by Kyle Taylor |
This Friday, May 15th, two viciously eclectic bands will return to Philadelphia: Kung Fu and Twiddle. The two have been touring together since the beginning of April, and soon will step into the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) in just a few days, following a performance at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey the night before. The show promises to be a perfect start to the weekend and introduction to Summer for those attending Jam on the River the following day at Festival Pier.
With roots tracing back to 2004, Twiddle officially released their debut album, The Natural Evolution of Consciousness, in 2007. Based in Vermont, the group has conjured an rhythmically energetic sound, mostly fortified in elements of funk and reggae. However, Twiddle has proven themselves quite musically apt, experimenting with sounds bleeding into rock, hip-hop, jazz, and even bluegrass.
Born out of Connecticut in 2009, Kung Fu has been a steadily evolving funk group also quickly moving their way up the rungs of the music community. With their final lineup solidified in 2012, the band has remained focus on a lively, modern funk sound. The two groups together provide an interesting juxtaposition of theoretically similarly hinged, but quite artistically different styles.
We were able to speak with Kung Fu keyboardist Todd Stoops about the upcoming show, their whole tour with Twiddle, and Kung Fu’s, as well as Stoops’ own, influences, inspirations, and history.
Interview by Jesse Boyer
Funkadelphia: “When did Kung Fu first get together as a cohesive group?”
Todd Stoops: “Well, we started jamming together at the end of 2009, but the current lineup wasn’t quite solidified until 2012. Dave Levoski and I started the band and Dave suggested a sax player, I suggested Tim [Palmieri] and Adrian [Tramontano], and it just kind of happened. We ended up switching sax players to Rob Somerville, then in late 2012 Dave left the band- when we then hired Chris DeAngelis. The line up’s been solid for about two and a half years now.”
Kung Fu – “Bopcorn”
Funkadelphia: “Have funk and jam music always been your strongest musical passions?”
Todd Stoops: “I suppose you could say that, my other band, Raq, is definitely the jam band variety, although we try to be funky. Kung Fu is much more of a funk band; but yes, to answer your question, I think so.”
Funkadelphia: “What other types of music do you frequently listen to?”
Todd Stoops: “When I drive I usually drive in silence. Its kind of a weird thing, but I’m not one to listen to music much in the car, unless it’s classical or NPR. Ya know, I listen to a lot of different stuff man. It depends on my mood. If I’m trying to be creative, I’ll listen to the opposite of what I’m trying to create- if I’m trying to right a hip hop beat, I’ll listen to marimba music. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff like Vulfpeck and LCD Soundsystem.”
Funkadelphia: “Do you play any other instruments beyond your primary instrument in Kung Fu, keyboard?”
Todd Stoops: “When I was younger I was a drummer. I know how to play all the percussion instruments- the marimba and xylophone I played the trumpet and clarinet when I was younger, but not much in the last twenty years.”
Kung Fu – “Junoon”
Funkadelphia: “So, what’s it like being on tour with Twiddle? You guys have relatively different styles, how do they pair up in a live setting so far?”
Todd Stoops: “Twiddle is a great band; they’re like chameleons. They fit into a lot of different situations hecklessly. They’re great musicians. When we play with them they sound more funky. If you listen to Twiddle’s music it definitely goes from funk to rock. Us [Kung Fu] being a little more funk and dance oriented. I think it brought a little more of that side of the music out. The tour’s awesome; they’re a lot of fun to hang out with and super down to earth. We love ‘em!”
Funkadelphia: “Have you had a favorite stop on the tour so far?”
Todd Stoops: “Some nights popped out more than others, but as a whole they’re all awesome. Irving Plaza probably would be a highlight. Pittsburgh, PA was a highlight, Atlanta was great and Charlotte was a whole lot of fun. The whole Upstate New York leg of the tour was great! In a couple of weeks we’ll be at the Theater of Living Art’s in Philadelphia and the Stone Pony in Asbury. We’re really looking forward to those!”
Funkadelphia: “The jam band community is growing pretty thick- how would you say Kung Fu works to separate themselves from the herd of the jam and funk community?”
Todd Stoops: “I think that it’s important for every band to forge their own voice. We’re working hard on crafting our own sound, and it’s really progressing. We like to pride ourself on how tight the band is, being able to stop on a dime as a group. I think that any band that strives to be individualistic by nature stands out.”
Funkadelphia: “What musicians do you feel really helped influence your style and playing?”
Todd Stoops: “I’ve kind of created my own style of playing the keyboards. I’ve never taken lessons or anything. Percussively, I listen to a lot of drummers: Dennis Chambers. Ya know, just drummers back when I was younger, and tried to add some drum technique to the keyboards. As far as keyboardists and pianists, definitely Herbie Hancock and John Medeski for sure. I just try applying some of their melodic and harmonic ideas to some of the percussion ideas i wanted to bring.”
Kung Fu – “The Merger”
Funkadelphia: “Does Kung Fu have any upcoming releases you’d like to mention?”
Todd Stoops: “We have a bunch of material. We’ve been on tour pretty steadily since the beginning of the year. January 2nd we left for Jam Cruise, and we haven’t really gotten a break yet to sit down as a band and flush out what we want to record. We’re looking at recording in the next couple of months for sure!”
Funkadelphia: “Do you have any festival appearances for this Summer that you’re particularly excited about or any events that stand out to you this summer?”
Todd Stoops: “You know we try to look at them all the same. I feel like if you build up a gig too much in your mind, you’re going to play worse, at least in my experience. It’s important to treat every performance as important as the next. We’re playing some smaller festivals, we’re playing some big ones. We’ve got some great opportunities, so we’re going to try to play the same for 500 people as we would for 5000. I guess to answer your question, we’re looking forward to all of them! We’re looking forward to getting out to Summer Camp this year, I played there before with Raq and it’s definitely a lot of fun. Of course Gathering of The Vibes! We’re tight with those guys and it’s just a great festival!”
Kung Fu – “Killcullen”