Drummer Eric Garland is no stranger to SF Offside. In our first outing, last May, we featured Klaxon Mutant Allstars, a quintet that crystallized at Amnesia’s tenacious Wednesday night jazz jam, which Eric currently leads. While all five members of that ensemble compose, most of their material comes from Eric (and trumpeter Henry Hung). Known for his playful, grooving rhythms on the drums, Garland’s funky compositions have a thoughtful, timeless quality to them.
For SF Offside’s Spark Series, Garland is bringing his Hodge Podge Ensemble, a sextet for flute, clarinets, violin, accordion, bass, and drums. As he says, “This group is a chance for me to try out a part of my composing and playing as a drummer that requires a quieter touch, and that’s a great area to explore on the drums, especially in an intimate setting like Red Poppy.”
We talked with Eric to learn a little more what makes him tick, musically speaking.
Describe your music in ten words or less.
John Bonham and Duke Ellington form a duo to compete with the Black Keys.
What inspires you as a composer?
Everything—but I tend to move towards music that feels like it opens me up, gives me a sense of expanding horizons, expanding possibilities, music to travel to. Rhythmically, I’ve always loved music with deep groove and pocket from Led Zeppelin to Fele Kuti, but I’ve noticed over the years that my melodies still seem influenced by, at least in part, the classical music I heard when I played with the SF Youth Orchestra many years ago. I fell in love with the melodies of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, and so many more. I also fell in love with the melodies I was hearing around the same time in jazz—Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, and melodies improvised on the spot. It’s all those things combined with years of exploring different music and wanting to intertwine that with my love of exploring the drums that informs the compositions I write.
Tell us about the musicians in your group. Feel free to mention secret talents, annoying habits, or endearing idiosyncrasies.
I feel super fortunate to be playing with all these amazing musicians. Dina Maccabee is one of the few improvising violinists I know that doesn’t sound like anyone else, a very soulful improviser, and she makes excellent pancakes. Sheldon Brown is an amazing multi-instrumentalist. I know him mostly as a tenor saxophonist, but he plays all the woodwinds, just about, and this is a chance to really show what an amazing flutist he is as well, and maybe he’ll indulge us by head-banging with his super long hair. Cory Wright is an incredible bass clarinet and clarinet player, I’ve seen him many times play difficult music, but improvise with a group with such immediate presence. And he’s taller than me, which makes me slightly uncomfortable. Colin Hogan is a keyboardist in other groups I play in, but here he gets a chance to shine on an old world instrument, the accordion—something he’s been playing weekly with his own group, Trio Zincalo. And maybe I can get him to juggle some drumsticks too. And finally, my old friend George Ban-Weiss on bass, someone who I’ve known long enough now as a bassist and friend that I can hear the bass parts in my head exactly how he will play them, and frankly, I’m amazed this father of two still has time for creative projects like mine!
What is this track we’re about to hear?
This is my “Breakaway Snap” performed by the Hodge Podge Ensemble and recorded live by Nathan Clevenger at Community Music Center. This version of band is Evan Francis on flute, Anthony Blea on violin, Aaron Novik on bass clarinet, Colin Hogan on accordion, Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, and, of course, me on drums.
Why should people come out to your SF Offside Spark Series show?
People should come out because, whether you realize it or not, music can be just as nourishing to your spirit as good food can be, and you never know what you might like until you take a chance and take a bite! And the Red Poppy is a rare venue where you can hear great music in a small, resonate space.
Tell us something cool we don’t already know.
I never used to like to do my dishes after eating, now I actually enjoy it! I’m such a grown up now, it’s really great.
Eric Garland’s Hodge Podge Ensemble performs in the first concert of The Spark Series, at the Red Poppy Art House, Thursday March 7 @ 8pm (doors at 7:30pm).