The brasshouse band Too Many Zooz gained notoriety when a 2014 YouTube video of them performing — or “busking” — in New York City’s Union Square subway station went viral. It highlighted the wild dance moves of saxophone player Leo Pellegrino, who goes by Leo P. Other band members are trumpeter Matt “Doe” Muirhead and drummer David “King of Sludge” Parks.
Beyoncé selected Too Many Zooz to record with her and to accompany her at the 2016 Country Music Awards, the same year their debut album “Subway Gawdz” came out. Known for colorful outfits and hairstyles, the band has since played internationally and their music featured in a TV advertisement and movie.
Too Many Zooz performs April 19 at Fairfield Theatre Company with Moon Hooch. Brad Durrell recently spoke with Pellegrino.
Brad Durrell: How did your interest in music begin?
Leo Pellegrino: My dad plays the accordion and sings. I was performing at a young age — and not just music, but acting. I was performing before I could talk, really. I loved music and loved playing for other people.
BD: Tell me about “busking” in New York City subway stations for tips?
LP: It was the best-paying gig I ever had. I was playing a lot of gigs in New York that were stepping stones and not making that much money. That’s how you get started in the music business. You play for a few nights for no money, and then you play on the third or fourth night and get paid. A lot of people in the industry go through this period, where you play gigs and have no idea what the benefits are.
You go into the subways and it’s just direct. There’s no band manager you have to work with and share money with. I’d dance and play the sax, and people would give money to watch. It’s very simple.
BD: Then the video went viral?
LP: I can dance and play sax at the same time, which is not something other people can do. I figured this would help my chances in the music business. I could just tell people liked it. The people of New York City reflect the people of the world, with their diversity in backgrounds and incomes, plus all the tourists and visitors, so it’s like playing for an international audience.
This video was one of hundreds and hundreds made of us that were put up. I think a lot of it is just luck — being seen at the right time. My mom saw it about a month before everything happened and told me, “This is going to be big.” Then people started calling me and I knew it was big.
BD: What exactly is brasshouse music?
LP: It’s a combination of a lot of different styles. I like to describe it as the energy of a DJ combined with the chemistry of a jazz trio.
BD: How did you get picked to record and perform with Beyoncé?
LP: Her musical director found us through Facebook and sent us a Facebook message. It was totally random. And then we did a bunch of rehearsals in Los Angeles before doing the CMA event in Nashville.
BD: What can people expect at the Fairfield show?
LP: We’ll play together with Moon Hooch and also perform separately. There’ll be a lot of dynamics. It’s almost like a Broadway show, with higher high points and lower low points than in a subway performance. We do songs from different eras, with a little conversation during the show as well.