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The Mass Media

Q&A with Bob Lanzetti, guitarist for Grammy award-winning group Snarky Puppy

Bob+Lanzetti%2C+the+guitarist+for+Snarky+Puppy
Bob Lanzetti, the guitarist for Snarky Puppy

Bob Lanzetti is the guitarist for Snarky Puppy, a jazz fusion outfitted with an expansive extended family. The band gravitates around primary composer and bassist, Michael League. The band found recent mainstream success this past spring when they won a Grammy for their rendition of Brenda Russells’ “Something,” with singer Lalah Hathaway. Their most recent album, “We Like It Here,” released in February 2014, and debuted at number one on the iTunes Jazz charts.

Q: Not many bands have upwards of 40 rotating members. What is the band dynamic like?

A: It’s pretty chill. We get along well because we are good friends. There is a core group of about eight, but that group is good friends with the extended members.

Q: The band also educates while touring? Are there workshops, clinics, or is it different depending on the place?

A: It changes depending upon location, but it’s mostly universities these days. We usually have the students ask questions and that guides the direction we go in. Sometimes we’ll break it down by instrument, like a guitar lab, a horn lab, or a keyboard lab, etc.

Q: Any particular musical aesthetic or style that you are trying to pass?

A: We are all pretty open to different styles. We are just trying to express our experiences and what we have learned, in the hopes that it will help others.

Q: In the past year or so it seems that Snarky Puppy has been exploding with popularity. How do you remain intimate with fans?

A: Any success or accolades that we have had in the past year are kind of in the periphery. We are still just playing music and interacting with the audience like we always have.

Q: Does it feel like the success happened fast?

A: In a way, it has happened slowly, because we have been at it for so long. By the time the [success] happened we were already so used to interacting with the audience and with each other the way we normally act. [The success] felt like another step in the process.

Q: So what was it like to have “We Like It Here” debut as number one on the iTunes Jazz charts?

A: It’s always great to be recognized. It was a fun project and a lot of work. People seemed to enjoy it so it’s just good all around.

Q: What is special about “We Like It Here?” The sound? What are you guys trying to say? Where you are coming from as a band?

A: It’s probably my favorite record of ours. Beyond that, we got to make it in Europe. And we had more shows for it, so we had more opportunities to play.

Q: Did you make it on tour?

A: It was the beginning of the tour.

Q: You guys are a great example of a band who successfully communicates with social media, specifically YouTube. Why is social media important for the modern band to use?

A: Anything that happens technologically can be used in a positive way. We figured out a way to reach more people using these tools. Essentially, that is why we wanted to do the music videos. We probably wouldn’t be on tour right now if it is wasn’t for them.

Q: Were you someone that has been on both sides of this social media transition?

A: I have in a way, but most of my professional career has been after that revolution. But when I was a kid, that was definitely pre-internet stuff, but I was only a consumer.

Q: You received a Grammy for your rendition of Brenda Russels’ “Something,” with Lalah Hathaway. What’s going on in that song?

A: What stood out more than anything was the fact that she was able to sing three notes at the same time. Beyond that, it’s a good arrangement. I don’t think we really thought it would get more attention than the other stuff on the record.

Q: Is it ever a surprise, in that respect? You make a record and then there is a song that fans really take to.

A: Well I guess we kind of knew that song was a little special, for two reasons. I think she may have been a little more famous than other features on the album. Secondly, what she was able to do on that recording was really unique.

Q: What’s it like achieving a Grammy?

A: It was great, we weren’t expecting that.

Q: Has it created any opportunities?

A: It’s hard to say because I’m not really doing the business side of it, but we have had a lot of sold out shows since then. Definitely that has changed.

Q: What’s next?
A: We are making another Snarky Puppy record sometime next year.