Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
November 9, 2018

Brooklyn-based instrumental collective Snarky Puppy to play HQ Bluesfest sideshow

Grammy Award-winning collective Snarky Puppy will drop into HQ for a post-Bluesfest sideshow, so put on your genre-defying multi-hyphenate-jazz/funk/jam pants and prepare for a spectacle.

  • Words: Ellie Turner
  • Pictures: Supplied

Signature bombastic instrumental tunes and moodier sonic creations will blend as Snarky Puppy descends on HQ in April 2019, shortly after its appearance at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest and the release of its twelfth studio album, recorded among the pecan orchards at Sonic Ranch Studio in Tornillo, Texas.


Snarky Puppy Bluesfest sideshow

Wednesday, 24 April from 7pm at HQ, Hindley Street.
Tickets via Moshtix.

“I’m really excited about this one,” says bassist and composer Michael League. “Nine different band members brought compositions to be recorded [and] we’re all curious to see what the finished product looks like.”

Based in Brooklyn, New York, the quasi-collective weaves genres and cultures reflecting the musicians’ global roots, and rather than resting under any one banner,  Snarky Puppy unites people in the understanding that music can just be.

As Michael, also a founder and producer of label GroundUP Music, tells CityMag: “I think we’ve built our own little house in the music world.

“We’ve never thought of ourselves as a fusion band,” he says, “but people seem to associate us with the genre.

“The sound of the group is now moving toward something else, I’m not sure what to call it, but I feel like we all know what it is.”


On top of Snarky Puppy’s new material, Michael has just finished working on and producing folk rock legend David Crosby’s new album, Here If You Listen, and mixed a record for Afro-Peruvian music vanguard Susana Baca.

“When I’m playing as a musician I try to think like a producer, and when I’m producing I try to think like a composer,” League says. “Music is music and it’s all connected, so I don’t think of it as shifting headspace (between playing, composing and producing).”

Snarky Puppy’s dynamic shifts constantly as the roster of 25-or-so musicians rotate in and out of the ensemble from gig to gig, and Michael instigates fluidity through live improv with a nod or a look to his bandmates.

Testament to their collective love for the music and trust in each other is League’s long-standing practice of distributing lead sheets for new songs without marking the instruments’ parts – each artist memorises the entire piece pre-rehearsal before they are enlightened. The knowledge informs a power of expression, with freedom to explore new directions during live shows.

After Michael founded Snarky Puppy at college in 2003, the band toured and recorded relentlessly in what he describes as “all but complete obscurity” before scoring its first Grammy for Best R&B Performance in 2014. It won two more Grammys for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album consecutively in 2016 and 2017.

“We started out much more acoustic, much jazzier,” he says, “but when we started playing on the predominantly black gospel and R&B scene in Dallas the sound of the band got funkier. We started focusing more on groove and melody rather than complex harmony.

“You just have to play as often as possible for as many different kinds of people as possible. It’s like a mirror. The audience shows you who you are.”

Snarky Puppy

Share —