Lettuce—Funky and Fresh

The Boston-born band Lettuce is coming back to the Tri-state area—are you ready for these fellows of funk? Laced with jazz and smooth tones of hip-hop, members Adam Deitch (drums), Adam Smirnoff (guitar), Eric “Jesus” Coomes (bass), Nigel Hall (keyboards and vocals), Ryan Zoidis (saxophone), and Eric Bloom (trumpet) are ready to share more groovy tunes. 

For more than two decades, music has been pouring out of Lettuce. Their first 10 years were dedicated to the production of albums such as Outta Here, Rage!, and Fly! But when they began producing their own music, the gates opened and the music came gushing out. When 2015 rolled around, Lettuce began releasing new full-length albums almost once per year. Some of which, like Crush, which snagged a number one spot on jazz album charts, were co-produced with musician Joel Hamilton. Now, in 2019, Deitch said the band has at least another two follow-up records to accompany their recent release: Elevate.

Many of the band members have successful side projects as well. Zoidis is a founding member of Rustic Overtones, Coomes was a touring bassist for The Game and Britney Spears, and Deitch is in two other bands: Adam Deitch Quartet and Break Science. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Deitch in early 2016, so it was great to catch up with him again. While he had some down time, he filled me in on what’s new with the band, what fans can expect, and what he’s been up to outside of Lettuce.

I last spoke with you back in 2016. Since then, you’ve released three more albums. How do you get so much material?

(Laughs) I mean, I love to write. I love to go to my ProTools on my computer and play some instruments and come up with ideas. I love to do it after shows, I do it when I’m off. I don’t really go on vacation. I just go to my studio and I write. That’s my thing.

Wow. So, the studio is like your beach time, then.

Yeah. It’s more how I relax. The more I write, the better I know that all my projects will have good, quality material to play and to continue to get good music to the fans, which is the goal. I enjoy it. It’s fun. 

I know that sometimes songs just don’t make it onto records—for bands in general. How do you know which songs make it to your albums?

You know, we try to see what songs fit and we kind of have a format of a couple of funk songs, some slower ones, some hip-hop kind of vibes, maybe two or three vocal tunes. So, we try to stick to that format so we have a complete record with different tempos and different feels and different nods and different styles. So, you know, we just listen through and see what fits with what. 

So, for example, if a couple of songs don’t make it onto one record, do you guys save them for the next record, or are they just completely scrapped?

All the time. Our album Mt. Crushmore, had five songs that were left off…. We take songs that don’t make the album and we’ll either release an E.P. or we’ll release another album around those songs. 

When you’re writing a new record around those older songs, do you mold the newer tracks to fit with the record-less songs?

I mean, for the Elevate record, I wrote the songs—we’re doing three albums. Now, I’m not sure if they’re gonna be called Elevate Parts Two and Three, but they were all written around the same time and they’re all kind of one thought, basically. We don’t tend to put older songs on a new album, they’ll usually be on an E.P. that is related to the album prior. 

And you guys just released Elevate earlier this summer. How have the reactions been?

Yeah! We’re super stoked about it and to this day, I can’t go outside without people saying, ‘I love this record!’ It’s great. It’s a great feeling to know that it’s resonating with people and we don’t have a middleman. We don’t have a producer or a label person telling us what we need to do. So, it’s really been put together by the band—what songs go out and how they’re recorded—and for it to be the success that it is, is pretty awesome and we’re very thankful that we’re able to continue to do this without the middle man. You know, a lot of acts have a label telling them what to do and how to approach it. We don’t have any of that. We would like to approach the albums as a band. 

You guys have had a pretty busy summer with tours and your album release. What were some highlights from your shows?

Oh, there are so many! I mean, a huge highlight is opening for Dave Mathews at the Gorge, which is this huge venue [in Washington state] with, like, 20,000 people and that’s gonna be fun. As far as, with all of the touring we’ve been doing, we record every night and we watch the shows every night and try to take a lot of notes to figure out how to open up and extend and how to get better. So, throughout all of the touring, the highlight is just watching the songs all evolve. They evolve in front of people in this live setting and that’s my favorite part of touring, is watching. And, also, converting fans. That’s also a highlight. To get to people who maybe haven’t seen us yet. And then to hear them after the concert say they’re gonna come see us again is really great. 

Yeah—I saw that there’s a way for your fans to be more involved, too. They can become Lettuceheads and help promote you guys to earn special perks. 

Yeah. We try to do a lot of things to involve the fans. We also have a Lettuce Eat Foundation, which is where we do events to raise money for kids who are starving and schools that can’t afford breakfast and lunch and stuff like that. We did a few events in Maine. We raised, like, maybe $23,000 out there for those kids. We love to do things like that. And meet and greets. We do meet and greets every day and it’s a family and we like connecting with the fans. 

That is awesome. How did Lettuce Eat get started?

Well, our sax player, Ryan, is heavily involved in the community in Portland, Maine, where he grew up. I call him the Mayor. He knows all of these people who do foundations and brought it up to the band and we ended up doing one show about a year or two ago and we had a huge outdoor show and donated all of the proceeds to the foundation. We recently did it again where we threw a private party at a restaurant and had all this food. We’re looking forward to doing more of those in different cities. 

I know you personally have been working on other music projects like your Adam Deitch Quartet, which just released your debut album. How do you feel about that?

(Laughs) Yeah. I’m really excited. We have Eric “Benny” Bloom on trumpet, Ryan Zoidis on sax, and a great organ player named Will Blades. And we started off with some jam sessions after Lettuce shows and it turned into a thing. We wanted to record it and be able to have a record that’s in line with some of the jazzier records. It’s still funky, but closer to the jazzy side. I’m really excited that people are into it and it’s a little different from all of the other projects I do. I don’t like to do the same thing. Break Science is totally different from Lettuce and Lettuce is totally different from the Quartet, so I’m just really happy that people dig it and I’m looking forward to a new one. I already wrote our next album, so I can’t wait to get to the studio again. 

You weren’t kidding—music just flows out of you, huh. I know you parents are musicians as well. 

Yeah. My parents are both instrumentalists. Drums are their main instruments, though. My dad plays drums, guitar, bass, piano…. My mom plays piano and sings and plays drums. So yeah, I grew up in a very music-oriented house. 

You must’ve listened to a ton of different music growing up. What got you really going on funk and jazz?

I mean, the funk and jazz stuff was very important in my house. We had everything from Stevie Wonder to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Earth, Wind, and Fire—artists like that, sort of the Mount Rushmore heads in my house. 

All of the greats. Do you think this inclination towards funk is just inside you or did something really make you click with it?

Yeah, I mean the jazz world and R&B and soul music and hip-hop, which I’ll place in there—it just hits me in a certain way. It’s kind of where technique and knowledge of your instrument meets your soul and purpose. It’s your knowledge of all of your lessons, all of your time studying and playing. And then you have to kind of forget about it and just express yourself. That’s just always been the thing for me. And the socially-conscious stuff. There was this artist called Nicholas Peyton, who is a great trumpet player, and he labels all that music as Black American music. And it’s to remind people of the origin of where all of that music came from. So, it’s really become part of what I love most about this music—the contribution of African-Americans to music and in that resides the heaviest in funk and jazz, gospel music, and R&B. I just love it and I’m trying to further it and try to add something to it, try to contribute to it and not just copy it. That’s what I’m working on and what I’ll continue to work on. 

Don’t miss Lettuce as they pull into the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on Sept. 20 and The Space at Westbury in Westbury, NY on Sept. 21! For more about the band, please visit lettucefunk.com