Thundercat Interview: How Tradition Has Shaped 2017’s Most Futuristic Artist

March 9th 2017

Photo: B+

  • Thundercat :: Interview with Tommy Codling


Bassist, vocalist, producer, and mad scientist Thundercat may sound out of this world, but his latest album, Drunk, testifies to a grounding in musical history. Tommy Codling spent some time on the phone with the electric feline, talking about his eclectic influences and how they have helped his journey into the musical cosmos.

Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, does not come across as someone who plays music for the spotlight. This impression is powerful because it’s well within his powers to do just that. He has an intimidating resumé, a totally unique sound, and virtuosic technique for good measure. Yet, despite this significant arsenal, which would see many artists lose themselves in a mirror, Thundercat still believes that symbiosis is essential to his creative process.

“It’s something that’s meant to be a conversation,” he says of his work. “It’s something that you’re supposed to share a lot of the time, if you can.”

On his third album, Drunk, Thundercat shares the spotlight with a number of contemporary luminaries, including Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, and Pharrell. On the track ‘Show You The Way’, his sonic dialogue reaches further into the past, with features from Kenny Loggins (Loggins and Messina, ‘The Soundtrack King’) and Michael McDonald (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers).

Asked about this specific collaboration, Thundercat tells Tommy:

“Those guys are my heroes, hands down… I’m happy that they would even consider working with me.”

It would be impossible to situate Thundercat’s sound without an understanding of such vast and disparate influences. Attempts have been made to place his music into a genre, but the results are generally confusing; astro-alt-funk-jazz-fusion is not a category at most music retailers.

For his part, Thundercat is content to keep musical knowledge and traditions alive through his decisively modern music. On keeping young audiences interested in artforms such as jazz, he says, “I love the idea of continuing that legacy.”

It’s a noble pursuit: to simultaneously cast listeners into the past and the future. Drunk is Thundercat’s attempt to build this time machine.

Listen to the full interview above.


Drunk by Thundercat is out now, and it was FBi’s Album Of The Week in Feb 2017.


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