Snarky Puppy Plays the Masonic Auditorium Next Week in Support of Its Politically Charged New Album

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COURTESY OF GROUND UP MUSIC
  • Courtesy of Ground Up Music
Early on, as Snarky Puppy band leader Michael League was assembling the fusion-inspired jazz act, he took inspiration from what he refers to as “groovier jazz stuff.”

“I listened to a lot of the Dave Holland Quartet,” he says via Skype from Spain. The band performs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, at the Masonic Auditorium. “I liked Chick Corea and Roy Hargrove. I always listened to music from all over the world too. Initially, the band was just a workshop for me to hear the music I was writing and arranging. It wasn’t supposed to be what it became. I was looking at it short term. People liked it, and we had a great time playing, so that really got the ball rolling.”



After forming in 2004, the group self-released its first four albums. At the time, people still purchased physical CDs, so the group could sustain itself by touring and selling merch.

“The good thing is that back in those days, you could still sell records out of your car,” says League. “There was no Spotify. There was just Napster, and not everyone was using that. It was a different thing. We would do everything on our own and promote the albums on our own. It was the old-school approach of driving a van from gig to gig.”



After the group established a foothold in Europe, it recorded We Like It Here at Kytopia in Utrecht, Netherlands, and collaborated with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra on 2015’s Sylva.

“We wanted something that captured that experience of going to the continent for the first time,” explains League. “Netherlands is really efficient but also not uptight. We have friends who just set us up at this incredible place. The owners were really generous. They had so many resources. It fell into place nicely.”

For the band's latest album, Immigrance, League says the group sought to show just how much its travels have influenced its musical approach.

“We play a lot of places around the world and try to absorb what we can musically and socially and culturally,” he says. “I noticed we had instruments from a lot of places and influences from a lot of places. It reminded me of the idea that music is a fluid thing and always changing. We have a responsibility to learn rhythms and vocabulary from other places. We’re part of this immigration process. Right now, we’re at a point where immigrants are being demonized. It’s an ugly time, and it’s difficult to have an approach like that if you understand history and why everything that’s around you is there. It’s all from the movement of people.”

The noisy album opener “Chonks,” one of the album’s many highlights, possesses a P-Funk vibe with its whirring synths and wonky guitars.

“We have never written a straight up aggressive 4/4 tune,” says League when asked about the song. “It was a groove I came up with at a sound check in Germany. I felt guilty about it because it was so simple. I wanted to see what happened when I wrote it up as a Snarky puppy song. Of course, it got more complicated then. The chorus is weird and outro is weird. It was an experiment to be minimalist because I tend to get so tangential.”

With its thick bass riffs, “Xavi” borders on prog rock.

“I was experimenting with all the different ways I could vary on that groove,” says League, who admits he didn’t intend for it to have a prog rock feel. “I guess the riff is kind of rock in a way.

The inspiration for the album’s most whimsical tune, the perky “Bad Kids to the Back,” came from guitarist Justin Stanton.

“It’s a playful funky ode to keyboardist Bernard Wright,” says League. “It’s ’80s groove jazz stuff. It’s playful. In our band, there’s always that group of guys in the back of the bus causing trouble, and Justin is one of the guys for sure.”

League says the live show will feature many of the album’s new tunes. Because of the way the group improvises, both old and new songs won’t exactly resemble their studio counterparts.

“We’ll play a lot of new stuff, and we’ll play old tunes redone because we never play the same way twice,” says League. “I think it will be an interesting mix of new material and old stuff that’s been flying around for a long time.”

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