It’s just an awesome town, I really liked it. It reminded me of the old west except that it’s so far up north. So that was the first time I played at Jillian’s which is no longer there. So that was my first time there. But Adam, our drummer, is actually from Albany. So he has a lot of friends up there and ties there. For some reason Albany keeps coming up as far as where we book and it’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun.
EC: Do you have a musical philosophy?
WG: Be present. Be communicative. Be expressive.
EC: What is the story behind the name Teddy Midnight? I saw the picture on your website with the giant teddy bear…
WG: (Laughs) That’s Big Ted, which is kind of new. Somewhere along the lines we were like “we need the giant teddy bear – this has to happen!”
EC: It’s only natural!
WG: The name itself – well there is a couple of stories surrounding it but it’s basically a weird dormitory ritual and that’s all I will say about that. (Laughs). All very PG though.
EC: OK, we will use your imaginations on that one. Recently the Times Union had a preview on a show you were doing and they said, “If you have not been feeling you would pass the ‘hipster test’ lately, Brooklyn-based Teddy Midnight might just be the tonic you need.” Thoughts?
WG: We all had a good laugh about that one, and we were like “cool, we’re the first jam band that’s considered hipsters.” (Laughs) We appreciated the preview anyway.
EC: Do you have favorite musicians you like to collaborate with?
WG: What we’ve been doing a lot lately is writing songs and then look for people to sing them. We recently reached out to our friend Elizabeth Ellie who, with the track I had made she just came back with this like…oh, my God…great song, amazing melody. And she’s not even a professional singer, she doesn’t perform. She’s just a friend that I knew could sing. So we’ve been doing that on a more ground level but on a more professional level, we’ve been talking about working with Congo Sanchez on some things, doing some remixes for the album. We aren’t sure who is going to do that yet but we have some people in mind. I have a couple of songs I’m working on that one of my friends from the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars might make an appearance on, our friend Jah. We are just open to a lot of things. I know Chaz might do some horns for us, he was also on the Twiddle record. There’s a lot of people that we could potentially work with. It’s all about who makes sense and what we can get done.
EC: What’s your relationship like with the guys from Twiddle and specifically with Mihali Savoulidis?
WG: Mihali and I go way back. I’ve known that kids since before he played guitar. The story has it that he was on vacation somewhere and he had this guitar that didn’t have any fret dots on it. And I had been playing for a little while here and his brother was like, “yeah, he’s having a hard time remembering where the frets are,” or something like that. So I took white-out and I painted on the little dot that goes on with a note that said “you should play this thing. This will help you remember where the frets are.” Fast forward like 10 summers and the kid is shredding on David Bowie.
EC: So how old were you guys then?
WG: I remember seeing Mihali come to my first concerts when I was like 11. So he was like nine or 10.
EC: Thoughts about Disc Jam?
WG: I love this festival. It’s one of my favorite festivals on the northeast. I am so happy they moved it here to Stephentown because this is a great, great site. As far as music, everyone is going to be here this weekend – it’s going to be insane. I am also playing with Horizon Wireless’ live band on Sunday, so that was a cool add on. In general, there’s a lot of stuff going on, ya know?
EC: Who was the saxophonist that just played with Teddy Midnight?
WG: That was Sean from the William Thompson Funk Exchange.
EC: Are horns something you might consider adding?
WG: Well like I say, the fact that we use backing tracks, like electronic, makes it really easy to add just about anything. I have definitely thought about doing some dub stuff with some serious horns.
EC: Ok – One last question for my friend Brittany who says you can tell a lot about a person by what their favorite breakfast food is. So what is yours?
WG: (Laughs) I would say a breakfast burrito with bacon in it.
EC: Do you do hot sauce? Sriracha, Franks? Or are you a Tabasco kind of person?
WG: (laughs) Do I go hipster with it and say Sriracha? Or do I go with Franks? I am going to go Franks because it’s a little spicier!