Favorite Song Right Now: Vulfpeck "Back Pocket"

Graham LeBron
08 27, 2015

If you haven't noticed by now, I like to write about the connections I discover through my interactions with folks, musical or otherwise. It sets the context and is more interesting than just telling you what song I like and why. So bear with me here. I first heard about Vulfpeck, a self described post-geographic rhythm section formed in Southeast Michigan, through Andrew Uzane back when he was doing Manzanita Sound. I met Andrew when he Djed the first ever Hickey Fest in 2013. He was playing a lot of the same 45s I have and also a bunch of rad stuff to which I was soon turned on. Now, to be honest, I didn't actually "hear" Vulfpeck at first, per se, I saw that Andrew was listening to them on Spotify and clicked on it. And heard nothing, silence. What? The album was called Sleepify, and Vulfpeck claimed it was the most silent album ever recorded. I'd have to agree. They explained their proposal in a video. Vulfpeck wanted to go on tour, but they wanted all the shows to be free, so they thought of an ingenious way to fund the tour through their fanbase. At that time, they estimated Spotify was paying roughly $0.005 (half a cent) for every play, so they calculated that if a fan listened to Sleepify on repeat for 8 hours a night, they would earn about $4.00. And, the routing of the tour would be based on where Sleepify was "happening the most", i.e. most listens per area. Genius, right? I started doing it at night whenever I remembered, and even at work when I was listening to something besides Spotify. The album stayed up for 7 weeks. In that time, Spotify contacted the band twice. First they asked if they could help, then a month or so later they asked them to remove it. When Vulfpeck didn't comply, they pulled it down the next day, siting an unspecified terms-of-service violation. You can the read the full story in the Billboard article from May, 2014. There is also an interview with band member, Jack Stratton, with their take on it. In retrospect, I suppose they could have just asked fans to listen to their albums on repeat with the volume down, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun, eh? 

Based on 5.4 million streams and a calculation from previous payouts, Vulfpeck estimated their payday at $30,000. In July 2014, a Billboard article reported on the outcome. They received a check from the Swedish company for $19,655.56. In August 2014, Vulfpeck announced the admission-free Sleepify Tour scheduled for September 15 to 26, 2014. Tour locations included San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and New York City. Not bad for what Spotify ended up calling "a clever stunt."

That clever stunt got them a large amount of publicity and new fans, The Guardian even wrote about it. At that time, their most popular track had 72,000 plays on Spotify. As of now, their most popular track, 1612, has 794,983 plays. Their twitter following went from about 1600 to almost 4000.

Since then, they've continued to impress me with their innovation. On their Bandcamp page, they offer a $35/yr subscription that gets you "all the new music we release, plus 6 items from our back-catalog, subscriber-only specials, and exclusive access to our fan community." Though I had already bought a few of their albums online, I subscribed anyway, because they also offered to release their royalties and record sales figures to their subscribers. How cool is that? And if that isn't enough, Jack helped design a great plugin by Goodhertz called the Vulf Compressor

Now, they are releasing their first full length LP as a Kickstarter campaign, the goal of $1 has already been met and at the time of writing, they have over $22,000 in pledges. The first release from the album is Back Pocket. I love it! Largely because it features the vocal stylings of the lovely and talented Christine Hucal, of DAD, who I've written about here before back in March when my Favorite Song Right Now was "California," which was produced by Christine and another Vulfpeck member, Theo Katzman. The video for it also features a dancing Jack Stratton. See what I mean about how it all fits together somehow?

So enjoy this sweet summer treat and check out the rest of their albums. They are all good. And so are we.

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