Very few young jam bands in our current music scene can boast the same accolades and early success as Vermont’s Twiddle. Formed at Castleton State College in the early 2000s, Mihali Savoulidis (lead vocals, guitar) often cites his band’s performance at the Fireside Cafe in Castleton, VT on January 26th, 2005 as Twiddle’s first show as an official group. 12 years later and Mihali, Ryan Dempsey (keys), Zdenek Gubb (bass) and Brook Jordan (drums) have taken the jam scene by storm, accumulating an incredibly loyal fan base sometimes called “Twiddiots” by doing something a lot of jam bands forget to do: writing melodic, memorable, narrative songs.
In my opinion, this is one of the reasons Twiddle’s found so much success – they write compact compositions with direction, tasteful improvisation, and narrative lyrics. With this formula it’s no wonder Twiddle’s new album, Plump (Chapter 1 & 2), landed on several Billboard Charts the week of its release in late April: 6# Alternative New: Artist Albums, #16 Top New: Artist Albums (Heatseekers), #31 Current: Alternative Albums, #48 Current: Rock Albums.
Ahead of Twiddle’s 3-night run at Irving Plaza during Baker’s Dozen from Thursday 7/20 to Saturday 7/22, I had the opportunity to catch up with the band’s infamous bassist, Zdenek Gubb. Apart from his majestic long hair and heavily pocketed cargo pants, Gubb’s well-known in the jam community as one of the circuit’s funkiest, most talented bassists. In this Q&A we cover everything from Twiddle’s new album to their big plans for the summer and beyond. Tickets for each show at Irving Plaza can still be purchased at this link. See you at the show.
CEG: Hey Zdenek, thanks for taking some time from your busy summer schedule to catch up here. We’re approaching Twiddle’s first three-night run in Manhattan 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.
CEG: Looking ahead, each night at Irving Plaza has a different interesting theme or special guest. What does Twiddle have planned for these three 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 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” Neiderauer joining on Saturday night, and we all know he is the man!
CEG: 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 different in trying to focus on the painting and leave the live aspect for later. We always tried 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, just takes some time to rearrange and reach that feeling we found each song to have.
CEG: 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 forming 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 that 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.
CEG: 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, which is always a favorite time of the year for us! We have a big summer with moe., having just played moe.down with them and then Red Rocks on August 13th with them and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong! To put it simply….that’s one dream come true. 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.
CEG: 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’m really not allowed to talk about it. I could keep leading you on but nobody likes blue balls!
CEG: 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.