The newest addition to your playlist: Vulfpeck puts an even funkier twist on classic motown beats

ANDREW McFARLANE / FLICKR
ANDREW McFARLANE / FLICKR

vulfpeck_ar2‘Wait for the Moment’ approaches clichéd themes in new ways

I like to pretend everybody cares about music as much as I do, so here’s the first of many earfuls of miscellaneous musical information — but mostly just some great additions to your playlists.

A friend of mine recently asked me about my favorite song. And so begins the longest and most tedious explanation she never hoped to receive, beginning with three examples — from a list of thousands — of my favorite music content:

The rhythm-focused Norah Jones’ single “Happy Pills” from her 2012 album, Little Broken Hearts, sounds infinitely superior in the speakers of a beat-up Toyota Camry while making the trek to your roommate’s log cabin in the middle of a forest without GPS than, say, the headphones of a sweaty treadmill victim.

The funk of Marcus Marr and Chet Faker’s “The Trouble with Us”— from their collaborated Work EP — combined with the range of Faker’s voice that you just can’t find in any of his solo work, isn’t fully enjoyed until it’s blasting through your headphones as you make a long walk across campus, forgetting, at about the minute mark, that you are indeed not starring in the theme song to your life’s movie.

And of course, Nelly’s classic (and one of my personal favorites), “Hot In Herre,” is simply never as gratifying if you listen to it on a weekend in which you question the second ‘r’ in the title.

Music, in short, depends on circumstance; what you listen to is entirely influenced by how and when you do so. I can think of no better example of such circumstance-based music than the funky, rhythm-based group, Vulfpeck.

This group, whose national tour was funded by the release of a completely silent — yes, silent — album on Spotify titled Sleepify, has all the quirkiness of a start-up band, but maintains a unique sound of fused funk and jazz, comparable to classics like Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5. Their most recent release, a full-length album titled Thrill of the Arts, features songs like “Back Pocket” and “Funky Duck,” which all but lack the Motown influence they were founded on.

In fact, this group’s intrigue is best exemplified by their recent performance of “1612” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Nov. 21, 2015. If you don’t watch it for the music, watch it for the tuba.

My personal favorite, however, remains “Wait for the Moment,” a song from Vulfpeck’s 2013 EP, My First Car. This song, unfortunately for my roommate whose bedroom adjoins the bathroom wall, has unwaveringly been my shower song of choice. The endearing nature of the lyrics is complemented by swinging vocals and a perfect balance of emotive ooh-ing. Which, nevertheless, makes the risky combination of slippery floors and poor dance moves entirely worth it.

Vulfpeck’s overall sound — not to be simply put — is raw. It imitates the sounds of live music, never bothering to edit in hopes of unrealistically smooth vocals (though they never fail to achieve this anyway). Their emphasis on production — a pivotal characteristic of their music, considering the group’s background in the record industry prior to that of performance — can be partially attributed to a unique audio plug-in (software used in the process of music synthesis and production): the vulf compressor. Created by band mate Vulfmon and engineer David Kerr, this plug-in is unlike any other. There is an excellent video — which, might I add, is also hilariously informative such that only Vulfpeck could achieve — explaining the history behind this creation. If you don’t watch it for the music, watch it for the story of a shady purchase from a naïve Berkeley co-op.

The lyrics, ranging from a boy pining after “produce girl” Sharon and the importance of self-truth, more importantly contain underlying themes of patience and the innocence of young adoration. Better yet, Vulfpeck manages to phrase “I love you” in a way that idealizes love itself — without extravagance or pomp: “Butt dialed – I smiled/ Listen dialed – I smiled/ It was so nice to get a call.” But don’t mistake this song for anything like Taylor Swift; while the lyrics may sound cheesy on their own, coupled with Vulfpeck’s unique sound, the song creates a more matured image of love as opposed to the embarrassment and nostalgia associated with the memory of your junior high crush.

And so, with much conviction, I suggest listening to Vulfpeck in the shower — tub vibrating with the bass of good speakers — and a sheet of lyrics ziplocked in a waterproof bag, plastered to the tile in front of you. However, if for some reason this is unattainable, unappealing or perhaps relatively dangerous, simply find a way to listen.

Written by: Ally Overbay – arts@theaggie.org