Atypicals: The Art of Being Amorphic


Things that are “atypical”: Finding a cab in midtown when it’s raining? Check. Finding your phone after losing it in any bar in Meatpacking? Check. Finding a band that effortlessly mixes in the deja vu feeling of Radiohead circa 2006 and the high-intensity vibe of Europop? Priceless…and check. That’s what the Atypicals, compromised of Adam Zucker (vocals, guitar, and synthesizer), Jacob Bergson (synthesizer, keyboard), Wenzl Mcgowen (Ableton, EWI, and saxophone) and James Muschler (drums) are going for.  A house/electronic vibe with the reach of pop and the body of synth and all the pulsating rhythms in-between. Believe me, if you haven’t heard house fused with the unmistakable blue notes of jazz fusion (Jacob, Wenzl and James are all classically trained as Jazz musicians) you are missing a sound for sore ears. I saw them live at Crash Mansion yesterday and caught up with the band after for a closer look as to what makes them so appealing:

Sherene Hilal: The name Atypicals, where did that come from, I hear there was a campfire involved?

James Muschler: There was a campfire involved. We were in Cleveland, which is me, Adam, and Jacob’s hometown, and we were all sitting around a campfire. I can’t remember what the exact phrase was that came out of Jacob’s mouth, but my friend from back home said, “Well that’s atypical”, and I said, “that’s a great band name. . .the Atypicals”.

SH: So is that how you three know each other?

Jacob Bergson: We all went to high school together, and then moved in together. That’s how we met Wenzl, we went to college with Wenzl. Then we started playing with Adam. Then Wenzl started playing with us.

Adam Zucker: I moved to New York after I finished school, I went to the University of Michigan. I moved to New York to play with these guys in the summer of ’09. When I moved here Wenzl joined and started playing with us.


SH: So you use so many different instruments and technologies, what is the music making process like for you?

JB: I’m not sure if we’re all that sure how that happened.

AZ: It’s weird. Jacob and Wenzl do a lot of production on Ableton and mix around sounds that they like, chords, intervals, whatever they do with that technology. They’ll come up with some nice synth parts of something or I’ll come up with some chords on guitar or the basis for a song and it gets built up over weeks, even months.

JM: A very collaborative process.

Wenzl Mcgowen: I try to make use of the computer like an instrument. Not like you’re playing a track. Rather than having one instrument live-processing the sound, you have many possibilities to change the instrument and what it’s playing. So I’m trying to play the computer like an instrument, so I can hear James doing a drum-roll and then I open the filter or I can cut-off a track. Every performance is different because you aren’t just playing the typical track.


SH: So that dynamic approach makes it difficult to cubby-hole you into a genre.

JM: It’s dance music.

JB: Are primary influence is in house. Between all of us we listen to pretty much everything.

AZ: At our last show some guy called us, “jam house”, which is almost what it is. I mean it’s kinda free-form house. We are based around that house really danceable beat but as Wenzl said it’s more free-form and changes depending on the show and things lead into each other as you saw. It’s more of a jam, laid-back feel to it. Less of a, “this happens-then this happens-then this happens” predictability.


SH: So other than house, what are your other musical influences?

JB: The three of us, me, James and Wenzl, are jazz musicians by trade, that’s what we went to school for. So that’s the primary thing that we do. Then we all do a bunch of other stuff. Wenzl does a lot of production and programming. I work in a recording studio. James does a ton of different things. Adam sits around all day and listens to music. So we have a bunch of stuff swirling around in our brains at all times subconsciously.


SH: So what’s the goal in say the next year?

AZ: That’s tough. I’d like to be playing festivals, but that’s kind of a stretch. I mean we could be playing festivals, but we want a good festival that people care about. Like Coachella, or Bonaroo, or Ultra or something. That’s a little farther down the road I think. Realistically, were working on putting our an album, getting a wider fan-base outside of our respective college communities and the people we know. It spreads slow at first. It’s a long process.


SH: So, if you had to get a tattoo right this minute what would it be of and why?

JB: How about a Cyclopes, but the eye is my belly-button.

AZ: Is it an upside-down Cyclopes?

JM: yeah, yeah, I’d like that.

AZ: Something using a feature of your body. It definitely has to be a full-chest tattoo if you’re doing it last minute. I’d just get a shirt tattooed on me.

WM: If I had to, I’d get a little dot behind my ear.

JB: A squirrel would be a pretty cool tattoo. You could make your belly button the acorn. . .

SH: You could have your leg be the tree and a squirrel running up it.

JB: Oh yeah, that would be amazing, running up towards your balls or something.

WM: You know what would be nice? Like a max patch, with all the lines. That’d be kinda cool.

AZ: Like a circuit drawn out on your chest?

JB: That is so nerdy.


SH: Anything you want the general population to know about you guys?

AZ: I want everyone to know that we are down to hang-out after gigs. After our last show, we played at Canal Room for CMJ. . . or that second to last show. . .and we met some girl that writes for some blog and we convinced her to walk around New York with us and we ended up at some bar 40 blocks away. I don’t know, we’re weird, we’re fun, and we’re quirky. We make weird, fun, quirky music.

JB: We just want people to hear our music and have a good time.


Listening to the Atypicals feels like you’re in a high-intensity video game. Fast-paced, entertaining, and always changing. They have the drawn-out frequency of house, yet they still occupy their own niche because you can’t get away from the polyrhythms and syncopations that define Jazz. It’s cool to find a music that isn’t track-based and evolves based on the feel of the venue and the musicians. It’s cool to find a vocalist who can match the smoothness of blues and the pitch of electric. And it’s really cool to see them live.

(FYI James showers with Wenzl and his girlfriend from time to time. . . )


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