An Interview with Mihali Savoulidis
by Miles Hurley
From the YouTube channel of ACKSAHARA:
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The musical world is about to get a little more plump…when Plump Chapter 2 arrives in early spring! That’s the name to the brand new album coming soon from Vermont jam heavyweights Twiddle.
In the wake of excitement about new material, and a continuation of Plump’s thematic arc, Twiddle will be hitting the road for an extensive tour, hitting dates up and down the coast and eventually bringing their thing to huge nights at Red Rocks, moe.down, and more.
Next weekend, on the back to back nights of March 31st, Twiddle will take to NYC venue the Playstation Theatre, for a pair of what will truly be magnificent performances. Coming along with them for these two NYC shows are Buffalo-based rockers Aqueous, who have been touring with Twiddle as of late, tearing it up and complementing Twiddle’s live energy with their own glorious rock, and their improvisational fervor.
In anticipation of these shows, lead guitarist Mihali Savoulidis gave us the esteemed pleasure of sitting down to give us his thoughts on everything from the Twiddle music material, to their onstage triumphs and tribulations, and more.
LMNR: So, to start about Twiddle’s upcoming new release, let’s go back to Plump Chapter One. There is a lot of cool, extra instrumentation on this record. Was the something you guys knew you wanted to do on Plump, or did the songwriting just lend itself to that?
Mihali Savoulidis: I think initially when we went into doing the album, we really wanted to have some horns and some strings and some other things, and yeah, pretty much we had finished our parts on the songs, we sat down and listened for the first disc we had our good friend Chaz Kenny arrange a lot of the horns and string parts, with our help.
From there we thought it would work. There were a handful of the songs that I felt would sound good with strings and horns on them. We definitely went into the album wanting to have a little more instrumentation going on.
And something that really seems to resonate for people with your material is its positivity. Is that something you guys have always had, or did you maybe discover it when you came together as a band?
Well, with the exception of our drummer Brooke, who writes some of the lyrics for his songs, I write all of the lyrics for our music, and it kind of happened naturally. You know, when we started as a band, I was writing a lot more storytime lyrics about characters, and this and that…and when I started writing about my own kind of personal experiences, and what I was seeing around me, the overall vibe I had been feeling in my life. The other kind of side of my songwriting came out which was a little more introspective, and I think just a little more human.
I think a lot of what we write about people in our generation we can relate to, I think a lot of us feel the same way, and I think that’s why it resonates with so many people.
Especially lately, even over the past year or so, things seems to be quicker to go dark between people, in how they talk to each other, that kind of thing. Politically speaking, and otherwise…
Sure, I mean we all feel it. It’s interesting because…you know, I’ve always strayed away from being too political within my lyrics, and really trying just overall to portray a message of positivity and hope, and things like that. As opposed to focusing too much on like what what’s wrong.
But it definitely affects us all. There’s a track off of the new album that’s somewhat angry (laughs). You know, driven a little more by that type of feeling. Without being too specific.
So without being too specific, what are you able to tell us about Plump Ch. 2?
You know, with Plump, the initial idea to do it with a double disc was to really have a well-rounded album of what the band can do, and that hits all of our strengths. Now the first album was very songwriting oriented–a lot of the songs that I had written over the years, that were developed live with the band.
With the second disc, we’ve decided to go back to our roots a little more. The songwriting was a lot more spread out, we all wrote these songs together over the last year, which was a little different than the first album. The first album was kind of, you know, the artist brings the song to the table and records it, that kind of a thing. Whereas this one was a much more collaborative effort as far as the writing goes.
And as far as the lyrical content, and the overall vibe of the second disc, it’s totally different than the first one. We kind of went back to the storyline lyrics of our earlier material, and really just tried to make the whole thing come back full circle. Where the first album showcases our songwriting ability a little bit stronger, the second album is a little more of our musicianship…and to tell a great story and to have fun with the music. You know, slightly less serious take on it. Which is just what we wanted to do, we wanted to…put out an album that essentially was plump in its diversity of musical content within it.
There’s a little something for everyone on this album, whether you’re a singer-songwriter fan, a reggae fan, a jamband fan, whatever it is, you’re gonna find some stuff you like on it, when you receive the whole package, the whole double disc.
So speaking of your musicianship…you guys have been real road warriors in your time as a band. What have you noticed or liked about the change in your own playing since then, or the playing of your band mates?
I mean, the more we tour together the more we play together…it’s been twelve years, since we’ve been doing this. We’ve been going really hard at it for a really long time, and I think a lot of people think our success happened overnight, or that we just kind of popped up in the last few years, but we’ve really been hitting the country hard for a lot of years, playing every small rock club across the country, trying to get the music out there.
And you know, the more you do that, the more you become comfortable with the people you’re playing with. We just know each other so well at this point that, the more you play, the more you see what works and what doesn’t, and what the crowd responds to and what it’s not responding to. And just easier ways to make things smoother, more seamless.
Even to the point to being accustomed to your touring schedule and getting yourself into a flow on the road, where you get into a routine that keeps your mind and your body a little more sane, so the performance is that much better, in the end.
So it’s just learning as you go, and the more we tour, the better we play, and the better we understand each other, which in turn leads to better playing on stage.
I have seen you guys myself just a small handful of times. I think my favorite was your Catskill Chill gig last year…you guys do really seem to have an intuition between one another, in terms of the directional changes of jams on stage.
Yeah, I mean before we go on stage, we always do a big ear reminder, meaning everyone is just trying to listen, and keep their ears open, when we’re jamming. And some nights it’s easier than other nights.
There’s so many factors that go into how we’re feeling on stage…whereas, I could be having the greatest show ever in my mind, but maybe one of the other guys was having a bad day, or something was bothering them before they went on stage, or they might be a little distracted, or whatever.
It’s about recognizing that vibe, that energy, and trying to pull your brother out of their funk, and get them present. And, like I said, we’ve just been playing together for so long that, we can all read each other’s vibe so well on stage…that we can always pull something out worthy of the evening.
From the YouTube channel of Catskill Chill:
Just over the last year, you’ve had so many sit-ins, with people all across the musical map. Two-part question here: 1) What’s it like to be at the center of this collaborative musical community, sharing so many performances with people, and 2) do you personally have a favorite sit-in from this year?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. We love to play with people, it just makes the show super fun for us, to add another dynamic or element up there with us.
Maybe sometimes our fans don’t like it as much…I think I understand where they come from, too. Some people kind of just want to see us do our thing. But really, just spreading the love on stage with the music, it’s what we’re all about.
As far as a favorite sit-in, I mean having Page come play at Tumble Down was a dream come true. That was big one.
I think I like them all for different reasons…You know, I personally like sitting in with other bands, for the reason that I always seem to play slightly different than I usually do with Twiddle, I kind of like being put out of my comfort zone. And I think, in that same aspect, when people come play with us, it’s always nice to kind of collaborate with them, and see where it goes. But it’s tough to say a favorite, there’s been so many good ones.
I did get to see your sit-in with Keller at LOCK’N, and I thought you guys nailed “Best Feeling.” A really beautiful version.
Oh yeah, that was great. Keller’s the man, he’s just the nicest guy ever. And we had played with him before in the past, I did a solo show with him, and he came and played at Friendly Gathering a few years back…I mean, he’s always just been so cool, and down to jam. He’s really just the best.
Out of curiosity, have you thrown that tune more into your rotation since?
Actually, it’s funny, we’ve been playing “Best Feeling” pretty much since day one, spread out over the years. It’s a song I’ve always loved, since I was in high school. So it’s a trip for me to have played it with Keller (laughs).
So these PlayStation Theatre shows coming up, they’ll be with Aqueous. Are you guys excited for that?
Oh yeah. They’ve been on this run with us, they did New Year’s Eve with us, and those guys are just the best, seriously just one my favorite bands out there. Honestly, I don’t want to say they’re up-and-coming, because they’ve always been so good, but I’m just so happy that they’re really picking up steam right now. They’re playing is at an all time high, it’s incredible watching them every night. And having them come play with us after, it’s really a great pairing I think, and they’re just the nicest guys on the planet.
And we are also definitely going to debut a handful of the new material, from the second disc, at PlayStation. With a couple of special guests, to help with the extra instrumentation on it.
So the shows in New York are going to be very, very special for the reason that it will be the first time we’re playing a lot of these songs, for the very first time in front of people. And you know, some of them are pretty intense…
Well they should be a great time for sure. Good luck with them and all the rest, and thank you!
My pleasure man, thank you!
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