In September, I was lucky enough to do press at Asbury Park’s Sea.Hear.Now Festival, where I had the opportunity to interview Robbie Wulfsohn, the lead singer of the Boston-funk band Ripe.
Prior to the interview, the seven-piece funk band from Boston took the stage in the early afternoon to a crowd full of green headbands and bandanas. The members walked unassumingly onto the stage to cheers and began their set with their song “Brother Sky,” from the 2015 EP “Hey Hello.” For the 45 minutes the band played, everyone in the crowd was jumping up and down, scream-singing the lyrics to the songs we knew by heart and covers we could never have imagined in this style. Lead singer Wulfsohn engaged with the crowd at every turn, even running through the middle during their song “Ex-Life.” Despite the sweltering mid-day heat, everyone —the band included—didn’t seem to mind. Overall, this performance was the most energetic and delightful performance of the weekend and cemented the band as one to watch before they blow up—which is inevitable given their festival performance.
In speaking with Wulfsohn, as a fan, I was beside myself. The band has been a staple in all my Spotify playlists, with lyrics that excite and comfort on rainy and sunny days. I met with Wulfsohn in the festivals press lounge to discuss the songwriting process and dynamics of the band as a whole, as well as what as what is next for the dynamic group.
“It’s a difficult question to answer [about the songwriting process], because we intentionally shake the Etch-n-Sketch as much as possible to not get to comfortable or stay in any one method,” Wulfsohn said.
“The most general way it’s been working recently is there has been a small group step, where not all seven people are involved, but who is in the small group rotate. We try to have between two and four people involved in the writing process from the very inception. From there, it gets brought into the room for all seven of us to sort of bring it to life.” Wulfsohn writes all the lyrics to the band’s music, but feels his ownership hits a peak once the band gives the song away as a recording.
“We put out the lyrics, and we stand by them, and it’s the first time people can choose whether they care about what’s actually being said enough to get it in their heads and make it a part of who they are,” Wulfoshn said. “That feels high stakes.”
The band met at Berkeley and “tumbled into each other,” in respect to how they found their sound and band. The first songs that were put out as Ripe were as a result of winning a college ‘Battle of the Bands’ at Emerson College. With Ripe, Wulfsohn takes on a new role, with this being the first project where he hasn’t played an instrument.
“In my head, it was easier to hide behind [an instrument], and it’s also understanding that this is a level of artistic insecurity that’s not uncommon,” Wulfsohn said. “It’s easy to feel like you’ve earned your spot onstage because of the technical execution of the craft. Singing is such a moving target of what people like. Starting out, there was definitely a feeling of nakedness in that. I think I was doing the singing from the top, but I can’t speak to if everyone knew that was going to be the case or if we’ve tumbled into that as well.”
The band rotates who writes the setlist each show. Each show serves a different goal, whether it’s a festival show or a Ripe show, where the fans have been won over simply by buying their tickets. Wulfsohn admits that he likes to be surprised by the setlist and writes them less often than the other band members. For specifically Ripe shows, the band tends to lean more towards their deeper cuts, knowing that fans already know they like the band and just want to be reaffirmed. For festivals, the band tends to play the songs they know will grab the audience and convince them to check out the band’s other music.
The band recently embarked on their fall tour, and although they will not be coming to Philadelphia this time around, they will be in New York City in early February. When asked about what fans can expect from the band in the future. Wolfsuhn hinted at new music coming soon
“We’ve got some new music coming out, but I can’t say anything more than that,” Wulfsohn said. “We’ve been a word of mouth band since day one. We want people to still feel confident in staking themselves on what we do in that way. We also want to constantly play around with what we want our music to sound like and what people expect our music to sound like. At the very least, we’re going to keep trying our best. This is a constant process of becoming and I think I would be upset if we were already content with where we are.”