Ripe Funks Up The Met, Dec 2



When it comes to up-and-coming acts from New England, Ripe has to be near the top of the heap. These funk-soul party starters from Boston have been drawing huge audiences all around the region and they’re about to explode. From the first note, people immediately start dancing and jumping. These guys have an infectious sound that’s contagious. On Saturday, Dec 2, Ripe will be keeping it fresh with hot jams at The Met, and local alt-soul act Bochek opening things up. [Tickets:]

Frontman Robbie Wulfsohn and I had a chat ahead of the upcoming show about the band’s origins, whether Berklee is that important or not, getting their message out and the debut album that’s on the horizon.

Rob Duguay (Motif): How did Ripe start out? Was it by a few chance interactions, or have all you guys been friends for years?

Robbie Wulfsohn: It’s kind of a combination of the two, the seven of us met when we were all in college. The first people of the band to meet each other were the guitarist Tory [Geismar] and the drummer Sampson [Hellerman] who met years ago when they were in middle school in New York. In terms of how it started to come together, that was in the beginning of freshman year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. We all ended up coming together and writing together and partying together, which is a big part of how Ripe started and a few of that group is still in the band today.

RD: What was the experience of going to Berklee like for you guys? Some folks I know who’ve gone there say they’ve learned more after they’ve left than they did while going to school. Do you feel the same way or do you feel that going to Berklee was vital to the band?

RW: If I hadn’t gone to Berklee, I wouldn’t have pursued music in my life. I came from a very non-musical background. We didn’t have music programs in the school that I went to. All my learning happened in a few lessons and outside of the classroom. With that being said, if I hadn’t gone to Berklee I wouldn’t have met any of the guys in Ripe and this wouldn’t have been my path. In terms of the experience of being a band at Berklee, it can feel like you’re balancing the musical work that you want to be focused on and the musical work that you’re working on for your degree.

I can tell you that the level of academic vigor that we brought to our studies was a variety, some members of the band were very dedicated students while some were delinquents. I won’t tell you who was who.

RD: Hahaha!!!

RW: At the end of the day, being into the styles of other musicians, and most of them are equally passionate and have other skill sets, while we feed off each other within the vital community in Boston that we have, has shaped the way that I look at music. With every single hour and every single class that I took at Berklee, I find it to be valuable but I don’t think everyone can say that about the college they went to. If I didn’t go to Berklee, I wouldn’t be here so that’s as far as I’ll go with that.

RD: Yeah, I totally see where you’re coming from. The band has an infectious sound that encompasses funk, soul and a constant amount of energy. What do you consider the main influences when it comes to Ripe’s music?

RW: The one thing about having seven people in a band is that you rarely have a band where all seven members are having a huge intellectual role in the sound. I think that the only band we can compare all of us to is Earth, Wind & Fire and even then the greatest gift from them is the funkiest music we can all get behind. We’re into the jam band stuff too but we work on incorporating different elements to submerge people into this world that we try to create. To us, what we listen to isn’t as important as capturing the moment. What I like about hip hop is that everybody in the room is strutting their stuff, jumping and exerting all of their energy to what’s happening on stage.

The moments of jam band music that I enjoy are when the band is peaking and everyone in the audience is dancing and taking in the moment. I think that everyone in the band has a very different musical background between what they grew up listening to and what they listen to now but we all connect on that ecstatic release. It’s all about the moment, no matter what genre we’re listening to. Even if it’s like Bon Iver, which is like a chilly mess, or something more energetic, it has a draw to that moment with whatever we listen to.

RD: It’s about capturing a moment and embracing a feeling within a song.

RW: Exactly.

RD: You guys seem to get really big crowds wherever you go. Especially on this current tour that Ripe is on. For a new band, that can be a bit nerve wracking. How do you handle the pressure of playing in front of large crowds of people all over the country?

RW: The amount of people we’re playing for took me a lot of confidence to have in the ideas that I had putting forward. After a few years, we’ve been finding our sound, our message and what we want to be as a band, as musicians and as part of the cultural conversation. We’ve been finding what we want to say and, for the first time, whatever is happening and how big this gets, we know what we want to say. Rather than having a feeling that we’re hoping that we’re ready for these crowds, we want to connect with the people and have them listen to what we’re saying. I’m not as concerned as whether people will like it or not but I feel that it’s more important to help change the things that are important to us and put our message forth for a positive change.

RD: There’s a great confidence you have when you go on stage. You want to bring your message to people and be unapologetic about it and that’s very respectable. Ripe has their debut album coming out soon, and you guys recorded it in Toronto. Which studio did you guys use there and what was it like being in Canada while making the album?

RW: We were at Noble Street Studio in Toronto. I was born and raised in Toronto and I actually interned there the summer after my freshman year at Berklee. I lied and said that I finished my Berklee degree so that they would let me be an intern and they found out two weeks after hiring me that I didn’t have a degree. They kept me on board fortunately but I was a fly on the wall pretty much and they let me stick it out for the summer. I had a relationship with them that went on for five years and then we cut the record in that room.

That time in Toronto was very comfortable for me: It’s my home. For me to bring the band members up to Toronto for the first time and to have them stay at my parents’ house and have them in that culture, it meant a lot. I consider where I come from and the experience of growing up in Toronto and the family I was raised around to be very important. That’s where I’m coming from when it comes to the experience of being in the band. Immersing the rest of the band in my hometown felt super, super meaningful to me. You would have to ask the other band members about what it was like for them to be in Toronto for the first time, but for me it was truly an honor to introduce them to my hometown.

RD: It’s cool that you got to go back home along with going full circle with the studio where you got in trouble and now you recorded an album there. Is there a release date set yet? Or is that still up in the air?

RW: We’re right at the end of the process where we’re finishing up mastering right now. We also spent a long time making 100% sure that the album is ready, the world is prepared and everything we can to get this release right. We only get one first album and I’d much rather take the time to get it right than arbitrarily settle for a date and just push for it. I know that we’re playing the Paradise Rock Club for two nights in February and we want to have that be the kick off for the record. Around that time during early spring and late winter of 2018, we’re aiming to put it out.

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