What do you get when a well-oiled machine knows when to go off the rails? One wild ride from Lettuce, the funk-rock group from Boston, Mass. The band rolled into Tuscaloosa Oct. 8 to lay down a few grooves at the Jupiter bar, and the Planet Weekly got a chance to ask a few questions before the show.
Funk-lovers of various ages filled the Jupiter especially well for a Wednesday night, many of them returning from Lettuce’s last appearance in Tuscaloosa that apparently hooked quite a few new fans. With a thick crowd letting loose to the rhythms, and hula-hoopers and poi-swingers glowing in the dark, the vibe was equally chill and electric. Of course, penny pitchers on Wednesday night never put anyone in a bad mood.
Lettuce could be called a “jam” band, but that description doesn’t do justice to how tightly they deliver a tune. Erick “Jesus” Coomes summons basslines so commanding Stevie Wonder might get jealous, but he doesn’t let them take over the moment. Instead, every part from the drums to the horns gets settled in to create a strong, flowing pulse that makes its way to the dance floor. Just when it can’t get any funkier, Ryan Zoidis fires off a sax riff or Neal Evans mashes the keyboard to zap everyone’s attention back to the max. Those keys might have made the most colorful sounds of the whole show, and at times when the band almost fell into a rut, Evans blasted a new path.
For a band so dedicated to throwback sounds, Lettuce felt remarkably fresh on a college-town stage. Sovereign radio giants like Daft Punk and Robin Thicke might borrow heavily from “retro” genres, but Lettuce steals with confidence, teaching funk as a new school.
After the band wrapped up their set around 11 p.m., Slovenian beat-maker Gramatik took the stage. Fans who liked rocking out to Lettuce’s grooves were treated to a sweet hip-hop comedown. Gramatik’s electronic sounds were engaging as well, but his set made a much more suitable soundtrack to relaxing and enjoying the last few drinks of the night. It’s no wonder that the two acts tour together regularly.
Lettuce first formed in 1992, when the members attended the Berklee College of Music and bonded over an appreciation for artists like Herbie Hancock and J Dilla. For years, the band survived almost solely on word-of-mouth publicity, until 2001 when they finally released “Outta Here!” on CD. In the band’s lifetime several members have racked up valuable experience in the industry, Adam Deitch working on music with John Scofield and 50 Cent, and Coomes playing on tour with Britney Spears and The Game. Since the band’s first release they have been invited to several big-name festivals like Bonnaroo, and even sold out Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, three nights in a row.
Their most recent album, 2012’s “Fly,” was perhaps their most successful. The group’s growing fanbase loved the full-bodied arrangements of gems like “Lettsanity” and “Madison Square,” and critics took notice of the band’s evolving ear for crisp production. While Lettuce has picked up a little celebrity status around Tuscaloosa for their dynamite shows, recognition is still growing for them nation-wide as they prepare to record their next big project.
When Lettuce sat down for an interview on their tour bus – complete with a giant head of lettuce on the side – Neal Evans was eating a cup of Coldstone ice cream with cake batter and pieces of Kit Kat and Heath bars. Eric Bloom was slicing fruit for a green apple smoothie.

Planet Weekly: How was the show you played here last year?

Eric Bloom: It was great, we love Tuscaloosa.

Neal Evans: I always like shows where the campus is right there. There is always a certain vibe.

PW: Since the beginning you guys have had this same, distinctive sound. How did you land on that at such a young age?

“Jesus” Coomes: We actually met at the perfect time. We were young and impressionable and all of us were influenced by our elders who had awesome record collections. We kind of met up and said ‘are you guys into this bulls— or are you into this cool s—?”

Ryan Zoidis: And it was a golden era for hip-hop at that time.

PW: Who did you admire at that age?

Coomes: Definitely James Brown.

Zoidis: Herbie [Hancock] was a big influence at that time. Or Pete Rock, DJ Premiere, J Dilla.

PW: And what drew you to funk?

Bloom: Funk.

Coomes: It gives you a feeling you can share … When you feel that feeling and you look at your friend, and you can tell they felt it too, that’s a great moment.

PW: What are the best moments you share with a crowd?

Zoidis: We’ve been playing a lot of festivals, it’s hard to pick one.

Evans: You know it’s hard when you’re playing these festivals and there’s a lot of acts all at once, but for some reason we’ve lucked out… whether it’s a certain time of day or the rain stopped, we’ll look back and say ‘that was probably the best time slot possible.’

When asked about the sound of their new album, the band got sidetracked just trading bits of beats and melodies that they wanted to develop when they got into the studio in November. For Lettuce, the recording process is a game of ideas, everyone playing off an intimate knowledge of each other’s style.
They all agreed that they are more focused than ever on creating the best project possible and being proud of every song. Coomes described the vision with clenched fists and a growling sound.
For a modern funk sound from a group still gaining momentum, Lettuce is one band to definitely check out. With two successful concerts under their belt at the Jupiter, it’s hard to believe they won’t come back to blow our minds one more time.

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