Tweed - Getting Together: The Aquarian Cover Story

The Aquarian Cover story feature for November 2017.

by Veronica Rajadnya, November 8, 2017

Two friends got married and hosted a wedding celebration in Philadelphia in recognition of their union. No ceremony, no walking down the aisle, no ordained minister or mutual friend cracking inside jokes and testing new material. Just a party for friends and family to revel under a tent with a dance floor and a four-piece band. “This band looks like it’s going to be really good,” I absentmindedly said at the bar to no one in particular. A fellow with red dreads and round, purple reflective glasses heard and replied, “Aw, shucks.” And that’s how I accidentally met a member of Tweed, a band I’d known long simmering low and hot on the Philly jam scene, just before I saw them live for the first time, making people move at my friends’ wedding.

That was Jon Tomczak (keyboard, vocals), and along with AJ DiBiase (guitar, vocals), Dan McDonald (bass, vocals) and Joe Vela (drums), Tweed has been very busy. Playing out a solid summer of at least a month’s worth of dates, the Delaware-formed, Philadelphia-bred funktronica quartet hosted a Phish Baker’s Dozen afterparty, took over Triumph Brewery, toured around Virginia, did a run up in New England all the way to Great North: Music and Arts Festival in Minot, Maine and somehow found the time to throw a festival of their own.

The inaugural SENSORiUM not only featured a curated lineup that included a member of Lotus–another Philadelphia band–but live, interactive performances and art installations and a spotlight on the environment that both emphasized a cool place to party, and doing right by the planet. With a homegrown, DIY sensibility and an infectious fusion that jams at once distinctive and accessible, Tweed’s Q4 calendar continues to grow with several East Coast dates, including a “Tweed Goes Disco” Halloween “birthday” show at the Theatre of Living Arts aka TLA, all the while working on a new album to follow up their 2016 EP, The Chunky Life.

Around playing out a game of “F_ck, Marry, Kill”–where drummer Vela married STS9 (“They’re just so classic”), f_cked Lotus (“Best baby-making music”) and killed The Disco Biscuits because he “think[s] they could handle it,”–I got to learn a bit more about one of the most hardworking unsigned bands in the tri-state.

Let’s go back the beginning. The story is that you formed at the University of Delaware. How did you all meet and decide to make music together? What are your backgrounds?

So AJ, he’s the guitar player, and I met at a concert at Atlantic City, believe it or not. It was Disco Biscuits, Lotus and Brothers Past, three of my favorite bands to see, and I saw him in the crowd wearing a University of Delaware shirt and I was like, “Oh, you go to Delaware? I go to Delaware.” And it was like, “You play guitar? I play drums…we’re going to be friends!” And Jon, keyboard player, he actually started out playing guitar in Tweed and it kind of evolved to him playing keyboard, as it was a better fit with the electronic influenced music that we play. Me and AJ both met him kind of separately in our freshman year at college because he was just bouncing around with a giant red Afro. And he was just a happy go lucky guy with a giant Afro; you’re going to be friends with him. Dan was not the original bass player in the band, he came later when our previous bass player decided he didn’t want to take the project as seriously. And we knew exactly who to call. We had jammed with him a few times and there was a lot of chemistry already, musically, so we added him.

And basically around January 2016, AJ and me left our “Big Boy” jobs. He was an engineer, and I was a data scientist at a start up in Philly. Jon works at a restaurant still, Dan does a bit of everything. We took music full time, took it on the road. We did 150 shows last year, and probably will do 100 this year…That’s the unabridged version.

Does the band’s name Tweed have a story?

You know, it doesn’t really have a good story…We had booked our first show. It was actually “The Nightmare on Haines Street” party at AJ’s house our junior year of college, 2010. And we had the show booked, and we needed a name. And one of our roommates and good friend at the time, Kevin (Minassian), was like, “You know…I’ve been saving this name for a while. Let me lay it on you: Tweed. It just rolls off the tongue. I don’t know what it’s for.” It was kind of the only thing we could agree on. It kind of stuck. And now it has some other meaning, we joke around that Tweed is an acronym: “Time Wizards Eating Electric Donuts.” But that kind of came later, you know?

Well, that’s neat!

Funny story about the “The Nightmare on Haines Street” party that I tried to throw in college is that I got called by Newark, Del. police, like, “Are you Joe Vela? Are you throwing this party on Haines Street…that has 3,000 people attending on Facebook?” And I was like, “Yea?” So they were like, “Well you need to come down to the police station and talk to us.” And I was like, “How do I get a permit to throw this party? Like, we were going to have bands on the porch, people hanging out. You know, college party.” And they’re like, “You’re not throwing this party. If you throw this party, we’re going to come and shut it down and arrest you.”

And long story short, we did throw the party but we kept it inside. We canceled it on Facebook, told all of our friends it was still going down and Tweed was dressed as all fast food characters. I was Colonel Sanders, Jon was Ronald McDonald, AJ was Burger King and Paul, our bass player at the time, was Jack in the Box.

That was the first of our Tweed shows, so we were birthed on Halloween. So that’s always a special weekend for us.

Coming off of that story, if each of your band members were a figure from popular culture (internet sensations, cartoons, TV characters), who would you be?

Oh my god…I gotta think about that. That’s a good one… Jon would be Roger Rabbit because he is goofy and outgoing. AJ would be Kermit the Frog because he is loyal and even keeled, likes to sing. Dan is Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because he loves pizza and skateboarding. And I think my pop culture character is the Energizer Bunny. I’ve heard it many times before because I have so much natural energy and drive and it definitely comes out in my drum playing.

Your last EP, The Chunky Life (2016), was recorded and produced by Jeff Mahajan of Turtle Soup, Souper Groove fame. Tell us a bit about that partnership.

We don’t call him Jeff; we call him “Mud.” For the record, he invited us to his studio, Brooksound Studios, which is a studio he built in his home with all the state of the art equipment that a studio that is $100 an hour has, so he can charge you less. He has been really great to work with. We are currently recording our new album with him as well and he’s just a great person to bounce ideas off of, and if there were a fifth member of Tweed, it would be him. He has helped shape our sound and inspires us. We definitely turn to him if we’re stuck on something.

Well, it’s great to have another perspective when you are creating something.

Yeah, exactly. And it’s good to have someone who’s a little separated from the process to give input.

What is your writing process as a band? I love that The Chunky Life features lyrics you can listen to, and relate to. It almost has an indie rock sensibility that way. How do you write?

We use a lot of different processes. A lot of the time, and I think the best way, is one or two people write a song and get it as far as they can and present it to the group. For the new album, AJ has been writing a lot of the music and has been pumping out some cool and unique tracks. And I think that it’s important to have the lead who is singing the song to have final say on the lyrics because you have to say it like you would say it and say it comfortably.

But it depends on the song. Some songs start out organically, as in something we were playing at in practice. We record a lot of our practices, play them back and if it’s cool we break it down. We’ll write a lot of the music on Logic. So we’ll write the song on there, we add drums in there, add bass in there. We’ll do it digitally and then add instruments on top of it. Break it down, make decisions from there, bring it to the studio with us, and use that as a scratch track to record on top off.

We inject a lot of humor into our lyrics; we like to write things that sound like something that we would say. Conversational. We like weird funny sayings, plays on words, things that can be taken two ways.

The Chunky Life was recorded at Brooksound Productions with 100% solar power.

That’s just Brooksound Studios. It’s just all powered by solar; there are panels on the roof. That’s just Jeff’s house, it’s all solar powered.

On the green note, I recently spoke to an artist about cassette tapes and how the upside to them was the “inconvenience” of listening to an album all the way through (whereas you can skip on a CD or your phone), and the downside was putting more plastic out in the world. Music has been dematerialized as a product, but what do you think about the environmental impacts of music (festivals, concerts, merch, etc.)?

I have a lot to say about all of those things. But to answer directly, the type of stuff that we’re doing is stuff that we want to have create a very low footprint, leave no trace. The festival that we threw, you know, we cleaned up everything, we did it at a place (One Art Community Center) that has an Earthship, this place that has all of this sustainable recycled stuff. We actually recycled a lot of the garbage that was created at our festival. They’re going to use the glass bottles along with concrete to create walls inside One Art.

I don’t think music is responsible for a large amount of garbage. I think music is mostly responsible for good. I do think physical cassettes are cool, CDs are cool, vinyl is cool. People seem to like the novelty of collecting them versus a single on that you play on Soundcloud or Spotify. But I also think there is a lot to be said about the destruction of music industry due to the digitization of it. It’s very hard to make money writing music these days.

I’ve also been told by other recording artists that because of that, touring and playing shows are a sure way to make money. So bands continue to tour.

Yeah, you used to tour to support the album and now you make the album to support the tour.

It is good to know that you dedicated so much time towards running your festival that way. Hopefully more festivals will follow suit.

I was there until the last piece of garbage was picked up. And that place One Art is just an amazing spot for the community so it felt right using their place and vesting with them.
F_ck, Marry, Kill: STS9, Lotus, the Disco Biscuits

Oh my god…I don’t want to kill any of them – they’re my friends!

 

Tweed performs tonight at The 8×10 in Baltimore, Md. For more information, please visit tweedmusic.com.

Tweed's SENSORiUM festivals treats the mind, body and soul.

Via Transit Blog

As summer comes to a close, I’ve been blessed with two epic festivals in August. Mad Liberation had me feeling all the love and power of Jersey. The second was an event at my favorite venue, One Art Community CenterSENSORiUM Fest was a treat for the mind, body and soul. The host band, Tweed, brought together an amazing community under the summer sun for damn funky good time. The weather was right, bubbles floated everywhere and the smell of jerk chicken and dankness filled the air. This event came together in the true spirit of live music and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Stepping into the West Philly compound of One Art Community Center you could feel the positive energy immediately. Vendors beautifully lined the back walkway leading into the oasis of magic happening on stage. The courtyard is embellished with murals surrounding the valley that holds the stage. Newport Storm Brewery was serving up delicious kegs in the corner. Bodies were flowing, the two resident dogs greeted the newcomers and united all strangers to quickly became friends. We first arrived during an invigorating set from Minka. The set was a sexy jubilee- with dancers amplifying the energy. Moon Bounce kept the groove rolling under the summer sun. The Beating set a tone with a head-nodding bounce. The entire afternoon was blissful, it all seemed natural and right.

As the sun started setting, the flow artists began to shine and properly lubricated, the dance floor as funky dance moves continued to fill every corner. The night’s excitement hit a high as host’s Tweed hit the stage and with the sun down delivered a multi sensory delight. The band played heavy grooves as visually the crowd was treated to fire dancers and an intoxicating projection show. To close the night, Soohan delivered the perfect end of the show. His set was a journey through sound, a mental massage.

As I rode home in the cab, I felt elated. It was the perfect mental getaway- from the music to the venue to the visuals to the crowd, everything just flowed. I went into the afternoon without knowing anyone and immediately felt included to the funk that occurred. It was not your average show, this was a special experience. We all came together and were fully caught in the moment. I’m excited to see where this movement of energy goes. The folks behind SENSORiUM are involved in many great experiences around the area. Follow them to find out what’s coming next. Be sure to catch Tweedplaying an all-disco set on October 28th at TLA with Pink Talking FishBut for now…

The Chunky Life EP is a sonic tour de force to be reckoned with

The Chunky Lifethe new release from Philadelphia based jamtronica band, Tweed, is a sonic tour de force to be reckoned with.  Although only an EP, this has it all.  The band smashes boundaries and cleverly weaves genre upon genre into their almighty web.  Their many influences reign supreme throughout the entire duration.  There is everything from new disco to snippets of post-punk apocalypse.  The most brilliant aspect surrounding this release is the fact that you can’t tell if the transitions are calculated or completely organic.

Opener, “Big Sky”, masterfully walks a fine line between processed electronic groove and new wave danceability.  Synth maestro, Jon Tomczakuses his influence to make the band sound like everyone from The Talking Heads to Krafwerk.  In “RL WRLD”, guitarist AJ DiBiase takes us from melodic prog-rock mysticism to surging heavy metal in just a matter of moments.  Then naturally the track glides into a potpourri of Daft Punk inspired vocal treatment and chic disco.

The most essential element for all great jam friendly artists is the ability to groove.  Drummer Joe Vela and bassist Dan McDonald provide just that.  They drive home tracks such as “Loup-Garou” and “Best Thing On The Menu”.  The latter also showcases the group’s ability to inject the comical.

Lots of bands attempt to cross boundaries, but few succeed so seamlessly.  Every track keeps you interested from first note to last.  The genre crossing is not distracting but completely engaging.  This is a triumphant work.  A must have.  It just may be my favorite release of 2016!  I have a gut feeling these guys are about to become huge.  Climb aboard now.

Tweed Hits Hard & Gets Weird On Debut Album “The Chunky Life” [Stream/Review]

Coming hot off of three national tours in 2016, jamtronica act Tweed has just dropped their first studio release, The Chunky Life. Blending styles from Daft Punk to Rage Against The Machine and Phish to the New Deal, Tweed shows they’re not afraid to get a little weird when layering a track. Unexpected twists pepper The Chunky Life bringing some of the best highlights of a live Tweed show to your personal music player.

Tweed rolls into the first track on The Chunky Life, “Big Sky,” with a tight bass groove laid down in synergy by bassist Dan McDonaldand keyboardist Jon Tomczak. Once the song opens up it really makes you want to dance, with the heavy hitting beats of drummer Joe Vela balanced by AJ DiBiase’s alternation between lead and rhythm guitar. Vocals on this track are really strong unlike many bands in this genre. A solid kick off.

One thing noticeable as you dig deeper into The Chunky Life, is how Tweed has intentionally translated their live sound to studio recordings—a high level of energy dominates the tracks with plenty of variation to keep it interesting. The band comes together for tight comprehensive jams with funky transitions that cross the boundary between albums like Lotus’ self-titled release and The Disco Biscuits’ Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens.

On nearly every track, bassist Dan McDonald delivers thick rolling bass grooves punctuated with funk reminiscent of The New Deal’s Dan Kurtz. With a style that’s distinctly Tweed, AJ shreds unique solos on guitar, shining through in tracks “Loup-Garou” and “You.” His vocals are clear, smooth and perfectly accented by backup from the band and some awesome call and response with Jon, the resident synth wizard. Joe Vela lays down the drums with pristine precision throwing down a pocket that is both driving and laid back.

Tweed finishes in their truest form with “Loup-Garou,” starting with a super dancey funk rhythm that drops off about halfway through into a dark and spacy jam. Nearly threatening to drive you off the rails, AJ’s guitar comes screaming through to pull you back in for the final stretch of the song, showing that Tweed can get weird while maintaining style.

Overall Tweed’s first studio release is an action-packed thrill ride full of depth and high energy moments. Every element that makes a live Tweed show special is represented on The Chunky Life with the smooth finesse Tweed brought to the studio. I think it’s a good sign that I couldn’t help but listen to the EP multiple times through on my first sitting and I am now living. the. chunky. life.

The Road to Great North: Interview with Tweed

ith the fourth annual Great North Music & Arts Festival just a week away (tickets here), we’re happy to unveil the first installment of our “Road to Great North” interview series, featuring the up-and-coming Philadelphia jamchronica band, Tweed. I first met the guys from Tweed at this summer’s Backwoods Pondfest in Peru, NY, where they were scheduled to perform the late-night set at 1:30 on Friday. During Spiritual Rez’s preceding set the heavens opened up and torrential rain obliterated the crowd in a completely unsheltered field. When the clock struck 1 and the rain continued to pour, I started to worry under a jam-packed shelter that Tweed’s set would be called off.

Sure enough, once I reached Tweed’s stage completely drenched from head to toe, Jon, Dan, AJ and Joe were cautiously setting up their equipment amidst waning rain. At 1:30, the band’s true character shined as they took the stage seemingly oblivious of the rain to rock out for a determined crowd of soaked fans. To make matters even better, the band’s Backwoods Pondfest set was just as wet as the setting they performed in.

Great North couldn’t be a better festival for Tweed to showcase their talents. The band’s shows are powered by high energy performances that weld electronic, jam, and classic rock elements, so with a lineup peppered by jamtronica acts like the Disco Biscuits and G-Nome Project as well as classic electronic performers like Space Jesus and Cut Chemist, Tweed’s energy and sound will be incredibly well received by this summer’s Mooslings. The guys have a new album coming out on September 30th, so make sure to catch their performance at Great North before downloading the album at the end of the month. In the meantime, meet Tweed.

 

Sound Fix: Hey AJ, Joe, Dan and Jon – first off, just wanted to thank you guys for participating in our Road to Great North interview series. To kick things off, fill us in on what’s going on for Tweed before and after Great North.

Joe: We have a crazy tour leading up to Great North, hitting Pittsburgh, Chicago, Kalamazoo, St. Louis, Columbus, Rochester, Buffalo, and Manchester. It’s pretty much 8 hour drives almost every day, really ambitious.

Dan: After eight shows in the nine days leading up to Great North, we’ll be playing Snug Harbor in New Paltz to close out the run. We have two days to sleep at home before we hit another run, playing Annapolis, Pink Moon Festival, Lancaster, Bridgeport, and New York City. I’m excited to play close to home at the Chameleon Club with our friends Humandala and Native Maize on September 16th. We have two NYC shows upcoming, a free one Sep 18 outside at Central Park Bandshell as part of The UN’s Vigil for Ecology and Peace and October 13th at American Beauty, so be sure to take advantage of this Fall weather. We’re currently available and taking offers for New Year’s Eve.

SF: Is this your first time hitting Great North? Tell us about the festival and what you guys have planned for the weekend.

Joe: This is actually our second time hitting Great North and we’re really excited to return. Last year was beautiful and we had The Hornitz sit in during our set. It got funky. I wouldn’t be surprised if we called on some friends to sit in with us this year too. We are lucky to have carved Friday night off in our schedule to hang out before our set Saturday!

 

SF: Besides Tweed’s, what are three other sets you’re looking forward to at Great North?

Joe: The Disco Biscuits, Earphunk plays Daft Punk, and The Indobox.

Dan: The Biscuits, Earphunk, and Cut Chemist. Last year they brought out legend Mike D on the tables and it was out of this world. I’m always stoked to see vinyl DJs in the mix.

Jon: I’m really excited to see our friends from across the ocean, G-Nome Project, and I have to agree with Dan that it’s gonna be awesome to see Cut Chemist showcasing some old school DJ skills. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the Supersillyus Life Band in action.

AJ: I’m pumped to see our homies G-Nome Project, Manifested, and Teddy Midnight throw down.

SF: When and where did you decide to get together as a band and take this outfit to the next level? Tell us about the origins of Tweed.

AJ: It was serendipity that brought us together. We all met while we were students at the University of Delaware and there was a strong connection between us from the beginning since we shared similar musical tastes. I actually met Joe at a Disco Biscuits show and we were eager to make music together from that moment. Tweed’s first show was Halloween 2010 and later Dan stepped in to replace our original bass player in 2013.

Joe: We took this full-time in January 2016, when we had the momentum and an opportunity, I knew it was time to double-down.

 

SF: What is “jamchronica,” and how would you describe your sound?

Jon: I like to think of our sound as chronically evolving and changing; incorporating bits and pieces from various genres and styles as we move through songs. We incorporate grooves and musical tricks from funk to metal, disco, and house. The term “jamchronica” plays off the progressive sound style we like to implement while paying homage to the jam and electronica scenes which have played such an important role in influencing our style.

SF: What bands or musicians have influenced the development of your music?

Joe: I think modern jam bands that fuse multiple genres like The Disco Biscuits, Lotus, STS9, and Umphrey’s McGee have had the biggest influence on Tweed, but music from all genres constantly inspires me. We listen to a lot of indie rock and electronic music on the road. Bands like Hot Chip, The Juan Maclean, Todd Terje & The Olsens, even Daft Punk have always influenced me. I love the constant seemingly simple grooves around 100-110 BPM. I also like songs that tell stories.

 

SF: Shifting away from the music for just one question here: individually, what is your favorite city, movie and song?

Joe: Tough call on favorite city, but I have to say Philadelphia, otherwise I wouldn’t live here. Close seconds are Asheville, Denver, Austin, Brooklyn, and St. Louis. Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption. I’m not the type of person to play a song over and over again. I like picking music based on my mood…my favorite bands to listen to at the moment are probably Turkuaz and Vulfpeck.

Dan: Los Angeles. Samsara. “As Needed” by Beirut or “Breezin’” by George Benson. I just watched AJ’s favorite music video and it’s amazing.

Jon: I also have to give my favorite city to our hometown, Philadelphia, but there’s so many places I haven’t seen yet. St. Louis comes close for me, too. The St. Louis City Museum might be my favorite place in the world. Pan’s Labyrinth is definitely up there for favorite movies. In Brudge and Seven Psychopaths have been a couple of my favorites lately too. I love Martin McDonagh’s ability to blend humor, drama, and action so seamlessly in his work. Cherub’s “Doses and Mimosas” is one of my all time favorite feel-good jams, but “Them Changes” by Thundercat has been one of my go to grooves recently.

AJ: Ah, it’s so hard to pick favorites! Philly wins favorite city. Shutter Island is up there as one of my favorite movies. Favorite song is always changing, but right now my go-to is “Go Back” by Cookies. Joe didn’t mention his favorite song, but I can say with 100% certainty that it’s “Unleash the Dragon” by Sisqó.

Joe: He’s right, it’s either that or “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly.

 

SF: You’ve had an incredibly busy summer touring and performing festivals. What have been a few of your favorite moments of the season so far?

Joe: Probably our late night One Hit Wonders set at F.A.R.M. Fest and the whole tour leading up to Great Outdoors Jam Festival in Florida. Everyday was a blast in the Southeast, we drove from springs to springs staying cool in the blistering heat.

SF: We first met at Backwoods Pondfest. That’s one of my personal favorite festivals, and I had a blast at your late night set. Tell us about your experience at Pondfest. How would you describe the event to someone who’s never been?

Joe: Our set was wet. Instruments and rain don’t mix, so it was nerve-racking to start, but we had sufficient coverage and everyone was there to party, including us. We had a fun time for sure. That festival is a homie-fest. It’s a tight knit community of musicians and artists and everyone there is so talented. It was an honor to be in the company of such talented acts that day, no one missed a beat.

SF: Every group does it differently, so what is the process you take as a band to produce a new song?

AJ: There’s no exact formula for writing new material, but generally one of us will compose a piece then bring it to the table and let everyone else get their fingerprints on it. It could be just a couple parts, a fully composed song, or anything in between.

Dan: Every practice is an opportunity to work on new material and review performances to rework things for our fans. We all trade off taking the driver’s seat on new material to make it come out sounding authentically “Tweed.” A lot of patience goes into this process and it’s never guaranteed that the work we put in results in something we even want to utilize.

 

Tweed at The Peach Music Festival 2015

SF: Speaking of new songs, what new music is in the works that you can report on?

Jon: We’re all constantly thinking of new ideas and working on new tunes. Right now we’re working on narrowing our focus and fine tuning some ideas that we’ve been batting around. We’ve been traveling constantly this year, and we’re really looking forward to taking some time off this winter and putting the finishing touches on a bunch of new songs.

Joe: I can say we have at least three new songs and a couple of older tracks that we are getting album-ready for 2017. I really love the direction we are going with the new tracks. We debuted one called “Creature of Habit” last weekend and the crowd response was great.

SF: We like to end our interviews with an open forum. Is there anything you’d like that share that we didn’t cover in this Q&A?

Joe: I’d like the to world to know that these guys are genuinely my best friends and we have a blast touring the country and making music. I’m betting we are some of the most determined, persistent, and consistent (and nicest) musicians out there. Our album is coming out September 30, and we have decided to self release it, so please show some support and buy it, listen to it, and share it with your funky friends when finally it comes out.

Tweed -- SICK AS FUNK

There will be a lot more great music at Great Outdoors Jam before it closes at sunset Sunday, but I guarantee you there won’t be a set better than the one Tweed played. This Philadelphia quartet was over-the-top astounding: jamtronic fusion heaven. The first tune got everyone’s attention, and the second one was, as Pat would say, “SICK AS FUCK” (now abbreviated as SAF). Just like Justino’s band, every one of these boys was incredible, but Dan McDonald on bass? SAF! The Philadelphia boys blew us all away!