by Gus Marshall
This Friday night, High Pulp, a ten-piece instrumental force, will take the audience of The Royal Room on a high-octane joyride of soulful syncopation and dynamic diversity.
High Pulp is an excessively eclectic contemporary jazz orchestra, that tends to lean on the funkier side of the sonic spectrum. The versatile rhythm section takes this explorative ensemble into uncharted territories of musical abstraction, juxtaposing elements of organic and electronic production.
Led by their visionary drummer, producer, and composer Rob Granfelt, High Pulp is an explosive horn-driven head-first dive into the deep end of jazz fusion.
Transitioning naturally between their original interpretations of hardbop, acid jazz, and afrobeat, each song carries an inviting but unfamiliar feel.
Rob Granfelt spoke with the Emerald about the importance of DIY, the flourishing Seattle music scene and his experiences in artistic collaboration.
Gus Marshall: How long has High Pulp been playing?
Rob Granfelt: This is sort of a hard question because Scott (bass), Gehrig (guitar), Antoine (keys) and myself (drums) played together years ago in another band. So, we knew each other from those days, then when I moved back from Minnesota to Seattle we started making some noise in my basement and it evolved into High Pulp. Slowly we added more players until we had a 10-piece band. We started rehearsing seriously in Fall of 2016 as a four-piece, added players in the winter/spring, and we played our first show just last march(2017). So, it’s all pretty fresh for us which is fun. It’s really exciting to have a response that is positive after such a short time because we worked really hard on this, but that doesn’t mean anything will happen.
GM: Where are you guys from?
RG: Most of us are from the area, we have members from north Seattle, south Seattle, the eastside, the far east side (Fall City), the CD, sort of all over. The only person who isn’t originally from the Seattle area is our keys player Rob Homan, who is from Minnesota, coincidentally where I went to college and lived for 4+ years.
GM: What is the musical background of this band?
RG: In such a large band the musical backgrounds of the players varies a lot. We have guys like Andrew and Isaac who grew up in the Roosevelt/Garfield high school jazz programs and really got a bunch of formal training and went to/are in music school. Then we have guys like Scott and Gehrig who don’t have as much formal training but they have such natural talent and personal developed voices on their instrument that they’re really coming at the writing and playing process from a different angle, which gives us a unique sound. I would say that a musical background that is important to us as a band is the DIY-approach. Which although it’s not a formal background, it’s a real core ethos of the band. A lot of us grew up playing in DIY rock/punk bands at all-ages venues and teen centers around Seattle, and the mentality of “formal training or not, what matters is can you play? Do you believe in what you’re making?” that’s what really matters.
GM: I saw High Pulp play a show at The Dozer Warehouse on Beacon Hill. I think it was called the Makers Jam, what was that show about?
RG: Continuing on the DIY approach, the Makers Jam was an idea between Abigail Marshall (time.swell.spent on IG) and myself around this time last year. We both have a lot of talented friends and we wanted to create a low-key art show at my house on beacon hill. So, we did that and it was cool, there were maybe 10-15 artists, and Antoine and I played a little live improvisation but it was more of an art show than a concert. From there it just got bigger, having 20, even 30 artists selling their work, and having 6, even 8 bands/musicians. This latest one was really spurred by Trevor Crump, who is a local photographer and he was filming a live session for High Pulp at Dozer’s spot. He was so stoked on the space he was like ‘Rob we gotta do a show here’. I told him I was down but didn’t really know if it would happen, then literally 24 hours later he had the spot booked and he was making moves on getting bands.
It seemed like a logical idea to make this show a Makers Jam, and invite a bunch of artists and take the Makers Jam out of our backyard and really into a public space. I was stoked to get to do it at Dozer’s Warehouse because it’s really the coolest place I’ve been to in Seattle since moving back here a few years ago. The artists that did all the murals are some of the most talented people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and the fucked-up politics of that warehouse being bulldozed for condos is just a microcosm of what’s happening across the whole city right now. Disproportionately affecting longstanding and marginalized communities, being uprooted by people who are moving here for (mostly) tech work. If people walked in there and said to themselves, ‘wait why is this place being torn down? this is important! this is art! this is Seattle! this is fucked up!!’, that’s good. People should have access to spaces across the entire city that are accessible and unique for everyone – Dozer’s Warehouse is a great example of such a space that will soon be taken under by the development of the city.
GM: Can you give me a little info on your songwriting process?
RG: Early on most of the heads, or main riffs for the tunes were brought to the group by Gehrig. From there we would develop them as a larger ensemble and do a lot of writing together. We have now moved into a space where most of our writing is pretty much entirely collaborative. A lot of the time it is just improvisation based, as opposed to someone bringing in a riff. We just jam until we find an idea we want to expand upon. From there, we just try to go down the rabbit hole.
GM: What are some your goals as a band?
RG: I think as a band it’s safe to say that our main goal is to write music that we are passionate about, that pushes our limits on our instruments, as well as that pushes our concepts and larger ideas about music. Everyone is down to explore and experiment with this band and I think that’s gonna lead to some fun stuff in the future. People in this band listen to everything from avant-garde Hans Zimmer […] to Miles Davis’ second quintet to David Bowie to Shabazz Palaces. So, exploring all these influences and finding something meaningful is a goal. Aside from the music itself, our goal is to take this music wherever it can go, we want to go on tour, cut records, and really see if we can share it with a larger audience.
GM: How do you feel about the music here in Seattle?
RG: I feel like the scene here is cool man. I feel, especially in the last couple of years, there has been a lot of support from people around town. I think the music scene right now is healthier than it has been for a while. I feel like there is more honesty in the music. I feel like we all have a lot to owe to Christy DoNormaal, that whole 69/50 crew. Those are some friends that I really value, respect and admire. The way they are really changing the scene, and changing the value system of Seattle music and I appreciate that so much. I think that Seattle, right now, has so many bands that are about ready to blow up. You know what I Mean? And there are so many people that I want nothing more than them to be able to make a living off of their art. If a doctor is a good doctor they should make money off of being a doctor and if a musician is a good musician they should make money off of being a musician.
What: High Pulp & Shakewell
Where: The Royal Room. 5000 Rainier Ave S.
When: Friday, April 20, 2018. 7:30pm
Cost: $10 Advanced $15 Door