Vulfpeck performing in New York City in 2013
|Origin||Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.|
|Associated acts||Antwaun Stanley, David T. Walker, Blake Mills, Nate Smith, Cory Wong, Joey Dosik|
Vulfpeck is an American funk group founded in 2011. The band has released four EPs, four albums, and a silent album on Spotify titled Sleepify – royalties from which funded Vulfpeck's admission-free tour in 2014. The band's most recent album, Hill Climber, was released in December 2018.
The band members attended University of Michigan's music school. They first came together as a rhythm section for a performance at the Duderstadt Center, a university facility that houses an arts library and other resources. After reading an interview with German producer Reinhold Mack, band founder Jack Stratton conceived of Vulfpeck as an imagined German version of the U.S. session musicians of the 1960s such as Funk Brothers, Wrecking Crew, and Muscle Shoals. The idea was to channel that era of the live rhythm section.
The band's founding members are Jack Stratton on keyboards, drums and guitar, Theo Katzman on guitar, drums and vocals, Woody Goss on keyboards, and Joe Dart on bass. Regular touring partners and collaborators are Antwaun Stanley, Joey Dosik and Cory Wong. Other contributing musicians include Charles Jones, Christine Hucal, David T. Walker, Bernard Purdie, James Gadson and Blake Mills.
The band's first release was titled "Beastly". It was released in April 2011 as a YouTube video. The track was noted for its bass performance by No Treble, an online magazine for bass players. The band released its first EP, Mit Peck, in December 2011, and a second EP, Vollmilch, in December 2012. In 2013 three band members backed Darren Criss on his national tour, and Katzman was the musical director of the tour. In 2013 Joe Dart was ranked as No Treble's 5th-favorite bassist. Vulfpeck's first live performance was at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan, followed by a performance in New York City at the Rockwood Music Hall in October 2013. The band released its third EP, My First Car, in August 2013. The EP's first track features a vocal performance by Antwaun Stanley – the band's first track featuring a vocal performance. A review of My First Car called it less energetic compared to the band's first two EPs but "still a fitting addition to a unique catalogue of music".
In March 2014 Vulfpeck released Sleepify, a ten-track silent album on Spotify, in order to raise funds for an admission-free tour. The album generated $20,000 in royalties over a two-month period. Subsequently Spotify removed the album stating it violated their terms of content. The band's royalty generation scheme received international press coverage. In July the band received the royalties and announced that they would follow through and organize a tour.
In August 2014 the band announced the Sleepify Tour and released its fourth EP, Fugue State. The EP's second track "1612" is styled after Wardell Quezergue's works and features Antwaun Stanley on vocals. The song's title was inspired by the entrance code to an Airbnb Stratton was subletting. The admission-free Sleepify Tour was scheduled for September 2014. Tour locations included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor and New York City. In 2015 Stratton proposed a more equitable model for Spotify payout distribution in which each artist's payout is based solely on that artist's listeners, rather than every listener using the service.
Vulfpeck released Thrill of the Arts in October 2015. The album featured contributions by several artists including David T. Walker, Charles Jones and Blake Mills. Jim Fusilli of Wall Street Journal called the music "gritty, in-your-face, not-prettified funk played with fire" and an homage to old school funk and soul. The album debuted at number 16 on the U.S. R&B Albums chart. The album's second track "Back Pocket" was used on a TV commercial for iPhone X. The band and Goodhertz Inc. released a production plug-in called Vulf Compressor. The band performed on the Stephen Colbert show in November 2015.
Vulfpeck performed regularly with Antwaun Stanley and guest artists including several shows with Bernard Purdie and Ziggy Modeliste. The band performed a cover of "Boogie On Reggae Woman" on radio station SiriusXM. The band's second album The Beautiful Game was released in October 2016. It featured contributions by several artists including Cory Wong and Adam Levy. The album debuted at number 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The band's third album, Mr Finish Line, was released in November 2017. It featured veteran instrumentalists James Gadson, Bootsy Collins, Michael Bland, David T. Walker, and vocalists Coco O., Antwaun Stanley, Joey Dosik, Christine Hucal, and Charles Jones.
Vulfpeck's fourth album, Hill Climber, was released in December 2018 and featured Cory Wong, Joey Dosik, Antwaun Stanley, Larry Goldings, Mike Viola, Monica Martin, and Louis Cole. The band released "Lost My Treble Long Ago" and "Soft Parade" as the lead singles of the album, later releasing "It Gets Funkier IV", featuring Louis Cole. In 2019 the Music Man guitar company introduced the Joe Dart Bass signature guitar. Dart was ranked first by Bass Guitar magazine as the coolest new bassist. In September 2019 the band headlined a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden, one of the first to do so without a manager or record label.
The band's production style is modeled after live TV performances of the past, such as Midnight Special, Whistle Test, and Beat-Club. The band aims for a simple and minimal sound where each instrument contributes and does not dominate. Recordings are done live with real instruments, and very seldom are different takes cut and mixed. Occasionally tape recording is used for effect. The compositions are modeled after unconventional song structures of the past, such as "Ooh Child" with an A and B section where each section provides a lift, and "If You Want Me to Stay" with a repetitive eight bar progression. Improvisation is a significant part of song development.
In 2018 the band's label, Vulf Records, released an EP by the Fearless Flyers quartet consisting of drummer Nate Smith, bassist Joe Dart, and guitarists Cory Wong and Mark Lettieri, with contributors Sandra Crouch, Blake Mills and Elizabeth Lea. In 2019 the label released a second six-track record by the quartet, titled The Fearless Flyers II, featuring Chris Thile and Joey Dosik.
- Jack Stratton grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and started on drums at an early age. He was influenced by Bernard Purdie and The Meters. In college he led a band called Groove Spoon. He does most of Vulfpeck's management and production.
- Joe Dart grew up in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and started on bass at age 8. He was influenced by Flea. In high school he played in a Phish-inspired jam band. He names Pino Palladino, Rocco Prestia and Verdine White as his favorite bassists.
- Theo Katzman grew up on Long Island, New York. As a teenager he played drums, guitar and wrote songs. In college he was a member of the band My Dear Disco. His solo work is rock and folk based. In 2017 he released the album Heartbreak Hits.
- Woody Goss grew up in Skokie, Illinois, and started on piano at age 7. He was influenced by Thelonious Monk and gravitated to jazz. He was later drawn to funk. In college he gigged with several bands. In 2016 he released the album Solo Rhodes.
- Sleepify Tour (2014)
- Spring Tour (2015)
- Wisdom of Crowds Tour (2017, 2018, 2019)
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