Too Many Zooz On Substance Abuse in the Music Scene and the Importance of Authenticity
New York brass trio Too Many Zooz has a remarkable story of their rise to success and a sound that is just as remarkable to match it. Their journey began when videos of their subway performances went viral and propelled them into instant fame.
Their outstanding energy and eccentric style which they coined as brass house stunned millions and brought them to the forefront of the brass music genre.
Now the group is constantly on the move headlining shows around the world and collaborating with other music icons.
We had the opportunity to speak to the group’s sensational trumpet player Matt Muirhead. He gave us an inside look on what it’s like playing festivals, their sources of inspiration, and some words of wisdom on pacing yourself at music events.
iEDM: Do you feel like you take different approaches to festivals compared to shows? It’s so much different than the subway and cityscape vibes people tend to associate your music with.
TMZ: I don’t think the people are different but the environment is a lot different than a subway setting which can be the catalyst for people to respond differently. Our flow which is what we do and how we do it is very similar but not the same. It’s rooted in those things. You have to tell a story and do it differently for various sized crowds and venues. With a crowd of 100 people in a really small room, it gives you the ability to be more intimate and talk to them with more subtlety musically. But at a festival, you kinda have to be balls to the walls and very aggressive to capture their attention. It’s just little differences like that.
iEDM: How much of an impact do you think your Brooklyn Roots have on your sound?
TMZ: I think New York as a place has shaped our sound and what we do. When we played in the subway, we were down there to make money and to have fun doing it. So we would look at the ways musically that we captured the most attention. We noticed that dance moves, big drums, high notes on the trumpet, being loud and aggressive are all things people gravitated towards more. It gave us the attention we were looking for and things like that and that kind of shaped the sound of what we do. It’s a very refined product of years of figuring out what to do and what people would stop for in the subway.
iEDM: Do you have any favorite moments from your performances that are mean a lot to you?
TMZ: I don’t think about the past too much but there have definitely been performances that are very special and surreal. I’m sure I will think about it when I’m older though. Our mindset has always been that we are who we are as people. We’re less interested in what we’ve done and more interested in what we’re going to do and the fans want that too?
iEDM: Since we’re not dwelling in the past, do you have a dream venue or event you would like to play someday?
TMZ: I really want to play Red Rocks. It’s like mercury retrograde or something. We’ve had all these opportunities to do it but nothing ever goes through because we were in Europe or something. I’m not really the biggest festival person. There are things about festivals that I think are really cool, but there are also things that are a big drag.
iEDM: As an artist or the culture in general?
TMZ: Both. It depends on who you are and what you want as a person. But for me, going to music festivals should be about music. And that’s just for me – I’m not speaking for everyone. I think everyone’s lives should be what they want to enjoy. But for me, it seems like a drag when I go to these places and I see all these 14-16 year olds kids all f***d up. In a lot of ways, it’s become a place for young kids to come and escape their parents and rules and take recreationally for 3 days straight. As an artist, it can be a drag when you’re trying to play music and you look out in a crowd and see all these zombie people who don’t know where they are. Ultimately, they bought the ticket and can do whatever they want but to me that’s really weird. It’s even worse seeing older artists promote drug use with substances like lean that’s basically as bad as heroin.
iEDM: Drug abuse can definitely be an issue at events but it’s good to see many artists recognizing these issues and openly speaking out against it.
TMZ: I’m not saying to not have fun or experiment but would be good to see kids be more responsible and smart about it. Drink water, know your limits, where you are, and what you’re doing. And all of the feelings you’re creating are fake. You’re creating chemical imbalances in your body and it’s totally superficial and you probably won’t even remember it. All I’m trying to propose is that there are ways to have fun at shows without taking a bunch of drugs!
iEDM: How long have you been making music? Did you start off with brass music right away or did you take a different path?
TMZ: I grew up playing piano. I played classical piano and piano in church. I got to a certain point where I wanted to stop and my parents were both very adamant about me playing music. They said if you get good at trumpet you can stop playing piano. I basically picked up trumpet to stop playing piano. I’m really glad my parents made me do what they did and they’ve always been hella supportive of me too.
iEDM: It’s awesome to hear that because there are so many situations where parents try to hold their kids back from pursuing music instead of supporting that.
TMZ: It was definitely awesome. I have so many friends that did not have that support. My parents always told me that if you have a dream, follow it. You can do anything you want to do and I’m so grateful for that.
iEDM: Where do you tend to find the inspiration in making your music? Is it a story you’re trying to tell?
TMZ: Music or art is the expression of emotion. If you want to make a song you just say how you feel musically. That can be about anything. It can be where we are, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a friend, a city, or even food you at that you like – literally anything. We draw inspiration from a lot of different things. Sometimes it’s from other songs we hear, sometimes it’s a vibe that we’re feeling, or a catch phrase that becomes a tour joke. We draw inspiration from anything and everything. When you’re working on an album or EP, you start to give yourself a parameter to fit all those emotions into a box and put it into a story that chronologically makes sense.
Sometimes we go through phases musically just like anyone else does. You go through a few years where you just love rock and roll and then you just stop listening to that and listen to hip hop or whatever. We do the same thing as a band and individually. We go through phases musically where we start clicking on something that we all vibe to and that becomes the palette. If you think of a genre as a palette for a painter where you have all these different colors.
iEDM: Exactly, you should never restrict yourself. Some people get so caught up in what their sound should be that they don’t branch out as much as they would like to.
TMZ: One of the biggest mistakes an artist can make is thinking about what people want. Obviously you have to be conscious of that in one regard but when you’re creating it should be about letting go, having fun, and doing whatever the f*** you want. Especially if you already have fans – that’s why they bought your record in the first place.
iEDM: People tend to appreciate authenticity and generally want to see what you’re feeling in your creative process – not what you think they want to see.
TMZ: People don’t know what they want, and that’s the honest to god truth. People have no fucking clue what they want and as an artist you have to show them what they want. It’s like hey, you want to eat this food or listen to this music, it’s really good.
iEDM: If anything, you’re going to open up perspectives and broaden tastes with whatever you put out.
TMZ: Yeah, and I think fans do that to artists too a lot of times which is awesome. There are so many times where fans tweet some random shit at me and are like “you should check this out” and it might be music or a movie or whatever. That’s the best part about the internet – the connection it gives to fans and artists – you are like minded individuals and it puts you on that equal balance. Whereas just 10-20 years ago actors or musicians were looked at as demigods that people would idolize. Some people still do that now but now there’s this opportunity for connection.
iEDM: It can really help. Like you said earlier you shouldn’t let it influence you but it can help you better understand your audience.
TMZ: Exactly, you want to know who you’re talking to and how to connect with them and what they like. Just like when you have a new friend or relationship you want to learn who they are.
iEDM: It’s been a pretty wild journey for you guys since you broke through on the internet with multiple viral videos. So, what are your favorite collaborations you’ve done so far?
TMZ: Instinctually I would have to say Beyoncé just because of who she is, what she’s done, her legacy, and how much I grew up with her stuff. But there are other people we’ve worked with too that I was so excited to make records with. There are many people that we’ve had the opportunity to work with that the public doesn’t know about yet as well! Every new collaboration is fun. If you think about a song as your child it’s like you get to have kids with everyone you want as a collaborator. It’s like your raising a kid.
iEDM: Yeah, raising a kid with Beyoncé!
TMZ: With Beyoncé, it was less of a true collaboration because we were there for her. We were there to serve her and rightfully so to help her achieve her greater goal. Sitting down and making records with people from origin to ending is a cool experience to see where people are musically. You use each other’s strong points to benefit each other’s and pick up on people’s weaknesses and let the flow happen.
iEDM: Have you guys been working on any new music lately? If so what kind of sound can fans expect?
TMZ: We have a shitload of music that we’re sitting on right now. We just put out this remix with KDA that’s really doing well. As for unreleased music, we are waiting for the metal to get hot and the right moment to strike. I don’t know what I’d tell fans to expect for a sound because I don’t know what we’re putting out next. But there’s so much new stuff coming which is really exciting. I would just tell people to stay tuned and don’t put us in a box. That’s the one request I have to fans: please don’t put us in a box. We change one thing and people are like, “oh, this isn’t brass house. This isn’t Too Many Zooz.” And it’s like we’re making this shit. We decide what brass house is and what Too Many Zooz is. We’re going to try so many different things and if you like it that’s cool, but if you don’t I hope you find something else you connect with. I think there’s this mentality in society to put people down for trying new things if it isn’t an immediate success. That to me is the opposite of how things should be. People should be encouraging others to try new things and to fail, to put themselves out there, and to take a risk. And to me there is no risk. You try something and either it works or doesn’t work and then you move on or stick with it.
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