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Q&A: Too Many Zooz talks journey from the subway to working with Beyoncé

Morgan Southern | Hatchet Photographer
Matt Doe, the trumpet player for Too Many Zooz, performed at U Street Music Hall Thursday night.

Too Many Zooz became a viral music trio after getting their start in the New York City subway system. Since then, they have worked their way to the top of the industry, appearing on Beyoncé’s latest album “Lemonade.”

The trio is composed of members Matt Doe on the trumpet, Leo Pellegrino on the baritone saxophone and David “King of Sludge” Parks on percussions, all contributing to the group’s infectious energy and unique sound.

The trio rose to fame in early 2014 after a passerby in New York’s Union Station recorded their performance and posted it to YouTube. They have since amassed thousands of followers on social media, completed six tours and even performed on stage with Beyoncé at the Country Music Awards.

We chatted with Matt Doe about everything from the group’s sound to working their way out of the subway and onto the stage before Too Many Zooz performed at U Street Music Hall Thursday night.

You got your start as a group performing in the New York City subway system. How do you think that’s influenced your style?

Matt Doe: Performing there started out of necessity. We just wanted to play music and make some extra money so we went down there and it definitely influenced the music we made just because we were playing for the audience. You have to adapt to what they’re hearing and it’s pretty direct between the performer and the audience down there. When we played certain things, we could tell really easily if people liked it or not based off of seeing their facial expressions or the amount of money we were making.

Too Many Zooz has a style that is categorized as “brass house,” how would you describe that genre?

MD: I think brass house can really speak to any genre of music, but it’s more just about the stylistic approach you take to it and how you play. It’s really based around a lot of improvisation and a democratic kind of feeling between us: myself, Leo and David.

What has it been like going from subway performances to now, having been on six tours with an upcoming European tour and thousands of followers across social media?

MD: It’s definitely been a crazy ride for us. It’s drastically different from when we started, but it’s the kind of thing where you don’t necessarily see those differences so vividly. It’s just constantly trying to move forward and elevate the brand and bring things up and make it better and bigger and keep putting out music. Like I said, it’s definitely drastically different from when we started in the subway – doing tours is way different than the hustle and grind of the subway.

Of course I have to ask about Beyoncé. You performed with her on the tracks “Daddy Issues” and “Formation” and then appeared with her and The Dixie Chicks on stage at the CMAs. What was that like?

MD: You go your whole life listening to people and looking up to certain artists, and Beyoncé was always one of those people that I looked up to and had a lot of admiration and respect for. It was crazy to get the call from her people and to go work with them. Surreal is probably the best word for that. They were super nice to us and treated us like family, so I have nothing but love for her.

What can we expect to see from the set list for this tour?

MD: A lot of the old hits that people love and know, and some new music that we’re working on that’s going to be premiering this summer, as well as music off our last album. We try to make it different every night on tour so sometimes we’ll just jam and play something we’ve never played before, and there’s a lot of stuff like that too.

Do you have any advice for musicians starting out like you did, maybe performing in the subway?

MD: Do it, don’t talk about it – that’s the biggest thing. If you’re not waking up every single day and trying to get more money and get ahead in life and put yourself in a position so you can propel your voice and not surrounding yourself with people who are doing that, you need to change that. Surround yourself with people who are like that and be like that because that’s truly the only way to have any success in the life of music.

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