Snarky Puppy, with Bassist Michael League, are baffling.
Search You Tube and you’ll find a raft of videos with view-counts in their hundreds of thousands collectively stretching to a staggering 6 million+. With almost 95k Facebook ‘likes’ and 14k Twitter followers they are somewhat of a social media phenomenon. Album sales are healthy and next month’s two London Scala shows sold out with weeks to spare with their regional dates heading that way too. There is no major label backing, no widespread radio campaign and their music hasn’t cropped up in any TV commercial. Yet here in the UK, glowing reviews, glossy media spreads and foaming live reviews are few and far between. In fact, a Google search shows little to no media coverage at all. To add to the head-scratching, Snarky Puppy self finance, self record, self release, self publish and self promote.
Snarky Puppy are a collective of musicians from Dallas and New York, who have gone from an underground secret to one of the biggest bands on the international scene. Their music is not groundbreaking; rather they play a mixture of funk, jazz, gospel, rock and r’n’b that strikes a perfect balance between pure musical virtuosity and raw soulful simplicity. Their ‘composed’ sound sets it apart from most other instrumental music. Led by bassist, guitarist, composer and arranger, Michael League their music is adventurous, exuberant and accessible and what he calls “music for the brain and booty”.
What is unique, and perhaps their winning formula, is League’s creative grass-roots approach to a tougher-than-ever music industry. Their last five albums (from a total of eight) are presented as live CD/DVD packages; recorded and filmed live in a studio setting in front of a small audience of fans thus capturing the rawness and spontaneity of Snarky Puppy’s live shows. League’s model is focused on exposure, aside from performing almost 200 shows across four continents last year and this, they are avid ‘music sharers’ with many of the live tracks easily accessed via You Tube, Facebook and Spotify. In addition, Snarky Puppy are a group of musicians committed to music education and community outreach in whichever country they find themselves in, committed to spreading their love of music to a young generation.
Their latest release We Like it Here was recorded and filmed live over 4 nights in the Netherlands in 2013 and captures the band at its most explorative point in its career, in both composition and improvisation. The film also contains over an hour of interviews, behind the scenes footage and alternate solo takes from the recording sessions.
Snarky Puppy return to the UK in November to perform at London’s roundhouse – welcome news for the many that are unable to nab tickets to see them next month. For this date, they will be showcasing more new material taken from their upcoming album of specially commissioned music recorded in the Netherlands with the Metropole Orchestra. Of course, recorded and filmed live in front of a small studio audience!