Interview with Matt Grundstad of Euforquestra

Euforquestra is an eclectic world-beat ensemble from Iowa City, IA with interests in different cultural and traditional musics from all over the globe. The band has made a mission statement out of preserving different traditions, undescriminatingly trying anything at least once and fusing different styles that appeal to them. The self-proclaimed "Afro-Caribbean-Barnyard-Funk" touches on such genres as Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban, Samba, Soca, Funk, Reggae, and Bluegrass.
     Interview with Matt Grundstad of Euforquestra

Interview by: Stephen Reinheimer

HGMN: Euforquestra--the name can be a bit difficult to pronounce. Who came up with the name? Where does it come from? What is its significance?

Matt: The band was originally called Euforia. After adding a horn section and extra percussion, we all looked at our stage setup and thought it looked like an orchestra. So... combine Euforia with orchestra, give it a Spanglish sort of spelling to represent the Afro-Latin aspect of our sound, and you get Euforquestra (pronounced yoo-FOR-kes-tra).

HGMN: Being an eclectic band, how is it decided what genre is played? Does everyone agree in musical taste? Do certain band members yield a stronger interest in other areas than others?

We just try to keep our minds open. We don't always agree on everything, but when we write and/or arrange music, we try to find ways to incorporate everyone's ideas. That is one of the reasons why people have a hard time categorizing us. If you break our songs down, you can see elements of many different musical styles all occurring at the same time. Each member specializes in different things. We use that to our advantage by working together and learning from each other.

Being such a young band, what were some of the things you were involved with individually (or collectively) before Euforquestra was born?

All 7 of us have been musicians our whole lives. We've all participated in wide variety of musical endeavors (some school related, some not) and have learned from many different teachers. While each of us have musical grounds that are unique from one another, we all share the ideology that any musical experience will make us better musicians. As a result, we have a very versatile group.
As far as formal education goes, most of the band members have music degrees. I have a degree in percussion performance from the University of Iowa and I have traveled to Cuba on two separate occasions where I participated in intensive workshops on folkloric Afro-Cuban drumming, singing, and dancing. Adam Grosso (bass) got his undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Illinois before he went on to get his Masters Degree in percussion at the University of Iowa. He has also studied folkloric music in Cuba, and in Trinidad. Both of our saxophone players studied jazz at the University of Northern Iowa. When Austin Zaletel (alto sax) was done with college, he went to live in Brazil for 6 months where he studied many styles of music including Samba, Bossa Nova, Forro, and Capoeira.

HGMN: Were you all always friends? How did you meet?

Matt: We all met each other by being active in the Iowa City music scene. I think it was persistence that brought us together. We've all watched each other play with different groups over the years that have come and gone. In order to get a good band together that is going to last, several things need to happen. First, you need to find musicians who are proficient on their instruments. Out of that group, you have to find people that have similar musical interests and who can get along with each other. From that group, you have to find people that have a common goal. Not every musician wants to play full-time and deal with all of the grunt work that goes along with it. As groups develop and get more serious about what they're doing, the less dedicated members tend to get filtered out and replaced by people who are a better fit for the direction that the band is headed in. That's what happened to us. Our group started in the late 90's, but has only been together in it's current form for about 3 years. Now we have a group where everyone shares the common goal of taking this band as far as we possibly can.

HGMN: Your schedule this summer appears to be fairly busy. Would you say traveling fits Euforquestra as a band? Or do you consider yourselves better as a studio band?

Matt: We love to travel and play live shows. That is our favorite part of doing what we do. We love the studio, too, but for different reasons. For one thing, putting good studio albums together enables us to get gigs. It's our "ticket to the ball game" if you will. But also, spending time in the studio really helps with the song writing process and tightens up the band. When you're in the studio working on a song for hours on end, you are forced to look at all of the fine details and intricacies of your music that you might have overlooked otherwise. Listening to recordings of yourself lets you get a different perspective on what your music sounds like. Just because something is fun to play doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be fun to listen to.

HGMN: I couldn't help but notice your tour dates were predominately in the Midwest. Do you have plans to expand coast-to-coast? What is preventing you from a broader touring region?

Matt: Our main reason for spending so much time in the Midwest, as opposed to being on the road constantly, has had to do with our availability. We wanted to let everybody in the group have a chance to get their college degrees. That limited us to weekends, spring break, and summer vacation. As of last December, we're all finished with school so we're starting to broaden our touring region. We've spent most of our time concentrating on Colorado, but have also played at clubs and festivals in Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, and Montana. Within the next few months, we'll have also made it out to both coasts.

Which do you prefer, festivals or concerts? Why?

Matt: Definitely festivals. For one thing, we love to play outside. It's way more fun and satisfying than playing in some smoky bar (weather permitting, of course). Also, it's an opportunity for us to play for new audiences. People that hang out in bars or clubs tend to fall into specific age ranges and demographics. A good festival will bring out people of all ages, and from all walks of life. While these people's musical tastes may vary, they are all congregating in the same place for the same reasons. They want to be part of a music community. The idea of fostering community is very important to us. In America, a lot of people tend to listen to their music privately (e.g. in their car on the way to work, or walking around listening to their headphones). There is also a tendency for children to want to listen to something other than what their parents like and vice-versa. The Euforquestra plays a lot of music that originates in places like Cuba, Brazil, and West Africa where playing and listening to music is almost always a community event where everyone participates in some way. Playing festivals helps facilitate that type of atmosphere. There's no reason why we as Americans should segregate each other based on age.
Festivals also provide us with a great networking opportunity. It's always fun for us to meet other bands and talk to all of the people who work behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly. We have our own festival called Camp Euforia that we throw each summer just South of Iowa City so it's nice to get advice from other people who put on similar events. This year, our 4th annual festival will be held on July 13 and 14. Check out for more info.

You categorize yourself as an Afro-Caribbean-Barnyard-Funk band. Who first defined your music this way? Would you consider yourselves to revolutionary? Do you know any other bands that would fit in this category?

People are always asking us to describe our music by putting it into a specific category. That's not an easy thing to do because the answer to that question would depend on which song they are asking about. Since we don't stick to any specific genre, we decided to describe it the same way it is created: by combining genres. Most if not all new music in the world that gets created and would be considered "original" is a product of combining ideas that already exist. It's kind of like a painter painting a red circle. Red circles have been used before, but how is that particular artist going to use it? What other colors or ideas is he/she going to combine it with? What types of emotions is that painting going to evoke? It's those types of things that will make the art original as opposed to being just another red circle.

HGMN: Why is it that you call your horn players Ryan Jeter and Austin Zaletel the Stank Horns?

Matt: All I can say is that they didn't choose the name... the name chose them

HGMN: So, the Stank Horns worked with Millstream Brewery to create a pale ale which will be provided at Camp Euforia Outdoor. Are there any plans for other beers in the future? Where else can we expect to see these beers sold?

Matt: They've been brewing beer for a few months now and have already come up with several delicious recipes. The one that Millstream is currently brewing is called E.P.A. which stands for Euforquestra Pale Ale. If you like hops, you're gonna love the E.P.A. If not, keep your eyes open for different flavors in the future (including the Stank Dank). Camp Euforia will be the first time that the Stank Horns' beer will be sold, but it definitely won't be the last.