PIGEONS PLAYING PING PONG:
“We pour every ounce of ourselves into every note when we perform live,” says Pigeons Playing Ping Pong singer/guitarist Greg Ormont. “When we’re recording in the studio, we try to maintain that euphoria while finding a way to pack it into a tight, focused vessel. Each song becomes like a spring-loaded can of worms: there’s all this energy boxed up in a neat little package, and then when you come see us live, the cap comes off and the contents fly out in every direction like fireworks.”
It’s a whimsically apt metaphor for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a band whose very existence is rooted in the unyielding quest for joy and positive energy. Blending infectious funk grooves, psychedelic jams, and experimental electronics, the Baltimore four-piece’s new album, ‘Pizazz,’ is a buoyant, blissful reminder of just how much fun music can be. Eschewing the traditional funk band lineup that typically includes keyboards, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong constructs effervescent soundscapes with just two guitars, bass, and drums, crafting their music with a sophisticated ear for both open space and dense layering.
While ‘Pizazz’ is, in many ways, a familiar continuation of the journey that’s earned the band its rapidly expanding and rabidly devoted following (known as The Flock), it also marks the beginning of a new chapter for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The album’s eleven tracks are the group’s first recorded with new drummer Alex Petropulos, whose airtight grooves and explosive power push the band’s sound to new heights.
Tracked live on the floor in Baltimore’s WrightWay Studios, ‘Pizazz’ rises and falls with the same inimitable mix of precision and frenzy that defines the band’s one-of-a-kind live show. Glide Magazine called Pigeons “a band that melts faces and pulls no punches,” while C-Ville Weekly praised the growing “cult around [their] high-energy music, goofy stage antics, and all around good vibes,” and JamBase raved that guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Schon is “destined to become one of our generation’s finest guitarists.” Since the group’s inception nearly a decade ago at the University of Maryland (where the band’s name came to Ormont and Schon during a moment of transcendence in Psych 100), they’ve built up a reputation as one of the most engaging and life-affirming acts on the road, maintaining a relentless tour schedule that has them performing up to 200 shows a year and hitting festivals from coast to coast. The band even founded their own gathering, Domefest, which recently celebrated its eighth year and attracted nearly 2,000 members of The Flock for an immersive weekend of love, music, and community.
TAUK may be an instrumental band, but even without words, the group’s extraordinary new album, Chaos Companion, manages to speak volumes about the ups and downs of a year that challenged—and transformed—us all. Forced off the road by the COVID-19 pandemic, the quartet spent 2020 stretching themselves sonically, leaning into the sense of possibility that came with an empty calendar and letting it guide them toward uncharted territory. The resulting songs push TAUK’s sound to bold new heights, fusing elements of progressive rock, funk, soul, EDM, and hip-hop into a melodic, groove-driven blend, one that’s complemented here by the equally adventurous production work of longtime collaborator Robert Carranza. Add it all up and you’ve got a cinematic collection that hints at everything from 70’s film scores and 80’s videogames to 90’s R&B and modern dance music, an immersive record that blurs the lines between analog and electronic as it balances old school grit and futuristic sheen in equal measure.
Founded by bassist Charlie Dolan, guitarist Matt Jalbert, and keyboardist Alric Carter, who began playing together in middle school, TAUK landed on its present lineup in 2012, when drummer Isaac Teel joined full time. Since then, the quartet has gone on to tour with the likes of Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, and Lettuce, landed festival slots everywhere from Bonnaroo to Electric Forest, racked up millions of streams, and released a series of widely lauded studio and live albums.
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