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Thursday, April 22,2010

Passion and performance are the heart of Lil Sum’n Sum’n

By Brian Palmer

When I first saw Lil Sum’n Sum’n listed on The Laughing Goat’s event calendar for this month, I told my wife, “I hope to God this band is as cool as their name because I already want to interview them!” Turns out not only is this band talented, creative and passionate about what they do, but they are also a couple of really neat people who understand how powerful music can be.

Husband-and-wife duo Lisa Wimberger and Gil “Gilly” Gonzalez combine to play more than a dozen instruments — most of them percussive — and when matched with background drones, guest chanters and the occasional tap dancing intro, their talents take listeners on an incredible musical journey. With influences including Afro-Cuban, African, Middle Eastern and even American beats and rhythms, Lil Sum’n Sum’n creates thoroughly engrossing world music that is far more than a collection of groovy tunes to listen to. For some, it is an otherworldly experience.

“One of the shows we played recently in Boulder was a Solstice show,” Wimberger says. “It was wild because at different times in the set people were meditating, different times people looked like they were possessed with dance and then in others they were in prayer. In fact some of them just collapsed.”

So their audiences seem to totally get the music, even if they don’t always get the name.

“Some people just can’t say ‘Lil Sum’n Sum’n’” Wimberger says with a laugh. “Some people have to say ‘Little Something Something’ because they just can’t colloquialize it.”

One of the band’s most intriguing live aspects is the fact that they improvise to the nth degree. Unsatisfied with simply extending jams or changing time here and there, they completely reinvent each song each time it is played. Not only do no two performances of any of their songs sound the same, but in fact, they are almost unrecognizable when compared with each other. As a band Wimberger says this is a good thing because they have responsibilities which go far beyond merely playing the same tunes in the same way over and over again.

“We have to be really aware of what we’re creating for people and how to move them with grace through all of it, because we could really blow it for the crowd if we’re not aware of where they’re at. You can’t just rip the rug out from underneath people and expect them to love that, you know?

“You have to watch them. When they look like they’re itching to move, you gotta move the music to do that. And when they look like they’re really fatigued and want to go into a trance, you have to be able to do that.”

In a time where musicians are becoming increasingly self-absorbed and seem to care more about the money in your pockets than about whatever passion you might have for their artistry, it is refreshing to hear about a band making such an effort to be in tune with their audience. But perhaps this character trait will come as little surprise when you consider that the duo constantly keep their eyes open for opportunities to find musical inspiration, and so attention to detail is pretty much par for the course for them.

“We’ve been known to put pieces of metal together and plastic tubing together and just do experimental kind of stuff,” Gonzales explains. “We want to eventually go up to junkyards and pick up metal pieces and do all kinds of clangy, weird metal sounds.”

And sometimes the best results are found right inside your home — or the Home Depot.

“We’ll be in Home Depot,” Wimberger begins, “hitting the pipes or looking at a garage panel saying, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool to bring into our set.’ But then this morning our daughter picked up packs of seeds that we’re planting in the garden, and she was holding the sunflower seed pack and the carrots pack and she said, ‘These sound like shakers, Mommy.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to do a recording with all the packs of seeds before we plant them?’” Music is a wondrous thing to Lil Sum’n Sum’n and it shows. When asked why they make music, Wimberger replies that she can’t not make music and that she would be a cranky person if she could neither make music nor dance. Gonzales refers to music as being a great connector and unifier, and of course playing music beats the alternative.

“Without music I would probably still be in Texas cooking burgers,” he says.

To which Wimberger exclaims, “God help us all!”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

On the Bill
Lil Sum’n Sum’n
plays the Laughing Goat on Saturday, April 24. Jeremy Dion opens. Tickets are $5. 1709 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-440-4628.

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