Snarky Puppy's bandleader explores music directions for the group

Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League will be coming here as part of a nine-piece line-up. -- PHOTO: FEST EVENTS INTERNATIONAL
Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League will be coming here as part of a nine-piece line-up. -- PHOTO: FEST EVENTS INTERNATIONAL

Winning a Grammy can be the pinnacle of any musician's career. So when it comes to the trophy, Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League keeps it in what he believes is the best place possible - his mother's house in Washington, DC.

The 30-year-old, who is also the American instrumental ensemble's bassist and composer, says of the gramophone-shaped trophy: "It's actually with my mum right now, because I don't have a home, just a storage space in Brooklyn."

The band, who are playing their first gig in Singapore at the Kallang Theatre on Oct 23, picked up the Grammy for Best R&B Performance at the awards in January for the song, Something, off their seventh album, Family Dinner - Volume 1. Featuring vocals from soul singer Lalah Hathaway, the tune is a cover originally by Canadian singer-songwriter Brenda Russell.

Winning the award has been a boon for the group.

Speaking in a telephone call from London where he was on tour, League explains: "It made things more comfortable for us - travel is easier because we get paid better, and we just generally get more respect, so people treat us better. That's nice because it was pretty hard in the last 10 years."

League formed the group while he was studying at the University of North Texas in 2004.

The band are known for their grassroots, do-it-yourself approach, harnessing the Internet to reach out directly to fans from all over the world, sleeping on floors and couches and lugging their own equipment whenever they tour.

Today, the ensemble count about 30 musicians, who take turns to play with the group for gigs and tours.

All the members also play for other acclaimed and popular acts such as Justin Timberlake, Chaka Khan and Beyonce.

Besides League, the nine-piece line-up coming to Singapore includes keyboardists Bill Laurance and Shaun Martin, drummer Larnell Lewis and trumpeter Mike Maher.

Through tireless touring and body-shaking tunes that mix various genres such as jazz, rock, funk and hip-hop, the band's albums and live shows receive high praise from music critics.

Describing a London show in May, British newspaper The Guardian hailed their music for achieving the "perfect balance between improv and groove", while American jazz website, All About Jazz, praised them as "one of the freshest sounds in modern jazz", with "a funk and groove style that can't be matched".

Their mixed bag of music attracts a wide range of listeners.

"Ever since we started playing, our crowd have been very diverse, from five to 85 years old and every kind of skin colour. It's always been super diverse. Jazz fans, rock fans, classical fans, we just see more and more people these days."

Critical nods and growing audiences aside, one thing that League is always sure of is the band's constant commitment to musical innovation.

"My goal has always been to keep challenging myself and the band to grow. I'm sure that by next year, we'll know what direction we want to move in, but I really think it's just more albums in more directions and more touring."