Interview with Twiddle
Featured Musician Issue 49
Written by Taco Olmstead
Photo by Greg Horowitz
I love seeing good people do good things, it’s even better when I see great people doing great things. I fell in love with Twiddle 6 years ago and have watched what was a relatively unknown band from Vermont evolve and grow into the powerhouse they are becoming. Their music is inspirational and played with an intensity that is rapidly sweeping the nation. Twiddle, having already played Red Rocks once, is preparing for a second visit. We were excited to sit down with Twiddle keyboardist, stuntman, puppeteer and all around nice guy, Ryan Dempsey, and get the story on where Twiddle is headed, where they want to go and what the fuss is all about.
Our last interview with Twiddle was an awkward video filmed at their recent show at the infamous 9:30 Club in Washington DC. It was a raucously fun time and Ryan takes no time to remind me.
“Good job on that last video man, it’s absolutely hilarious! It’s really funny because a lot of it is really facetious, and at the point where I say something about Gubb’s girlfriend. There’s these 3 seconds of awkward silence and then you’re like, “…Wow.” That’s my favorite part of that video, it was a funny moment and I’m glad you captured it.”
Yeah I was really happy we got to do that. So just what you guys have done in the last year, compared to where you were at this time last year, you guys have gotten huge so fast. What do you think made that happen?
Ah man…A lot of different factors go into that. I’d say, recently we got our… I don’t want to say “shit together,” but we decided to get more professional. We’ve been playing better than we have in the past, working on our instruments. I think we all just buckled down and decided we wanted to get better and get people to listen, and people have been listening. So I think the fans have a lot to do with it by spreading the word. I mean, we’re living in a whole new world right now with social media and other media, look at Jamwich magazine, we were saying today how much outlets like these have helped us. Talking to fans and getting involved with fans by talking and getting on a personal level helps a lot. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but I can say we have a lot of great fans. Hopefully in the next year we’ll be even better!
Tell me about Tumble Down, your two night event coming up in Burlington, when is that?
That’s in July, the end of July. It’s not a festival, but an event that we are hosting on July 29th and 30th. It will be at Burlington’s waterfront with a bunch of amazing acts that I can’t announce yet, but it’s going to be amazing. It’s a beautiful spot there by the waterfront, you can listen to the music and watch the sunset. It’s quite the experience. You should probably get your tickets now because we foresee it being sold out.
You guys are also going to be playing Red Rocks again, correct? Was booking a Red Rocks show one of your “we made it” moments?
Oh yeah, historical moment in my life. The first time I played there, with the String Cheese Incident, we are all sitting backstage sound checking, and after checking Kyle, the keyboard player, he stops and goes “Hey, you’re Twiddle, right? Who’s the keyboard player?” so I said “That’s me,” and he goes “Come out here, come out here,” and says “Just start playing, play anything,” so I started playing some classical tune or something and he said “Watch the lights, every key you hit will change the lights, I can control the light show when the LD switches to me. Isn’t that cool?” and I’m like, “Yes, that is absolutely cool, and it’s cool sitting up here next to you because you’re my idol. Awesome.” So that was my introduction into Red Rocks.
I guess it’s an understatement to say you’re excited to be returning there. You guys all seem like pretty light hearted guys, but your music often carries a message that’s a little heavier. It’s an interesting dynamic, how did you guys arrive at this message-based music?
The message that we have in our music is the message that we want to absolutely project to everyone. I think the humor still comes out as a side note, I’ve written humorous songs before, but for the most part people love the message of positivity and love and we want to reflect that. We absolutely believe in it and are all supporters of taking people out of a dark space and starting to think about the world in a positive light. That’s our message, but the humor stuff, as soon as we leave the stage it comes out more. I like to have fun and make people laugh, which is another positive message and source of light. Let’s be positive and not take anything too seriously, let’s all rise above that and treat everyone to a smile and good vibes. That may not come off on stage as much, but we’re all people and wanting to make people smile however we can, whether it’s the lyrics to a song or some laughs from a joke, it’s all about the positive vibes. Preaching love and positivity as opposed to singing about slitting your wrists the next day because you’re so depressed over a girlfriend leaving you, we’re not about that. We’ll sing about how to get over something bad that has happened, because we all have experiences in our lives: people dying, friends dying, suicide, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get over it and find the beauty in horrible things that have happened, it’s not over yet. Rise above it and move on. I want the world to be good, man, I want everything we could possibly deliver to the world but I don’t want anything other than that, just making people happy and helping people out through hard times. I had someone message me the other day and say, “I was thinking of committing suicide the other day but your music helped me turn it around.” That means more to me than anything else, to reach out like that through music.
At what point when you were growing up did you say “I want to be that guy on the stage”?
It had been my dream since I was a kid, but I had always treated it like it was impossible. So I went to college and was like, I’m gonna be a director, and studied film and graduated with that degree. In college, me and Mickey were dorm mates for a while. We did a show before it was even Twiddle like what it is now, we had like 300 people from the college town come out. I was in the basement that was the green room of the theater, and everyone’s stomping on the floor above us shouting “Twiddle! Twiddle!” and I remember being on that stage and being like “Yeah, this is what I want to do.” I told my parents late freshman year and they were like, “You’re crazy. That’s not gonna happen.” They wanted to finish my degree, which I did, but at the same time I knew what I was going to do. We’ve all put up sacrifices for this, I was living in my car for a while being a musician. But whatever, it was worth it, I knew I would get out of the hole one day, you know, pay rent, pay bills, buy groceries. Stuff I couldn’t do at that time because I had no money. At first when you’re a starving artist, you know I’ve been there, and a lot of friends on the scene have been there, and you just keep pushin on and have faith that it’s all going to work out, and keep working hard for anything you do. If you’re an artist drawing, don’t give up because you aren’t making money. Just keep doing it and you’ll get better at it. It works out the way the universe wants it to work out, as long as you believe in yourself and keep doing what you love.
Great sentiment, I’m sure the artists that read our magazine are going to love reading that too. Like I say it’s been great to watch you guys rise to the occasion like you have. Now you grew up in Vermont, correct? Does that apply to the entire band?
No, Mihali is from New Jersey. He came up with the sole idea of starting a band. He and I actually lived together for a whole semester. I was continuing to go to class and he was like “Oh I’m not going to class I’m starting a band with you” and he paid for a whole semester and didn’t do anything (laughter). I would wake him up to go to class and he would say “No, I’m writing music today.” He just had the sole purpose of doing the band thing. I did, too, but in a different way. The rest of the guys are from Vermont but we got those guys out of high school, Zdenek was like a junior in high school when we grabbed him because we noticed his talent, and Brook we met through an event, the musical Hair, he was doing some drums there and just happened to be a sick drummer, so we all linked up and started playing. We had no real rhyme or reason or plan, we just wanted to continue writing music and hope that it works out.