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Twiddle: A jam band delivering live performances with remarkable showmanship

Twiddle is a band known for delivering live performances defined by climatic solos and remarkable showmanship, but the studio recordings are just as strong. Goldmine speaks to singer/guitarist Mihali Savoloudis about it.

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By Ray Chelstowski

Twiddle is a band known for delivering live performances defined by climatic solos and remarkable showmanship. But what resides at the center of that live experience are songs, widely recognized as masterful in their construction and moving in the messages they convey. That allows the live shows to only amplify and elevate the positive thinking that radiates within Twiddle songs, and that boosts the groove and overall vibe the band has come to own. Try not to let it pull you by the ear; I think that’s impossible.

Album cover of Every Last Leaf

Album cover of Every Last Leaf

Twiddle are about to release a new album, Every Last Leaf, that puts the focus on friendship and the power it has to help one through the most difficult of life’s moments. With Every Last Leaf, the band approached album making a bit differently. This record finds the band working with Vermont-based musician Clint Bierman (of funk-rock band the Grift), who produced the record and helped guide the process in a direction that brought new compelling elements to sounds that remains familiar and contagious. They also received some outside support with dynamic contributions from Blues Traveler’s John Popper and Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck. In total, it may be the band’s most complete work to date.

They recently had the opportunity to share some of this music with capacity crowds at Westport, CT’s legendary Levitt Pavilion where they made musical memories that continue to light up group chats and social posts. From the photos posted here alone, you can see it was quite a magical night and hopefully the start of an annual two- night stand.

Goldmine had the opportunity to speak with Twiddle singer/guitarist Mihali Savoloudis about the record, his approach to the creative process and guitar, what guitar pedal hold his attention at the moment, and with what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 80th birthday — what Garcia's legacy means to Twiddle and to the entire jam movement.

Twiddle: (L-R) Brock Jordan (drums, vocals), Zdenek Gubb (bass), Mihali Savoulidis (guitar, vocals), Ryan Dempsey (keys, vocals). Photo: Dave Decrescente

Twiddle: (L-R) Brock Jordan (drums, vocals), Zdenek Gubb (bass), Mihali Savoulidis (guitar, vocals), Ryan Dempsey (keys, vocals). Photo: Dave Decrescente

Goldmine: The new record Every Last Leaf has a slightly different sound than your previous work. How did you approach the creative process with this record?

Mihali Savoulidis: We had been playing some of the songs live. But a lot of the ideas were formed more in the studio. We worked with a new producer on this record named Clint Bierman who brought a lot of new ideas to the table that we hadn’t gone with before. So it was a different in-studio experience than we are used to. We usually cut our records live and overdub whatever is needed after. This time we went in and did it to the grid and that enabled us to kind of approach things much differently; which is why the sound is different as well.

GM: So was it Clint’s work as an artist or as a producer that drew you to him for this project?

MS: He’s a local guy here in Vermont who we’ve known for years. He was in a band called the Grift that we used to play shows with early on in our band’s career. Initially we just wanted to use more vocal harmonies on the studio work and Clint is just really good at that stuff. His vocal abilities and the bands he plays with are very good. And, he’s just a great guy. We did one rehearsal session with him to show him the songs and get his thoughts. It was a great vibe and I think it all worked out great.

GM: Where was the new album recorded, and do you have a favorite room for making new music?

MS: Most of it was done at Sugarworks Soundhouse in Waitsfield, Vermont. At least the shell tracks. Some additional vocals and over dubs were done at a studio Clint and I have here in town.

I have really done great records in almost every conceivable room. From a closet to really fancy studios to someone’s bedroom and they all have their own sonic qualities. I don’t know if I would have a favorite but it would probably be my studio because I’m most comfortable there.

GM: John Popper and Anders Beck make guest appearances on the record. How did the need for their contributions become obvious?

MS: I think that with “Distance Makes the Heart” we knew that we really wanted to add a string instrument from the bluegrass world. Anders is a friend and he’s so great at that. The more we listened to it the more we thought that it was a “dobro song” and he confirmed it for us. (laughs)

With Popper, we really felt like that song was missing something and someone just asked “well, what about John?” and everybody knew immediately that it would be perfect. We asked him, he loved it, and that was that.

GM: How do you decide what is a Twiddle song and what belongs on a solo effort?

MS: I think that early on I really didn’t know and things just landed where they did. There would be times that I’d be playing a song with Twiddle and it didn’t feel right. Those songs would then wind up more in the solo world. But within the last two or three years since having kids I can’t just write whenever I’d like. Instead I have to really focus to get the best results possible. Because of that I’ll go into a writing session with something specific in mind. At first the songs were very similar in vibe, but they’ve strayed from each other quite a bit now where my solo work is much more reggae-influenced with world rhythms. That’s not really Twiddle.

GM: What regimen do you follow in terms of practicing guitar?

MS: I’ve been so focused on songwriting that I have really had to just trust myself as far as my guitar playing goes. I don’t usually practice. Some people sit down and run scales and try to learn new things. But I haven’t really done that in a long time. It’s more about what I can do to stay dexterous, and I play every week. So I guess my practice is that I gig so much that I’m always playing. When I‘m not gigging I don’t even touch a guitar. I don’t have time to. I don’t even look at it (laughs). I used to have guitars on every wall in my house with a studio in the basement. When I moved my studio to downtown I took all of the guitars out. They’re all there now so that when I’m there I’m in my musical element. I’ve just gotten so much more into the recording process that while it’s new to me I’m very passionate about it, largely because I now have my own space.

GM: It sounds like you might be becoming a bit of a “studio rat”!

MS: I really enjoy it to the point that I think that there’s going to be a lot more studio work coming out of Twiddle and myself over the next few years. I have found this new love and this new art within that world. Our focus has always been on the live show. But during the pandemic I discovered another joy in creating music that’s just not in the live setting, but where you can put much more thought about what’s coming into each track. It’s a different kind of outlet and I really enjoy it.

Twiddle at the Levitt Pavilion, Westport CT. Photo credit: Ryan Orvis

Twiddle at the Levitt Pavilion, Westport CT. Photo credit: Ryan Orvis

GM: You just did two nights back to back at Levitt Pavilion in Westport, CT. I don’t think that I have ever seen an act do back to back shows there. How did that come about?

MS: The Levitt’s always been a great supporter of my work. For years I’ve done a solo show there, usually in the summer. This year they sent us a lovely request for two nights. They had a vision and or teams worked together to make it happen. It was great. What a beautiful spot and a lovely stage! We had a blast.

GM: Those who were at the show commented on how great it was when opening act Eggy's band members replaced Twiddle players in the middle of a song.

MS: Yep, we did the old “swap out.” I love doing it and we’ve done it a few times. When the instrumentation for each band is so alike it’s cool to do it. When I was a kid I saw someone do it. It might have been Umphrey’s (McGee) or moe. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Twiddle at the Levitt Pavilion, Westport CT. Photo credit: Ryan Orvis

Twiddle at the Levitt Pavilion, Westport CT. Photo credit: Ryan Orvis

GM: You are well-known for your passion for guitar pedals. What’s your favorite pedal at the moment?

MS: I just got this crazy multi-effect pedal from Jam Pedals that’s out of Athens Greece. They are pretty famous for their Wah pedals. This overdrive pedal is called “the double dreamer.” It’s basically two 808 style tube screamers. It’s amazing. I’m just really blown away by it. They also have these artists that custom paint each pedal so every one of them is different. It’s just a very cool, unique, artistic, expression of pedals and they’re Greek, so that makes me happy!

Mihali's current pedal. Photo courtesy of Mihali Savoulidas

Mihali's current pedal. Photo courtesy of Mihali Savoulidas

GM: Which guitarist/s do you follow and admire that would surprise readers?

MS: I admire a lot of people, and everybody has their own little thing to offer the instrument. This is especially true in the jam world where they are incredibly expressive with their instruments. There are the greats like Derek Trucks, who are pretty obvious. On a smaller level I have always loved Rob Compa’s playing (Dopapod) along with Tim Palmieri who’s just joined Lotus. And I think it’s just been amazing to watch Billy Strings do his thing. He’s so deserving of all of the success that’s coming his way.

GM: I see you are playing Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY during the week that would have marked his 80th birthday. How important is the Jerry Garcia legacy for you?

MS: The legacy of him and the band is the most important thing that our scene has. There’s a creative door that they opened for people to explore music in a way that maybe no one outside of those in the jazz world have ever had where they can freely express themselves and have it be accepted on a grander scale. That I think is the core of what we are all doing.

  

Twiddle Summer Tour 2022

8/19/22 - 8/22/22 - North East, PA - Elements Music & Arts Festival

9/1/22 - Lowell, MA - Lowell Summer Music Series

9/2/22 - Baldwinsville, NY - Bud Light Amphitheater at Paper Mill Island

9/2/22 - 9/4/22 - Fredericktown, OH - Hookahville

9/2/22 - 9/4/22 - Farwell, MI - Big Farm & Arts Festival

9/2/22 - 9/4/22 - Fredericktown, OH - Hookahville

10/27/22 - 10/30/22 - Live Oak, FL - Suwannee Hulaween

  

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