North Texas Daily

Q&A: Snarky Puppy bandleader Mike League

Q&A: Snarky Puppy bandleader Mike League

Q&A: Snarky Puppy bandleader Mike League
February 21
12:28 2014

Q&A with Mike League, bandleader and bass player for Grammy winning Snarky Puppy. Interview by Dana Pisciottano, Intern Writer.

In the most recent interview you said there were 27 band members. How many are there currently?

Anywhere between 25 and 30 really, I don’t know. I mean, it’s not a collective necessarily, but it kind of functions like one in that we have a lot of people on each instrument. So, there’s a lot of guys—I would say it’s a pool of musicians that all know their music and I just call certain guys for certain gigs.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a rotating lineup while you’re touring?

Well, the disadvantages of it are kind of obvious, you know, people moving in and out means more costs. Plane tickets, train tickets, stuff like that. Coordination of schedules, you know. But the advantages of that is that, if someone has a gig that they can’t get out of or they have another obligation, we can pull somebody else in to fill in and take over their spot in the tour. That keeps everybody fresh, not too burned out, healthy, spending time with their families, with their wives or girlfriends or whatever. And also, musically it’s nice to have different people come in in the middle of a tour because it kind of changes the sound of the band and keeps things exciting.

What was it like working with Lalah Hathaway and how was it winning the Grammy?

Lalah’s amazing. You always find that the best musicians in the world are the nicest, most down-to-earth, laid back people, you know? She’s exactly that way. She’s super chill — really, really friendly and social and no ego, just amazing. Amazing to work with. And as a musician, she’s a monster. She’s not just a singer; she’s a musician who sings.

How do you think the Grammy win will affect Tuesday’s release of the song “We Like it Here”?

Already there’s a lot of things that are changing for the better. Now we have a little more visibility, so we have access to a larger viewing populous. Hopefully, of that larger fan base now that’s developing, a significant number of the new fans will be receptive to the record even though a lot of fans we gained just through this record with singers, which is not what we do normally. This is a special project, the one that won the Grammy. It’s not indicative of our normal thing. I think it broadens our reach, in terms of people, so I hope they’re receptive to it. But if they’re not, that’s fine.

How many band members went to UNT or lived around Denton and are you excited to be playing here?

I think of the people that are playing tonight, all but one of the 11 guys on stage. I think 10 of them went to North Texas. It’s always good to be back in Dallas and Denton; it’s where the band started, where several of the guys grew up. It never really feels like being on tour when we’re here.

What advice would you give current members of local bands who aspire to be like Snarky Puppy, in terms of your musical and business success?

I would say don’t put everything on credit cards like I did. (laughs) That would be probably my main bit of advice. The most important thing is that people talk about the music business, marketing and branding, but the bottom line is that it all starts with the music. Otherwise, what are you branding? What are you marketing?

We’ve always relied on the music as the focal point of our business plan. So, you have a certain kind of music that you think is of value, you find the kind of people that will be receptive to that kind of music and you try to put your stuff in front of them. You use the music, people share our stuff on Facebook and YouTube and they share it because they like it. I’m not responsible for those views; the fans are responsible for those views because they feel strongly about the music. If you can make something people care about, they’ll do your work for you. To me, it just always comes down to the quality of the music.

Feature photo: Snarky Puppy performs at Hailey’s on Wednesday night in Denton. Photo by Dana Pisciottano / Intern Photographer 

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