Snarky Puppy interview \\ “I’m terrified to hear what people think of our new album”

27th November 2018

Bassist Michael League is one of those super hero musicians who has a stopwatch for time. Alongside leading his genre-neutral band Bokanté and his own label and accompanying festival, GroundUP Music, League is soon to release the twelfth album from Snarky Puppy, a record which he reveals is a step away from pervious album ‘Culcha Vulcha’. 

Snarky Puppy have been announced for 2019’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, headlining the Big Top on Saturday 6 July. Whilst on tour with David Crosby, bandleader Michael League took some time to update Supreme Standards on Snarky Puppy and to share some of his favourite advice from a music icon. 

\\ Two years on since ‘Culcha Vulcha’, where is Snarky Puppy creatively? 

In every way I can think of, we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been. We’re closer as friends, we have more fun on and off stage, we’re all stimulated musically in many different ways (everyone has their own band at this point), and in terms of success as a group, things are at their peak thus far. We just mastered our twelfth album, which will come out independently in March. It was done in the same studio as ‘Culcha Vulcha’ (Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas), but in a very different way — more organic than ‘Culcha Vulcha’. I’m curious (and also terrified) to hear what people think of it.

\\ Snarky Puppy are serial collaborators. Since you released CV in 2016, who are the artists that have been catching your eye? Anyone that you’re interested in approaching to make music with?

It’s natural to want to make music with the people you idolise, and we have many idols. But I believe very strongly that collaboration is only successful when it has creative purpose beyond just musical respect. You really have to feel like there’s a treasure chest just waiting to be opened. And on our thirteenth album, we’re going to try to do just that.

\\ Another project of yours, Bokanté, aimed to change people’s perceptions of ‘world-music’… at least it looked that way. Since we last caught up you’ve toured it a bit; do you think your audiences’ perspective of world music has altered at all?

I try to not have aims that are beyond my control, especially when it comes to other people’s mindsets. I created Bokanté because that music was in me and dying to get out. If it has changed the way that people think about world music for the better, I think that’s beautiful. Genres only get a bad rap because the wrong stuff is being looked at. The more Bokanté tours, the more clear our message and the communication of that message becomes. Audiences are intelligent, perceptive. I think they feel where we’re coming from after a good night on stage.

Check out our guest DJ Mix from soul-jazz label Wah Wah 45s

\\ You’re touring with David Crosby right now and regularly perform with a lot of talented artists; what piece of advice from another artist is currently resonating with you?

Crosby is full of wisdom. It flows out of him. But I think the quote that has stuck with me the most in this period of my life, which Croz happens to love and abide by, is from David Bowie; “Never play to the gallery.” He goes on to talk about how dangerous it is to tailor your art to what you think people want, and that if you feel safe in a creative space, you need to push more. I love this so much.

\\ Tell us about what Snarky Puppy have planned for 2019?

Touring. Lots and lots of touring. Our GroundUP Music Festival hits February 8-10 in Miami, the new record comes out in March, and in April we go on tour until the end of the year, more or less. I think we’re hitting every continent but Antarctica. It’s going to be a lot of traveling, but we love it.

Snarky Puppy perform at Love Supreme Jazz Festival in 2019. Get tickets here

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