A trio that began busking in the New York City subways more than eight years ago has created a distinct sound that has emerged to stages across the world, a sound that’s been coined “brasshouse.” The incredible talent of those three – Leo P. on bari sax, Matt Doe on trumpet, and The King of Sludge on percussion – form the group Too Many Zooz. The band has reached many fans far and wide with music videos and clips of their live shows emerging on social media outlets, but those short clips don’t do justice to the experience of being in the crowd at their shows.
After kicking off their tour with a Jam Cruise performance, Too Many Zooz returned home to Brooklyn for a packed show at Brooklyn Bowl, and will be hitting The Hollow in Albany this week on Jan. 28, with stops at The Haunt in Ithaca and Buffalo Iron Works on the 29th and 30th, respectively.
We had a chance to speak with Matt Doe about Too Many Zooz, and he had a lot to say about the band.
Steve Malinski: How was Jam Cruise?
Matt Doe: It was cool, man. I don’t think I’m much of a cruise person to be honest, in the sense of what it is and how it’s formatted. But for what it was I very much enjoyed it
SM: Did you guys have any collaborations?
MD: Yeah, we played with Galactic and Thumpasaurus and a few others.
SM: Going back to the start of Too Many Zooz, how did you guys meet and settle into the style you’re playing now?
MD: We just met in the subway and started playing music.
SM: So, was it totally random?
MD: Well, I went to school with Leo and he met TKOS in a band called the Drumadics, and we got connected with each other after that.
SM: Can you explain a little bit about what brasshouse is?
MD: I don’t really think of music in genres like that, so for me BH is more just about the intent in which you play the music and not necessarily a specific rhythm or sound or harmonic styling. I think a lot of people get put in a position where they feel like they have to tailor to one sort of genre or box and be confined to that box. So brasshouse is more about playing the music you want to play and making it your own. It’s way more about (for me at least) what it is that you’re bringing to it and what your intent is when playing.
SM: Regarding your live shows…how are they different from what people might see on videos on social media?
MD: It depends if they’re watching a video of a live show, or from the subway. I think it’s more of just a question of how live music differentiates from recorded music. There are some obvious differences – on recordings people play shorter songs just because of how that’s formatted. So at shows we open up more. I personally think that our recordings are awesome but live is definitely a different experience.
SM: As a performer, how does the energy of the crowd affect your performance on stage?
MD: You have a crowd in front, not the studio walls. It’s hard to explain, but maybe the crowd gives you some energy to play off of, which you don’t have in the studio. It’s a totally different thing.
SM: How much of your show is structured versus improv?
MD: It very much depends on where we’re playing and who we’re playing for. Generally, I think nowadays, on average, it’s half and half improvised and structured songs.
SM: With social media being popular for musicians, how much do you think Instagram and Twitter has helped you reach new fans, and fans around the world?
MD: Immensely, man. I don’t think we’d be here without it. We’d be somewhere, I’m not saying we wouldn’t be a successful band but there’s something to say about the power of the internet. The benefit of what those things can give you…I wouldn’t credit our success to social media but more to our hard work. But it’s definitely kind of become a part of being an artist today. I see the immediate value for the clout and using it to look cool in using it to promote yourself in certain ways. But…just for daily happiness – the idea of waking up every morning and living my life through a lens….
SM: Do you guys have any new projects in the works?
MD: Yeah, we just put out the Zombies EP which we’re super proud of and I think that’s one of our better projects, if not our best. We have a bunch of other stuff that we’re sitting on. It takes us so long to put music out since we’re on the road all the time and I never get the chance to get to the studio and produce the material. When I do, it’s like six months after the fact. It’s tricky to keep up…it’s tough to make something and say “yeah, this is awesome, this is f*king good, we gotta get this out” and then three months later it’s just sitting on a hard drive and might not see the light of day. So, it’s hard to have a fluid system when you tour as much as we do, especially since we do everything in house. I do the production and we all work on the record in our own way. The only thing we do outside of the three of us is the mixing/mastering.
It’s also a matter of being in different artistic places at different times. We can record six tunes in one style, then we’ll record more tunes a few months later and it sounds totally different. So, then we feel like maybe we should split it into two separate projects released at separate times and not try to force them into one thing. So it’s difficult to get it all out. But yeah, we’re sitting on tons of music and I think we’ll put some of it out in the next few months and more out in the summer. It’s a fluid process every day trying to move forward with it and gain traction.
It’s especially hard, too, when dealing with other artists…we get it because we’re the same way. Everyone’s on tour or working and it’s tough to get everyone in the same room, same studio. Things sometimes happen naturally, but when people are on the road there is a ton of back-and-forth, some discourse on how the tune is going to go. When you’re all in the room together, things can happen very quickly just because you say an idea, I’ll respond to that idea within two seconds and we move forward. Whereas, if I’m doing things remotely, and even in my own personal projects, it’s the same way. I’ve been working on my own album for two and a half years. You send an e-mail with the track, they ask a question two days later, you respond two days later and that one question takes a week to answer. If we’re in the studio that would take ten seconds to answer.
SM: So it sounds like it can a challenge to keep a cohesive focus on a project.
MD: Exactly. Yeah and it’s so much harder without the fluid motion to creativity and thinking. So, that’s a really long answer to a really short question, but yeah we’re working on a bunch of stuff.
SM: For you personally, separate from Too Many Zooz, you were on Saturday Night Live supporting Harry Styles. What was that experience like throughout that day?
MD: It was cool. Harry’s people worked with a friend of mine and he hit me up about it. We had a few rehearsals ahead of time. The day of the show, pretty typical for SNL, we show up around 4:30 for a rehearsal with the artist, then the full rehearsal with everyone. There was also a lot of hurry up and wait. Then around 11:30 there’s the live taping. TV is hard – there is so much that goes into that world aside from the music. So, just like I was saying about our recording process, there are so many moving parts going at once. It was cool to be on the other side of the screen. I grew up watching Chris Farley and Will Farrell. Definitely a bucket list item for me to play there. Harry is the sweetest dude in the world and his team is amazing. Luckily, I was just able to play with some of my best friends and some really wonderful people. I have nothing but great things to say about that entire experience.
SM: Before I let you go, I think you guys have played up in Albany before…
MD: ….Yeah, I think maybe a year ago. We were also at The Haunt in Ithaca and Buffalo Iron Works. To be honest, I sometimes just get in the van and go – I can’t remember the name of the place we played. But I’m looking forward to coming back.
SM: Anything cool in store for this tour? I know you recently hit the road.
MD: Yeah, we’re already on tour, starting on Jamcruise. It’ll be a fun run. We’re taking three months off for the first time in a while. We’ve been a band for almost eight years now… holy crap that’s insane to think about. We’ve pretty much been on tour for the past five years and this will kind of be our first vacation to spend time with families and do some work on our own projects and unwind. It’ll give us a chance to creatively recharge since it’s been a non-stop sprint for a while. Then we’ll be back at it, heading to Europe.
Too Many Zooz is taking the stage at The Hollow in Albany, Tuesday Jan. 28 along with special guest Birocratic. The show starts at 8pm, and tickets are available from the venue and the band’s website here. They’ll also be stopping by The Haunt in Ithaca the following night on Jan. 29 and Buffalo Iron Works on Jan. 30.