Win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony within a two year period. That’s Ripe’s endgame.
Robbie Wulfsohn, Ripe’s singer, was kidding, but the amount of talent the seven-piece funk group exudes is no joke. Groove inducing and horn heavy, they pump out organic jams that have fans in venues like Brighton Music Hall bouncing on their toes. Funk’s forbidden fruit, they are perfectly Ripe.
After listening to them you might think this band has been together for a decade or more. The truth is, they’re all still in school. Six of Ripe’s seven members will graduate Berklee College of Music in 2015, with the seventh, their bassist Arlo Feirman, a year later. “We’ll all start making fun of him once we’ve actually graduated,” quipped Wulfsohn. “Because the last thing you want to do is make fun of someone for being stuck in school and realize that through some technicality you’re not allowed to graduate.”
Fortunately for Bostonians, the group has no immediate plans to move their headquarters, enjoying the collaborative musical environment the city has to offer. Along with Brighton Music Hall, they cite Berklee’s Café 939 as another favorite place to play, noting Paradise Rock Club as a venue they’d love to pack someday.
Ripe will play their second show with fellow funk rockers Viva La Hop on Thursday, December 11, 2014, at The Middle East. Although their tenacious funk may be the most obvious connection between the two Berklee-based groups, there is another crucial similarity: both have vocalists with Afros. Viva with Baylen Hernandez (whose Afro Wulfsohn describes as “The Porsche Carrera of Afros,” while his labels his own “The Volkswagen Bus”).
“There’s a community of Afros at Berklee,” said Jon Becker, one of Ripe’s guitarists. “It’s like bald people.”
Wulfsohn corrected him. “It’s more like samurai culture. If we see each other on the street and no one’s around we have to fight, and one of us has to die. It’s really bad. I didn’t know that when I was growing the hair out, and now if I shave it it’s constituted as failure.”
Though you are bound to see Wulfsohn’s ‘fro at a Ripe gig, the band likes changing other things up. Like, the music they play.
At their Brighton Music Hall show on Halloween with Viva La Hop, they treated a mostly twenty-something year-old crowd to theme song covers from Lion King, Arthur, and Pokémon (each band member donned a full Pikachu costume—a getup that Becker joked they never take off). At their Middle East show, expect a different set. Becker hinted they would include older Ripe tracks that aren’t usually in the rotation. Perhaps an apt term for these songs would be: very ripe.
Though they dig into 90’s kid’s TV and movie theme songs, not everything is so tame all the time. One song they play live, “Amherst,” was written following their show at a wild “Zoo Mass” house party that attracted police like flies to a herd of buffalo. When someone took glass from a fallen picture frame and attempted to stab another partygoer, the band bailed. “We made the executive decision to all huddle up in Jon’s Ford Focus,” said Wulfsohn. “The police were screaming and kicking everyone out.”
Last anyone checked, a Ford Focus seats five.
Their first and only EP, Produce the Juice, will hopefully soon have a companion, as the band is set to record a second EP in January. For a short time, Produce the Juice was the name of the band, explained Becker. They liked the idea of an organic-sounding name but didn’t want to be called Produce the Juice. After throwing out name ideas, everyone was sold on Ripe.
Asked about a possible collaboration with another band called Ripe (based in Denmark, and apparently not active), Wulfsohn said, “I would kind of like to have a collaboration with a Danish power metal band.”
We’ll be waiting.
Until then, pick Boston’s Ripe, and enjoy the funky fruits of their labor.
Want to hear more? Check out our Neighborhood Session video with Ripe, live at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.