The realization of a few long-term ideas, The Broadcast is a 3-hour album centered around the play-by-play description of a single baseball game (Mets vs Marlins, 5/31/2015). The play-by-play was done live during the game as a real sportscaster would do, the main difference being that I was watching the game on television with the sound muted and therefore my version doesn’t have any sounds of the crowd or cracks of the bat or peanut vendors or anything. Instead, each half inning of the game is set to its own instrumental music: some of it composed, some improvised, some just me, some with a full band. The result is a very unique spoken-word record that plays like a radio drama. It is available in download format only: special for this release, a set of 20 baseball cards was produced, each card containing a download code corresponding to one of the songs. The cards are sold in wax packs, each containing 7 cards (and some containing rarities like error cards and autographs!). Packs are available here at the store and at concerts. Click over to samkulik.com/baseball to learn more and to start downloading once you have cards! This project is more or less the biggest, craziest thing I’ve produced and I’m very proud to share it with all of you.
Escape From Society
This band is inspired by the song-poem phenomenon of the ’70s and ’80s, in which everyday people would respond to magazine ads seeking lyricists. Random songwriters would then write and record songs with the received lyrics, and the demo-quality recordings that resulted are fascinating. For this band, I advertised on craigslist and wrote songs for the lyrics that were sent to me. “Escape From Society” is a title borrowed from a classic song-poem sung by Ron Davis, chosen because of the general vibe in a lot of the lyrics I got about wanting things to be different, or wanting to get out of a situation that isn’t going right. Music, as I see it, is also an escape from society for a lot of people because of the subjective, personal experience of listening. The same is true for me as a player and performer as the normal parts of my brain sort of shut off as I get deeper into the music.
Three of the five of us had an improv band in college called Information Night that was probably the first band I was ever in where I felt like I was onto something big, not simply playing music that I liked. What we were choosing to do was very layered and conceptual but improvised and visceral at the same time. Pretty collegiate, I suppose. But who would have known that 4 or 5 years later we’d be getting together with a couple of other college buds to get back to it! This was how Starring came about, except we left the heady conceptual stuff at the door and instead favored loud, fun, exciting psychedelic prog jams ever since. We put out a tape in 2009 and the full-length “Wife of God” in 2010. “ABCDEFG-HIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ” followed in 2012, and is available Northern Spy Records. Starring is also the first band that I’ve ever been just the bass player in, so I’ve learned an immense amount how to fill that role around these guys. I’m really glad they didn’t kick me out before I got the hang of it.
Talibam! and Sam Kulik
I met Matt Mottel at a burrito bar in Ohio in 2004. He had already started Talibam! with Kevin Shea, and they are an amazing pair to watch and work with. We toured together a little bit in 2008 and decided to make a record together. In my mind it was going to be like one of those classic jazz records where two bands are brought together: “Ellington and Coltrane,” that kind of thing. But the ideas kept escalating and we wound up with “Talibam! and Sam Kulik Discover AtlantASS,” an 80-minute disco free jazz epic story party concept record that took us 2 years to make. We put it out on Belly Kids, who made an awesome 30-page comic book to go along with the story. It also became a theater piece which toured and had a 2-week run at the legendary Ontological-Hysteric Theater in New York City.
Mitra Sumara (website)
Pre-Islamic Revolution, Iran was a really happening place. There was a popular music at the time that is supremely funky and tripped out, with a lot of beautiful poetry sung on top about flowers and stuff like that. Mitra Sumara is a repertoire band in NY that covers this stuff and gets people dancing. Horns, dulcimer, lyrics sung in Farsi…helelyosa!
The Western Enisphere
Founded in 2012 by guitarist/composer David First (Notekillers), The Western Enisphere plays slow-moving drone-based music focused on microtonal intonations and polyrhythmic pulses. The experience is very overwhelming in a pleasant way as we really dive in to the physics of the sound being created, seeking to push and pull it around with subtle adjustments of volume, pitch, and tone. The typical lineup includes 3 guitars, two percussionists, laptop, viola, bass trombone, and visuals.
The Talking Band (website)
The Talking Band is a theater company formed by three former members of the Open Theater: Ellen Maddow, Tina Shepherd, and Paul Zimet. Their theater almost always involves live music, usually presented on stage among the actors. I did a show with them in 2005 called “Delicious Rivers,” and another in 2012 called “The Peripherals.” In the show the seven members of the cast play a band called The Peripherals who all seem to think that what they are doing is kind of accessible and normal and mainstream. But their songs are about subjects like losing your keys or finding a $10 bill in your dog’s shit. They’re all total weirdos and it’s hilarious. Ellen Maddow wrote it and there is a cast album!
Nervous Cabaret (website)
Ecstatic Music for Savage Souls. I missed out on the early years of Nervous Cabaret when they were playing 150+ shows in New York annually but got involved with the band for the album “Drop Drop,” which is one of the best records I’ve ever played on. Nervous is basically a primal horns and drums rock band with an incredible singer and guitarist wailing over top of the rest of us, Elyas Khan. Go check out “Sleepwalkers” on my listening page and you’ll know what I’m talking about.