Interview: Ripe Bringing their 7-Piece Funk Dance Party to Charleston Pour House

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Update: Ripe will be collecting donations from their fans at dates on the tour and delivering them to local Boys & Girls Clubs of America in each tour market.

When it comes to all the different music genres out there, I’ve always been a firm believer that funk is the one that transcends all music fans. I see it all the time at block parties where people are immersed in full conversations while a funk band is playing, yet their feet are tapping and their heads are bopping. Then there’s the other 97% of us on the dance floor reciprocating back all that energy the band is delivering.

Ripe, a seven-piece fund band consisting of Robbie Wulfsohn [vocals], Tory Geismar [guitar], Jon Becker [guitar], Sampson Hellerman [drums], Josh Shpak [trumpet], Calvin Barthel [trombone], and Nadav Shapira [bass] visit the Charleston Pour House on Wednesday, March 21st, to vocally deliver that party. They played a packed House of Blues this past fall and two sold out shows at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston to start their tour.

I had the chance to chat with lead singer, Robbie Wulfsohn, about a variety of topics. Their headlining tour is in support of their new album, Joy in the Wild Unknown, which was produced by Cory Wong of Vulfpeck, mixed by 5-time GRAMMY-Winner Joe Visciano (Mark Ronson, Adele, Beck, Coldplay), and mastered by Randy Merrill (Lady Gaga, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Taylor Swift).

Have you played Charleston, SC before?

Robbie: “We have. This is our first official headliner. We’ve played once before opening up for G. Love at the Music Farm.”

The bands that regularly sell at The Pour House are the funk and jam band types like Twiddle, Dumpstaphunk, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band who just rocked the house last week. How you would you describe your shows to the music fans here who may not have heard of your band? I see a clear, funk dance party type vibe.

Robbie: “I think that it’s two pillars at the same time. We’re definitely going for the funk dance party, but we’re also going for the ecstasy moment like “OH SHIT!!!” whether that’s from a hip-hop, pop, or funk perspective. I think that’s one of the things we do. If we were lucky and had our way, that feeling would carry longer than the two hours we’re playing. I think we’re really trying to craft our skill around a community and a give and take between the band and audience.”

Your voice has so much power and can go up and down the spectrum so fluently. How did that evolve? Was there training?

Robbie: “It’s kind of a hot mess of things. I grew up knowing that I could sing to a certain degree as kid with a high soprano voice. I sang in temple choirs and a handful of opportunities that you can sing in as a little kid. My parents were excited that I was excited about it, so they got me learning from some amazing people at a young age. It was all a very classical direction until about high school when rock music kicked in the door and all of a sudden, I wanted to be in a band.”

So what rock banks were those that influenced you?

Robbie: “The first music I listened to in middle school was honestly hair metal. Guns N Roses was the first concert where I was like, “Mom, I need to go to this show.” So, she took me to the concert and the opening act was strippers. That is something we actively do not talk about.” (laughing)

“But the first two bands where I was like, “I need to learn every single thing this band has ever put out” were actually Dave Matthews Band and Radiohead. The joy of Dave Matthews and honestly the sadness of Radiohead…the idea that loneliness is a thing that so many people feel this weirdly isolating emotion is a communal thing that we all have in common. Those things grabbed me right off the bat. So, I was up to my neck in both of those bands as soon pretty much as soon as I realized music was a thing.”

What goes in the decision to tour as a headliner versus supporting a larger band?

Robbie: “It’s a combination of factors given some of the hard truths of what we sound like. We are a seven-piece band and loud as hell. We are trying to headline our audience to energy levels as much as possible. In general, we’re really concerned with inviting people to connect with in the aspect that we do. It’s easier to communicate that with a 75-90 minute planned out art of a story and a set then like a 45-minute barn burner. It’s about getting to know what we’re about.”

If you had the power to bring Tupac, Biggie, or ODB, who would it be?

Robbie: “There’s going to be different answers among the band, but for me, it’s going to be Pac. I love all three of those guys. Of the two I want to have a beer with, Biggie’s probably a little bit more fun. But the character of 2Pac and the way his life played out. His connection to the Black Panthers in his past to the way he played out as a part of Death Row records. That stuff just blows me away. If I could speak to a living 2pac today, I would love to pick his brain about those things.”

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Tour: Upcoming Dates

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