‘loud freak jazz’ | Interview with We Used to Cut the Grass

A deep connection between plenty of horns, pleasing riffs and a satisfying tight groove. This one will be greatly appreciated by everyone who balances between jazz, progressive rock and anywhere in between. Read our discussion with We Used to Cut the Grass.

Describe your sound in 3 words

That’s a tough one. Uh… loud freak jazz?

Tell us a few things about We Used to Cut the Grass and your debut album. What is the main idea behind it?

We Used to Cut the Grass was started as a bass and drum duo about a decade ago. It was just an outlet for some compositions I had been kicking around, but as I got more into arranging and orchestration, I started adding instruments one at a time until there were two drummers, guitar, violin, and a bunch of horns. Early in our existence we got an opportunity to play some shows with Frank Zappa’s vocalist Ike Willis, and so we ended up learning a ton of Zappa music, which made a lot of sense because we were already low-key named after a Frank Zappa song, and he’s always been my primary musical inspiration. So Zappa was kind of a big impetus for the development of our own music and the existence of this ensemble. In a way, this album is just a big time capsule of that whole drawn-out evolution.

Which track of the album (if any) is your favorite? 

Probably Shep’s Lounge. It’s a collection of really disparate sections composed over a really long period of time, and the main theme of the song just reminds me of being in our original drummer Seamus Leonhardt’s living room, just manically writing all this stuff in a caffeinated frenzy when I was like 19 years old… and the rest of it I think just captures the whole evolution of the band over time. To me that song is kind of like if we just put the last 10 years in a jar.

Your music has an experimental touch. Should music as a form of art always challenge the listener?

No, definitely not. I really love pop music and much simpler stuff than this. People absolutely need music they can just feel super comfortable with, and can sing along to; folk music, whatever modern form it takes, is absolutely integral to the human experience. But to me, variety is really important in order to appreciate the extremes of the musical spectrum, so if one person does something beautiful and simple, somebody else should do something really complicated and dark. I do my best to try and represent both from one composition to the next.

The album has great grooves. Tell us a drop you wish you have composed yourself. Also favorite album of the past decade?

Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus was definitely a composition from the last ten years that just totally warped my brain. It’s just such a perfect collaboration of three incredible musical heavyweights that I think perfectly represents them all (Lotus/Kendrick/Thundercat). That whole album, “You’re Dead,” is definitely one of my favorite albums from the last decade. Lotus and Thundercat are huge inspirations for this ensemble, as well as Lotus’ orchestrator Miguel Atwood Ferguson, definitely right there next to Zappa.

What do you enjoy most? Writing music or performing your music live?

I think they’re about equal in my mind. Writing music is like the kind of scary, exploratory and intensely introspective part, and then performing it is like the delayed gratification and confirmation of the value in that process. We’re about to get together for our first show in two years at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on April 30th, and I really cannot describe how excited I am for that.

Dream performance venue?

Carnegie Hall. Dumb answer, but yeah, Carnegie Hall. It was super cool seeing Flying Lotus finally make it to that stage last week.

Favorite music related film?

All of David Lynch’s films place music and musicians in this kind of ethereal, eternal light that I’ve always thought was super cool. Like there’s this band playing in the corner of a dim-lit bar somewhere, and they never stop. They’re channeling the dead somehow, they don’t eat and they’re probably not even human. They play some droning, dark groove for hours and everyone gets lost in a dream because of it. I feel like somehow that caricature might have some truth in it, like it almost captures the unspoken spirituality of what it means to be a musician.

Thank you!

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