Vulfpeck is an American funk group founded in 2011. The band aims for a sound that is minimal, raw, and approaches that of a live performance. The band has released four EPs, two albums, and a silent album on Spotify titled Sleepify – royalties from which funded the band's admission-free tour in 2014. The band's latest album, The Beautiful Game, was released in October 2016.
The band members attended University of Michigan's music school. They first came together as a rhythm section for a performance at the Duderstadt Center, a university facility that houses an arts library and other resources. After reading an interview with German producer Reinhold Mack, band founder Jack Stratton conceived of Vulfpeck as an imagined German version of the U.S. legendary session musicians of the 1960s such as Funk Brothers, Wrecking Crew, and Muscle Shoals. The idea was to channel that era of the live rhythm section.
The band's founding members are Jack Stratton on keyboards, drums and guitar, Theo Katzman on guitar and drums, Woody Goss on keyboards, and Joe Dart on bass. Other musicians occasionally contribute such as Antwaun Stanley, Joey Dosik, David T. Walker, Bernard Purdie, Blake Mills and Cory Wong.
The band's first release was titled "Beastly". It was released in April 2011 as a YouTube video. The track was noted for its bass performance by No Treble, an online magazine for bass players. The band released its first EP, Mit Peck, in December 2011, and a second EP, Vollmilch, in December 2012. In 2013 three band members backed up Darren Criss on his national tour, and Katzman was the musical director of the tour. In 2013 band bassist, Dart, was #5 reader's favorite bassist of No Treble. Vulfpeck's first live performance was at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan, followed by a performance in New York City at the Rockwood Music Hall in October 2013. The band released its third EP, My First Car, in August 2013. The EP's first track features a vocal performance by Antwaun Stanley – the band's first track featuring a vocal performance. A review of My First Car called it less energetic compared to the band's first two EPs but "still a fitting addition to a unique catalogue of music".
In March 2014 Vulfpeck released Sleepify, a ten-track silent album on Spotify, in order to raise funds for an admission-free tour. The album generated $20,000 in royalties over a two-month period. Subsequently Spotify removed the album stating it violated their terms of content. The band's royalty generation scheme received international press coverage. In late July, the band received the royalties and announced that they would follow through and organize a tour.
In August 2014 the band announced the Sleepify Tour and released its fourth EP, Fugue State. The EP's second track "1612" is styled after Wardell Quezergue's works and features Antwaun Stanley on vocals. The admission-free Sleepify Tour was scheduled for September 2014. Tour locations included San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor and New York City.
In December 2014 the band released "Christmas in L.A." featuring David T. Walker on guitar and Katzman on vocals. In March 2015 Stratton proposed a more equitable model for Spotify payout distribution in which each artist's payout is solely based on the revenue associated with that artist's listeners, and not the overall revenue.
Vulfpeck released Thrill of the Arts in October 2015. The album features contributions by several artists including David T. Walker, Charles Jones and Blake Mills. Jim Fusilli of Wall Street Journal called the music "gritty, in-your-face, not-prettified funk played with fire" and a homage to old school funk and soul. Zac Lavender of Zumic noted the album's "funky swagger." The album debuted at number 16 on the U.S. R&B Albums chart. In November the band and Goodhertz Inc. released a production plug-in called Vulf Compressor. The band performed on the Stephen Colbert show in November 2015.
In 2016 Vulfpeck performed regularly with Antwaun Stanley and guest artists including several shows with Bernard Purdie. The band's latest album, The Beautiful Game, was released on October 17, 2016. The album features contributions by several artists including Cory Wong and Adam Levy. It debuted at number 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
The band's production style is modeled after live TV performances of the past, such as Midnight Special, Whistle Test, and Beat-Club. The band aims for a simple and minimal sound where each instrument contributes just what it needs to and does not dominate. Recordings are done live with real instruments, and very seldom are different takes cut and mixed. Occasionally tape recording is used for effect. The compositions are modeled after unconventional song structures of the past, such as "Ooh Child" with an A and B section where each section provides a lift, and "If You Want Me to Stay" with a repetitive eight bar progression.
Sleepify Tour (2014)
Spring Tour (2015)