Zdenek Gubb of Twiddle on Collaborations, Formulating Setlists & The Future of Music

Twiddle Group Photo
Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg

As the autumnal equinox roles into the Northeast, it only seems fitting that the sweet sounds of Twiddle — a four piece band out of the green hills of Vermont — comes into town to perform an epic night of music.

Formed in 2004 by four friends at Castleton State College in Vermont in 2004, Twiddle has gone on to fuse rock, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, and funk into a winning combination.

We caught up Twiddle’s bassist and vocalist Zdenek Gubb to talk about the band’s collaborations, how they formulate playlists, and the state of music. Check them out at The Stone Pony on Sunday September 24 as they perform with The Hip Abduction.

Can you bring me up to speed with what’s been going on lately in the Twiddle world? Any shows you would consider to be recent highlights, any ideas you’ve had, collaborations, etc.?

It is hard to pick through all of the shows and highlight everything special that has occurred. There is something unique and special that happens at every single show. It really is a blessing. But our experience at Tumbledown may have been the best this year. Meeting and playing with Phil Lesh couldn’t have been more enlightening or fulfilling.

It’s one thing to sink into the vibrations of someone’s playing, but it’s another to talk with that person and find out they are just as kind hearted and sincere as you would hope your heroes to be. We look forward to having more collaborations with open, awesome people.

Your writing often is a collaborative process in bits and pieces. Is there anything that’s been grabbing your attention in terms of new material? Without divulging too much, of course, wouldn’t want to give away any secrets of course.

As we have gotten older, we tend to branch out with our musical tastes, but we always bring it back to a central point for each of us to collaborate together. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see what is important. Lately, it seems that all of our roots are in heavier 90’s rock. For example, Nirvana, 311, System of a Down, Alice in Chains and Rage Against the Machine. That being said, you may see us digging deep to pull out some real heavy new material. Well, heavy for Twiddle.

Is there any kind of formula for coming up with the set list for each show? For instance are the songs ever tailored to suit whatever state you’re playing in, anything like that?

There are a few elements that decide the set list for each night. First, what songs have already been played this week. Second, how many times have we played in the city or venue and what songs we played there before. Third, who is coming to this show. The set list is never set in stone, either. We use it more as a semi-sold guideline. We react off of the energy of the crowd, meaning we may make changes at any moment in the set!

One of the last parts to the formula is how we feel. You can’t fake fun or happiness. If we aren’t in it to win it then it just won’t feel right. In order for us to do our best, we may have to change the set list a little so we can give the crowd a crushing show. The set lists are generally more tailored to who is at the show instead of where the show is. With that said, things can always change.

We’ve had a rough couple of years with many of the world’s most beloved musicians passing on. How do you see music moving forward in terms of new groups, new sounds, new means of distribution, etc.?

Music seems to work in a circular motion. For example, a new genre I’ve found is called Vaporwave. It takes old songs and/or out dated synthesizers and puts a sick hip hop beat behind it. Then you have something old made new. Everything that’s been done seems to be made again but in a new way. I’m excited to see where the music goes, but I’m still going to listen to Pink Floyd, The Bee Gees, Elvis, Tom Waits and Mozart. There is still so much to learn from the history of music, from people who have passed and people who are still kickin’ it. As for means of distribution, the game has changed so much for us youngsters that we are going to see some new interesting techniques. I’ll keep listening to my oldies on Spotify.

I like to think that people constantly change from year to year. Is there anything that has changed for you within the last year that you find significant, especially as it relates to your music? Not necessarily in terms of the songwriting, but in terms of how you approach the entire process, putting on the show, what the music means to you and the fans, etc.?

We have done some shows where we play three nights in a row. I have always had that fear of not topping what we had done the previous night or two. Over time, I’ve realized more and more the importance of perspective. Instead of thinking about my experience being the third night of playing shows, I have learned to put myself in the shoes of a spectator. There is something so much more important to the music than just us as individuals. It really can only be experienced as the WHOLE. I don’t know every way I have changed, but I strive to be present and I look forward to seeing how that helps what we bring to the table as a group and as a community.

Twiddle performs at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Sunday September 24. Click here for tickets.