A guide to sounding like Joe Dart from Vulfpeck

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by droo46, Mar 29, 2021.

  1. TL;DW
    Turn your neck pickup off, pluck by the bridge, roll the tone most of the way off, and play relentless 16th notes.

    mattyrudes, GregC, starjag and 2 others like this.
  2. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I've tried pretty hard to figure out why I don't like Vulfpeck more than I do. The answer's not obvious and I don't think it's about Joe Dart specifically.

    Here's what I think it is:

    Funky instrumental jazz fusion band with chopsy bass player.

    That's a formula that's been around for a very long time. It's been done really, really well. Like, incredibly well. Vulfpeck is a decent band - there's not a weak link among the members from what I can see. But I'm 50 years old now, I've heard a lot of this kind of stuff - there's better out there. Vulfpeck's music is pretty straightforward, I find it musically "accurate" but not very interesting or emotive. Not that "funky instrumental jazz fusion" is supposed to be emotive per se, but these guys just come off as mechanical. And I really can't stand the keyboard player's antics.

    At risk of drawing fire for a specific comparison, I'd look at Garaj Mahal as having roughly the same musical formula but with more intersting songwriting breadth and in my opinion better playing across the band.

    Does bring me around to a really good thing about Vulfpeck, though. Maybe Garaj Mahal is "better," but very few people outside of a certain scene in the Bay Area know about them. Vulfpeck on the other hand filled up Red Rocks here a couple years ago, on their own. They have passed a certain popularity tipping point, and good for them.

    Vulfpeck is one of seemingly few bands who play real musical instruments, play them hard, and who seem built for the live experience. They are attracting a lot of young players and making them more interested in their style of music. Gateway band, maybe. That, in itself, is a great service.

    So I don't love Vulfpeck personally but I'm glad they're around.
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  3. I get the sense that older musicians largely miss the point of Vulfpeck. Yes, it draws inspiration from 60 years of music that came before and if that's all you've listened to your adult life, it won't sound that novel. If you're under 30, they don't sound like anything you've experienced before in your lifetime. In a sea of overproduced, polished, rock/pop/synth bands, Vulfpeck is a unique beast. They're minimal, rough around the edges, and vintage feeling. They're also tapping into the Millenial/Zoomer sensibilities and absurdist sense of humor which may or may not make sense to you as an older person.

    The point of this video, however, is to understand the sound of Joe Dart with Vulfpeck, which is undeniably fantastic from a bassists standpoint as his playing is firmly in the pocket, and his sound perfectly suits the band he's in. If you look at Joe's work with other artists, his playing adjusts, and his sound is slightly different, for example, when he plays on Theo Katzman's work.
  4. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    That's exactly right and a synopsis my conclusion. I wasn't supposed to get Vulfpeck. My kids are, because they've never heard anything like it.

    I've decided to appreciate them because of the effect they have on music for that generation.
    Reedt2000, MattZilla and droo46 like this.
  5. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    About a year ago on another forum the topic of Vulfpeck came up, and I wrote this:

    TuneIn, el murdoque, Marihino and 3 others like this.
  6. jdthebassman

    jdthebassman play to live live to play Supporting Member

    Why would you want to sound like him? develop your own voice. BTW great band.
  7. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    Nice vid.
  8. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    That's one possibility. Another possibility is that they just don't really like the band's music.

    I personally appreciate the band's overall level of musicianship and dig Joe Dart's playing in general (although not always his tone), but I don't think they are especially good at writing songs.

    Edit: I also think Theo in particular is very much an acquired taste and not for everyone.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i'm in for all of the above.
  10. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    One undeniable thing about Vulpeck and Dart is that, if you don't like them, the urge to say so in any thread about them is almost impossible to resist.
  11. It's the Greta Van Fleet syndrome. :roflmao:
    J_Bass, MattZilla and Passinwind like this.
  12. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Why not strive to sound like yourself? Sure, you can have influences/inspirations/heroes, but otherwise, who did he listen to? Why be an imitation of an imitation? As I’ve mentioned before, the more players you steal from, the more original you are. There’s a guy I like very much, Black Joe Lewis(and the Honey Bears), and he does a sort of James Brown thing, but infuses it with punk rock ferocity and some other stuff to come up with something entirely different.
  13. I get this sort of comment every so often, and I think it's well-intentioned but misses the point of the video. This series is a first step toward developing one's own personal sound. It's a good exercise in understanding what you hear and being able to dial in the sound as described or the one you hear in your head. Additionally, it can lead you to look into a player’s influences and discover music. There’s a lot of value in being able to mimic other sounds as it helps you develop your own, as well as become a well rounded and flexible bassist.
    Mr Cheese, Reedt2000, SteveCS and 3 others like this.
  14. Absurdist humor is a younger people's thing?
    I seem to recall getting absurd laughs at least 3.5 decades ago;)
    Harper, 5StringBlues and Marihino like this.
  15. GregC

    GregC Questlove, Black Thought, Hamilton Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    I'm definitely older (late 50s), and I agree with this take. I also scratch my head a bit when people say they're not good songwriters. They've written some undeniably catchy stuff which, combined with the singing of Antwaun Stanley and Theo Katzman, is the biggest reason they went from playing small clubs through early 2016 to selling out Madison Square Garden in late 2019. That they've been able to combine these 'hits" with groovy instrumentals that get the crowd going--and singing along with the bassline in one case--and showmanship and fun guest spots makes their live shows a must for me. And I'm a fan of all the offshoots as well--Fearless Flyers, Theo, Cory Wong, and Woody Goss with and without Jeremy.

    Also, their DIY methods, and how far they've been able to get with them, just warm the heart of the old punk rocker in me. It's been fun watching them go from playing the Tonic Room (which holds less than 200) here in Chicago to MSG in the space of 5 years with no label or manager.
  16. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
  17. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    That's interesting, because I had exactly the same thought while watching Vulfpeck at MSG. Garaj seems to have so much more to offer. But then again, they're old guys and don't have the requisite "Millenial/Zoomer sensibilities" to be able to fill Red Rocks or MSG :(
  18. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    Case in point - in this vid we get the secret sauce - minor pentatonics and the "quintessential Joe Dart lick", II-bIII-III (which he does seem to use everywhere)

    droo46 likes this.
  19. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    btw, 1980 called, they want their A Guide To Sounding Like Jeff Berlin back.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  20. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    At least understand that Vulfpeck is polarizing - not everyone loves them, and not everyone is required to.

    They are a band that a lot of people do like but a lot of others don't. Generalizing massively but supported by others' comments here, the people who like them tend to be people who have heard less music and those who don't tend to be people with broader listening experience - again, not my conclusion in this thread but I agree with it.

    So they make good fodder for discussion versus universal agreement, which isn't any fun.
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