The saxophonist & ewi player breaks his nine-year relationship of face-melting funk with The Twin Cats to focus on nationally touring three-piece jamtronica band Cosby Sweater.
Over the past year and a half Cosby Sweater has grown from being a coincidental side project to a nationally touring and recognized name. For such a young band, their list of accomplishments is great; Cosby Sweater has shared the stage with Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, Digital Tape Machine, Future Rock, and Zoogma and performed at major music festivals such as Electric Forest, Camp Bisco, and Summer Camp.
The band’s success has not come without growing pains, however. Nick Gerlach, saxophonist and ewi player for Cosby Sweater, recently made the decision to call it quits with The Twin Cats in order to make what used to be a side gig his full priority. The announcement was made public just days before The Twin Cats would play their last set together as a five-piece at Hyperion Music Festival in Spencer, IN.
Below, Nick tells the story of how Cosby Sweater came to be and the remaining members of The Twin Cats reflect on the past while looking forward to future opportunities.
MOJO: Let’s discuss the evolution of Cosby Sweater. Where was the first seed planted?
NG: Do you remember before Altered Thurzdaze?
MOJO: That was a long time ago.
NG: I know. But Dave [Embry] & Ashton [Kleeman] used to do this thing every Thursday [at The Mousetrap] as Embryonic Fluid. I would sit in with them from time to time and I kind of already knew Dave. One time Ashton couldn’t do one of their gigs at The Mousetrap in October two years ago. So Dave was like, “Why don’t you come play in place of Ashton?” Sleepy played that first gig with us, too. Dave was like, “We need a drummer,” and I was like, “I’ve got a guy. It went really well so we started working together and called it Lach of Fluid. Remember?
NG: I gave him some stuff I made on the computer and he made it way better. I’m more of a writer and he’s a producer and does a ton of writing, too. So for about three months we had just been hanging out and making music just for fun. Then then later in March Magnetic was having his first CD release party and he asked Dave to open and Dave was like, “Let’s do it!”
MOJO: So, the first time you played as Lach of Fluid?
NG: Yes and this second time we were like, “We need a better name,” and I was like, “Let’s call it Cosby Sweater.”
MOJO: Had you been just keeping that band name in you back pocket?
NG: No, I just thought of it one day in the car. I used to think it was cool back in the day and it’s probably something that’s always been in the back of my mind because I love The Cosby Show.
MOJO: What kind of responses did you get?
NG: Jason King was like, “I’ll give you 200 dollars if you play as Cosby Sweater instead of Lach of Fluid.” He wasn’t going to pay us because we were just opening and then he said, “If you play as Cosby Sweater, I’ll give you 200 bucks.”
We played that gig with Magnetic and it went really well. We kept making songs. *snaps fingers* And then we opened for Zoogma a couple weeks later, and Zoogma is with Madison House. What I’m thinking is that they saw our name on the bill and thought, “What’s this? That’s a cool name,” and checked out the music.
NG: They approached us. And then I was like, “Sooo, now we need a manager.” Our manager is Dan Rucinski and he lives in Chicago. He’s in Digital Tape Machine. He manages Strange Arrangement and Eumatik…
MOJO: So how did you know Dan Rucinski?
NG: Just from the scene. He books The Twin Cats. I like how he worked. So all that happened and we signed with Madison House, which is really weird because we’ve done three gigs [at that point]. So we’re really lucky.
MOJO: Three gigs in?
NG: Yea. We’re probably the luckiest band ever. Then they started booking us gigs. We were making music, we put out an album. It turns out me and Dave are pretty good at making music together.
MOJO: So it just started snowballing?
NG: It started snowballing. There was nothing I could do about it. It was weird. It was almost embarrassing. I almost felt bad for my other friends that are musicians. But then on the other hand, I’ve been busting my ass for like, ten years.
MOJO: Right. So all along the time you’re kind of managing all your other stuff on the side?
NG: Right. So because DR books Twin Cats he was like, “Alright. I’m gonna balance this out.” And at first it was cool. Last summer Cosby Sweater wasn’t nearly as busy because we were still getting out there.
MOJO: Still kind of a 50/50 split?
NG: 50/50, maybe even more Twin Cats than Cosby Sweater. Last fall was about the same and then in the spring we started getting really busy because we were going farther.
MOJO: You credit that to Madison House?
NG: I credit that to everybody involved. A booking agent is essentially a sales person. They can’t sell a bad product. They have connections, but I credit all involved. Not just the manager and the booking agent- but they are definitely a catalyst in how fast it went.
So they’re based in Colorado and they were getting us shows out there and then all the festival stuff started popping up. You saw our fall tour; it’s ridiculous. There’s no way I could play in another band. So I sat down with The Twin Cats [to talk]. The fall tour hadn’t really been booked yet, I was just warning them. I was like, “I have to make Cosby Sweater a priority.” This is an opportunity that I just… if I say no, ten years from now I’ll be kicking myself.
MOJO: How recently was this?
NG: This was back in June when I really saw what was going on. Then the fall tour came out and I had to miss Kammy’s Kause. There was a Mousetrap show the next weekend and I was booked for that, too. And then I saw we were booked on Halloween I was like, “Okay, I can’t do this anymore.” It’s just not fair to them.
I’m not trying to make it sound like I’m being totally unselfish here- because obviously I’m being a little bit selfish- but you gotta think about yourself sometimes. It’s not like I’m never gonna be seen on stage with them again but for the time being, I’m out of the band.
MOJO: What was their reaction?
NG: They’re supportive. They’re happy for me. No one’s mad at me. No one hates me.
MOJO: How long have you been in the band?
NG: Nine years. That’s longer than my parents were married, you know? It’s cool. They’re not like, talking shit behind my back. It helped that I sat down and talked with them face-to-face.
MOJO: So you’ve been with The Twin Cats for nine years. And Cosby Sweater is a year and a half old. And look what’s happened. What’s different that kept The Twin Cats from making that leap?
NG: One thing is that the Cosby Sweater style of music right now is a little more marketable. Not better, but more marketable. There’s more of a market for that; those are people who are paying to go see things. Also, Madison House is super connected. So they’re putting us out there, but when we go to those gigs we are delivering and we’re getting asked to come back. You’ve seen the photos from Electric Forest. I mean, Madison House can get you the gig, but they can’t get 2,500 people to your set. It’s not that people didn’t like The Twin Cats; I think it has to do with the style of music.
MOJO: Right. It’s part of the EDM bubble.
NG: One thing that I like about Cosby Sweater is that it’s not just straight-up DJ stuff. We’re still a band, too. So I think we have a good chance of lasting. We have some staying power. And we write so damn much music. We released two EPs and two LPs in a year. So we’re doing the work, too.
So going back to The Twin Cats- they’re all cool. Some people will naturally have more of a problem than others. But they were a band before me, too. I think people forget this. I was the last guy in.
MOJO: How long had they been around before you?
NG: A long time. I don’t know. Since high school. They’ve just always been doing stuff as The Twin Cats no matter who the band is because that’s their band name. The twins are The Twin Cats. So it’s cool and it’s going to be seriously a great time tomorrow. We rehearsed yesterday and I was like, “I’m picking the set list.” We’re not doing any covers. Just gonna play some tunes that I like playing. It’ll be classic Twin Cats.
I’m sure it will be emotional but, you know, it wasn’t a hard decision. People think it was a hard decision but it wasn’t. I’ve been wanting to be a full-time musician since I was 15 years old. I’m 32 years old now. I don’t have time to wait for opportunities. I have to take the opportunities that are given to me before all my hair falls out.
I like the music, too. It’s not like I’m just doing it for the gigs. I really like the music. It’s cool to do something different musically. As much as I love The Twin Cats and I love that music- and I’ll never not love it- after a while you want to change it up.
MOJO: You gotta keep setting the bar higher, too.
NG: Yes, exactly. I don’t even know exactly what my goals are, but I know they’re not to play in the Midwest.
MOJO: A lot of people are okay with local fame.
NG: And that’s not even a bad thing. There has to be people like that. It’s like an ecosystem.
MOJO: It’s like a cycle, too.
NG: People have to quit after a while so people can take their place. Just like any business.
MOJO: That’s one of the things I’m most excited to ask The Twin Cats is, “What does the future hold?”
NG: This is an opportunity for them.
MOJO: It’s an opportunity for them to evolve and I’m excited to see what they come up with.
NG: I know they’re gonna do a couple shows and then they’re gonna take a little break, I think, for the rest of the fall. Probably reorganize. Phil’s gonna get married. Seth just got engaged. Everybody’s growing up in the band, you know? I’m not growing up. I’m gonna do this while they grow up.
MOJO: Finally, what are some of your special or favorite Twin Cats memories?
NG: The blatantly obvious one was the ESPN show. I don’t even need to say it.
All the Halloweens. Especially the first couple Halloweens, when it first started being a thing.
MOJO: What was your favorite Halloween costume?
NG: Well, it’s hard because we didn’t always do themes. Sometimes we’d just all do our own thing. I think my personal favorite of mine was “guy caught in a windstorm”. I put a wire in my tie.
The first Summercamp was a good memory. It was in ’07. We were playing the camping stage. No one was there but it was like, “Finally we’re playing a big festival.”
The Werkout last year. I think it’s the best set we ever played, musically. I think it was like textbook Twin Cats. Funky, raw, rockin’ out. We’re not the most polished band- we, they, whatever it is now. I think there’s a rock element. Maybe not in a punk rock way, but just raw. That was just a raw set. That’s one of my favorite sets, musically, especially in the last year.
So the ESPN gigs. For some reason last year’s Werkout is always gonna stick out to me. The first Summercamp. And all the Halloweens. Oh- and that Mousetrap show when we got back from tour after we got robbed. That tour was fucking crazy and there’s no other way to put it.
The Twin Cats’ Adam Catron, Seth Catron, and Phil Geyer reflect on the past while looking forward to future opportunities
MOJO: I’m curious if you’ve given much thought to what happens next in The Twin Cats.
SETH: Basically, we know where he lives so… there’s got to be some kind of transition, you know? It’s like The Bloods and The Crips.
ADAM: There’s always going to be rivalry. Gotta be gangster.
SETH: Yeah, we’re gonna duke it out in the streets and be like The Sharks and The Jets. It is on.
ADAM: We’ve talked about it and, you know, we were The Twin Cats before Nick so it’s just like we were before Nick joined the band. It kind of gives a little bit more space for everything but yeah- we’re going to keep rockin’.
PHIL: We’ve got some shows for the remainder of the year. At some points we’ll be doing four-piece stuff, at some points we’ll do some sit-ins with special guests and things like that.
SETH: Obviously, it’s going to be a different show. There are certain things that we’re going to bring back. We’re going to be playing stuff that we’ve been writing. It’s going to be real new and interesting. Every time there’s a change in the band, there’s that transition period. We’re doing some really cool stuff as a four-piece.
MOJO: You’ve been practicing as a four-piece?
ADAM: We did Kammy’s Kause as a four-piece and it went over really well. Like I said, we were The Twin Cats before Nick. We’re all used to playing with each other. We’re going to fill in the gaps here and there with different people.
SETH: Yea, we’ve got some people sitting in with us. There are some really good jazz chops from some of the players we’re getting in. I’m not a jazz soloist but it’s one of those things that I think fits our sound. I could do one jazz solo and then somebody else has got to take the next one. *laughs*
PHIL: I think it depends on the exact situation of the music but sometimes in the four-piece one of the remaining four steps up and fills the void (or tries to anyways… Nick made a lot of noise) other times you just do some minor rearrangements of the song to kind of smooth it out and make it more applicable to a four-piece band. As far as long term future I think we’re still kind of playing it by ear at this point. We don’t really have something set in stone necessarily.
ADAM: It’s going to give us a good opportunity to write some more stuff. We’ve kinda become known for having people sit in, too- like Rusty and Skittles [aka] Skitz and the guys from The Breakdown Kings, different horn players. Open it up for us to have a horn section some nights; just completely different. Bring out the horn section for a couple songs or something like that. So it really is kind of opening things up for us.
MOJO: So is everything cool between everyone?
MOJO: When you look back and the whole nine years flash before your eyes, what moments stand out?
Looking ahead, The Twin Cats predict an R&B/soul movement converging with the jam scene in the near future. It’s a sound they feel their special blend of funk and jazz is especially conducive to. Be on the lookout in coming months for one-off sets with a revolving list of special guests as The Twin Cats open a new chapter of experimentation and rediscovery.
And as for Gerlach and Cosby Sweater? They’ll be in a town near you soon.