Too Many Zooz’s manic music, dubbed “BrassHouse” by drummer King of Sludge, is an irresistible rocket that combines styles more diverse and far-flung than any international space station. As heard on the group’s EPs—F NOTE, Fanimals, Brasshouse Volume 1: Survival of the Flyest, The Internet, and the LP, Subway Gawdz—Too Many Zooz creates a visceral smack-to-the-senses. TMZ’s BrassHouse summons EDM, house, techno, and glitch, paired to the indigenous punch of Cuban, Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, and Brazilian Carnival rhythms. TMZ’s music is further heightened by the dancing and saxophone soloing prowess of Pellegrino, virtually a bionic Pepper Adams. Like Nortec Collective mashed with Daft Punk by way of a mad sonic scientist, Too Many Zooz has conquered New York City—your headset’s resistance is futile.
“We pride ourselves that nearly every person of every color, creed and background and upbringing can find something in our music to relate to,” Matt Doe says. “Someone from Cuba can say ‘I hear Cuban music in the cowbells.’ Someone into death metal will enjoy it next to a grandmother who hears it as old swing music. Others hear Klezmer. Whatever people want to hear in our music they can seemingly find it.”
Many New Yorkers discovered Too Many Zooz at the Union Square subway station, where the trio began busking in 2014. After one of TMZ’s videos went viral on Reddit, creating almost a million fans, sales of the band’s digital downloads and CD sales skyrocketed.
If TMZ’s music wasn’t already electrifying, Leo Pellegrino’s dance moves, which spin like a Zoot-suit wearing swinger, add visual thrills to the band’s musical mastery. A classically trained musician, Pellegrino began dancing as both expression and rebellion. What Beyoncé loved is now available to all.
“Horn players, especially baritone saxophone players, look so lame on stage!” Pellegrino notes. “I just watched an NBA half-time show and this band’s horn players were killing my eyes. I wondered ‘why does the horn have to be such a lame instrument visually?’ I began dancing in the subway and people loved it. I realized that I had been brainwashed, all my teachers telling me not to move. I’d been told that was improper technique, but that became my key to success.”
Too Many Zooz’s songs are marvels of simplicity born of musical complexity. Pellegrino, Doe, and King of Sludge condense multiple--what might be considered clashing styles--into a riveting jackhammer brew. King of Sludge’s staccato eighth-note rhythms performed on a unique bass drum/cowbell/jamblock/cymbal setup forms the music’s gritty rhythmic bed. Matt Doe’s trumpet provides melody and harmony, while Leo Pelligrino’s saxophone follows rhythm directions and solo revelry.
“I don’t like using standardized terms when describing our music,” Matt explains. “We’re all doing things that are out of the ordinary. I provide the synth sound you would hear in a dance track. Leo plays saxophone but he’s also providing the bass sound you would hear in electronic music. When Leo solos, it’s like a breakdown when the bass is the featured element of the band. I don’t solo per se, but I am playing nearly the entire show. It doesn’t make sense for me to play more!”
TMZ’s seeds were formed when Indiana native King of Sludge, and Boston-born Pellegrino played in subway busking band, Drumadics. Fellow Manhattan School of Music classmate and Pittsburgh native Doe played in various ensembles with Pellegrino, the threesome eventually busking together by chance—their chemistry sparking an instant bond.