Brightest Young Things, Interview/Concert Preview >>
The Kennedy Center's Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America Festival, running May 6th thru the 12th, is a gathering of contemporary visual arts including graffiti, chalk drawings, murals, and installations, as well as large-scale spectacles, street musicians, parade culture, flash mobs, puppetry, circus arts, and clowning. Programming will feature artists from across the country such as Nick Cave, Project Bandaloop, Bread and Puppet Theater, Midnight Circus, Nana Projects, and more.
Mucca Pazza is a 30 piece self-described "circus punk marching band" based in Chicago that will be performing during Look Both Ways at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 6 near Nats Stadium. The band, whose name comes from the Italian for "crazy cow" which is also a name for the Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, has been performing in and around the Chicago area for over seven years. Their repertoire ranges from Balkan-brass to covers of 60's television show themes. We spoke with composer Jefferey Thomas, who plays electric guitar in Mucca Pazza’s “freak section” to find out more about Mucca Pazza's show.
Welcome to D.C.! Is this your first time here? Are there any tourist spots that you guys are excited to see?
This is the first time we will perform in Washington D.C. We are looking forward to lobbying our "Dance-your-ass-off initiative through joyful music for a better tomorrow" bill. And also hopefully getting to check out some of the city's amazing museums. Thanks for having all of us!
You guys are performing here as a part of the Kennedy’s Center Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America festival. Are there any other performers who you’re excited to see?
We have performed at some festivals with "Yo-Yo People", and they are amazing! But unfortunately we will only be there for one day so we won't get to walk the dog with them. We are very excited to check out the festival.
So your band’s name means “mad cow” in Italian. Is there a reason why you guys named your band after a disease?
Doctor's recommendation, it was the only cure.
How did you guys get the idea to form Mucca Pazza? How did it start out? Which members have been there the longest?
We started out practicing in a steel refinery's parking lot, inhaling the fumes, and soaking up the heat. You could say we are musical scraps forged together to form a musical alloy much stronger than the "natural" musical elements found in the world. An equal blend of Theatrics, Musicality, and Nerdality.
I see that the violinists and accordion players have speakers strapped to helmets to help amplify their sound. Did you guys make those yourself? How much do they weigh?
We created them ourselves, and the weight isn't that bad, We make sure we do our neck stretches before we strap in. I would say the mid-range frequencies the helmets vibrate is the worst part.
You guys have some pretty rad costumes. Be honest, did you steal them from your high schools’ marching bands?
Thanks! Only one of them is stolen. I won't say which. But our hats were made specifically for us by a local designer.
Are you guys currently accepting new members? What’s the audition process like?
Currently we have capped our size. We knew that 3 people made a solid rock band, so we multiplied that by 10 and found our magic number. When we have added a new member, we have a try out period at rehearsals.
Judging from previous shows, everyone in the band jumps and moves a lot while performing, that must take up a lot of stamina and energy. Do you guys have to hit the gym regularly to prepare for these shows?
This is our gym. We are in excellent shape after a tour.
Is everyone friends outside of the band or do you guys only hang out together when you’re forced to?
Being forced to hang out with Mucca Pazza is like being forced to eat a delicious cake on your birthday.
Marching bands normally have a giant field to perform on. How do you guys manage to fit everyone on smaller stages without being a fire hazard?
A football field doesn't have the kind of intimacy we feel an audience deserves. We need to get close, rub our smell on you. We need to wrap our sonic arms around an audience; like a spouse, dancing his first dance with his new bride.
Favorite venue you’ve played at? Favorite piece to perform?
Probably performing in canoes on the Chicago river. We worked a couple of formations as we were paddled down the river. It is one of the most memorable performances I've had with this band. We have the ability to perform in almost any kind of "stage", and some of my favorite pieces were those that were spontaneously created on unique "stages"
How many hours do you guys practice before a show?
We rehearse every Sunday afternoon. And also have rehearsals in sections.
According to your Facebook page, you guys only have one march in your original repertoire, do you guy have plans to write anymore original arrangements?
We have a lot of original compositions in our repertoire. And we have a couple of "march" pieces to get us from one location to another. I'm not sure they could be described as traditional marches, they are more sculptural. For example, we have a swarm march where we move like gnats or bees, and we have a march in 9/8 time, (this kinda looks like a wheelbarrow with one round wheel and one square wheel).
Speaking of new songs, we're thrilled to have a new album coming out on 6/12/12 called "Safety Fifth" on Electric Cowbell Records.
Are all the members of the band from Chicago?
We are based in Chicago, but individually we are from everywhere all at once.
Okay, pretend you guys are on Survivor, quick! Who would you vote off? Who do you think would win? (And yes, everyone has to vote.)
Survivor was that other Chicago band from the late 70's who wrote "eye of the tiger", featured in the film "Rocky III". We would probably vote off "Thunderlips", and I really believe that Apollo Reed would've won.
05/04/12 >> go there