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Too Many Zooz’ rise from the bottom: An interview with the King of Sludge

Justin Borucki

When it comes down to it, the success of Brasshouse band Too Many Zooz came from a video taken on an iPhone. King of Sludge (KOS), the drummer of Too Many Zooz, said that the band had no intentions of fame when they first started playing together in the subway seven years ago. 

“Our break came from participating in a long tradition of street performers in New York, our dedication to being [in the subway] and how much time we play [music],” he said. 

KOS, originally from Indianapolis, said the first day that the three members of the band played together on the L platform of the New York City subway was a spiritual one. 

“People stopped and were like, ‘What the hell is that?’” KOS said. “So obviously we decided we were going to do it again.” 

The other members of Too Many Zooz include Leo Pellegrino, who plays the baritone saxophone, and Matt Muirhead, who plays the trumpet. Pellegrino, originally from Pittsburgh, and Muirhead, originally from Boston, met while studying at the Manhattan School of Jazz. The genre of music that the band plays, Brasshouse, was coined by KOS, and as far as he knows, no other band is doing exactly the same genre.  

“There was really no origination to the style other than us knowing we wanted to be in a band where we could play how we wanted to play and what we wanted to play,” KOS said. “So what happened with that is people would come and ask us what kind of style of music we [played] and we never really had an answer… the kind of music that we agreed we liked was house music and EDM and hip-hop, and so I was like well why don’t we just call it Brasshouse, and we just went with it.” 

Brasshouse is not the only name that KOS has created. He christened himself the King of Sludge when he was living in Harlem. KOS said that he was living with a hoarder at the time and it reminded him of living in dirt and grunge. He then made the association that sludge is “the stuff that falls to the bottom” which reminded him of playing the bass drum.  

KOS first met Pellegrino while both members were performing with the Drumadics, a percussion group that played in the subway. After Pellegrino took another saxophone player’s spot in the band one summer, KOS asked the group members if anyone wanted to play extra in the subway to make more money. Pellegrino agreed, and he, KOS and KOS’s son played together in the subway for a period of time. When KOS’s son went back to school in the fall, Pellegrino and KOS decided to continue playing music together. One day, KOS said that Muirhead was sleeping on Pellegrino’s couch and was invited to play with the duo. 

“And that was the beginning of Too Many Zooz,” KOS said. 

The band name, according to KOS, came from Pellegrino’s friends who had been looking for their own band name. They didn’t want to use the name “Too Many Zooz” and so passed it on to Pellegrino for his own band. 

Although some bands might sound kind of like Too Many Zooz, KOS said that the way that the band approaches making music is different than the processes of a lot of artists. He said that the band’s music is always changing due to the fact that the tools the band uses for music are always changing. When they perform in the subway, they use tools to make music that they bring to the subway. When they make music in the studio, they use the tools that are in the studio.  

“There’s no limits on how we see music,” KOS said. “It’s just that the art is in the limitations that we have on hand, so if you only have a pencil, you use a pencil that day, you don’t just not make art…. We have a vocabulary for how we speak to each other musically, and it’s more about growing that than it is about upholding any sort of tradition, it’s about adding onto our language.”  

Despite having made connections during the band’s musical career such as making music with stars like Beyoncé, nothing supersedes the connection that the band has made with each other and with the people of New York in the subway, according to KOS. Without that, he said that the band wouldn’t be here. 

So far, the band has produced one album, five EPs, and a Christmas album, not including singles and music videos. KOS said that the band members try to insert their personalities into their music videos as much as possible, even though their unique ideas sometimes get shot down. KOS said that the band members are constantly working on ideas and trying to refine things. A lot of the time, decisions for the videos come down to budget, KOS said. 

For people who have yet to listen to the music produced by Too Many Zooz, KOS recommended that people listen to Warriors, one of the band’s most popular songs.  

Too Many Zooz will be performing with the band Moon Hooch on Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m. at the 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. According to KOS, Moon Hooch started in the subway as well, and fans of Too Many Zooz will like their music. 

When it comes to performing, it is never about the space KOS is in, it’s about the space he is trying to create.  

“I can’t really think about performing at all, I don’t really think about the audience or anything like that,” he said. “I am more focused on what I’m playing and listening to the two guys because a lot of our music is improvisation, so I have to be focused on developing changes or where things are going.” 

KOS said that Too Many Zooz’ performances are original, which is an experience in and of its own. 

“We as artists have something to say,” he said. “Experiences are hard to find these days, and that’s what we aim to give each night, so if you want that, you can come get it… a true experience. I’m ready to dance.”  

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  • AnonymousApr 4, 2019 at 11:23 pm