‘People eat grapefruit wrong’: MM chat to zesty New York experimental music group Ensemble Pamplemousse

Experimental music fans in Manchester are in for a treat at The Wonder Inn as the Weisslich concert series makes an appearance before moving to STYX in London on Saturday.

Among the groups featured will be New York based Ensemble Pamplemousse – formed of flautist Natacha, drummer Andrew, cellist Jessie, keyboard player David, sound engineer Bryan and trombonist Weston.

MM caught up with for a chat with cellist Jessie Marino ahead of their UK debut tomorrow night. 

Is there a particular reason why you’re called Ensemble Pamplemousse? Is it because grapefruit can be an acquired taste in the same way that experimental music can?

As legend has it – the year that Pamplemousse was founded was a particularly great season for citrus fruits. Most people eat grapefruit wrong. You shouldn’t slice it in half and dig out the wedges with a sharp-toothed spoon. Grapefruits are supposed to peeled and eaten section by section.

You peel back the first layer of skin, and you suck out the juicy insides. It’s hard work and that’s how we like it. We wanted to have a group that was juicy and tart and occasionally sweet but always satisfying, plus Pamplemousse is a very fun word to say!

FUN, FUN, FUN AND TOTALLY SERIOUS: Cellist Jessie says the New York music scene is always throwing up new opportunities

How would you describe the genre of experimental music to someone who wasn’t familiar with it?

Experimental music is a way of approaching sound. We explore music in three different ways:

1) Exploring new ways to use traditional instruments

2) Exploring musical ways of using non-instruments (most often done with household objects and body movements)

3) Using electronics to blur the distinctions between those elements.

That’s the long version. We use sound to play with expectation.

What’s the experimental music scene like in New York?

Fun, fun, fun and totally, totally serious. It is also always changing based on the economics of the city.

We got a fantastic opportunity this year to team up with a venue called JACK Theater in Brooklyn – they usually put on experimental music and theatre shows.

This year we will work with JACK to host our first festival called the Chance and Circumstance Festival (after Carolyn Brown’s book, which everyone should read!) and we will get to hunker down in a single New York Venue – which for any ensemble is a total dream! 

Over the years we have seen a lot of wonderful places change their programming scheme or shut their doors completely but something new always sprouts forward.

Where do you find inspiration for your music?

We get inspiration from each other, and sometimes from Beyoncé, and sometimes from Donald Fagen, but always from one another.

Do you have any particular process you go through when you’re composing or does it just develop organically?

Sometimes we write things together and sometimes we do our own thing. We each have our own processes. Some of us like algorithms and some like improvising and some like watching YouTube. But we all work really hard and ask one another for suggestions.

What would you like to achieve in the future? Is there any particular event/place you’d like to perform?

The first item on the plate – and it’s a big one, is to release our new music video project called This is the Uplifting Part: it’s an album of pieces that each of the composer/performer members of the group wrote and we got the chance to record and edit actual music videos for each piece.

But in general I think the idea is to keep going and to keep being curious. We are always looking for new groups to be fans of, new venues to perform at, new modes of media to produce, and new ways of collaborating with one another.

Bryan’s dream venue is on the moon.

To buy tickets to see Ensemble Pamplemousse visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/weisslich-vol-9-manchester-tickets-29301227761

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