Papadosio Plays Freebird Live: Interview & Recap

Papadosio plays live
Sometimes you find a genre or band that really speaks to you, that connects with your innermost vibration. Jamtronica is becoming that genre for me and Papadosio that band. The combination of electronic influence and live instrumentation brings out the best of both worlds; when it’s done right it can be truly entrancing. And these guys do it right.

It’s been quite a journey for me — someone you might call a hardcore fan — seeing Papadosio delve deeper into its sound and tap into its resonant frequency. I’m sure it has been for them, as well, being on the inside of this living, breathing, changing thing that has grown into something much larger than each of them as individuals.

On Saturday night, Papadosio stopped in Jacksonville for the third night of its run in the Sunshine State. The hosting venue was Freebird Live, a two-story corner-spot, reminiscent of a Wild West saloon. Attendance was high and the atmosphere was set for a spectacular evening.


I step inside to be met by lots of excitement. Stokeswood is starting the night off right with high energy and stage presence. I find Anthony Thogmartin (guitars, keys, vocals - Papadosio) behind the merch table smiling and eating grapes, which he offers me. We move into the green room for a quick chat before the show.

Papadosio enters the stage and the energy skyrockets. I can see how happy the five of them are to be received so warmly; they’ve worked hard for this. They move into “Puddles for Oceans,” and a strong aroma fills the air. Something good is going to happen here.

“Don’t limit emotion. Trade puddles for the ocean.”

Introductions are made (which mainly means me introducing myself), and then I am sitting down with four of five band members — Rob McConnell (bass and vocals) is absent. I ask the guys what inspires them to keep doing what they’re doing.

For Mike Healy (drums), it has been seeing their fans having fun, and really “vibing” on their music. Plus, they have a lot they want to say about what’s going on in the world, and the music is a way of doing that.

Anthony admits that they have been developing a bit of a cult following (people like me who see them whenever they’re within a three-hour radius) and that it feels good to share new things with those “hardcore fans.”

Next on the set list is a new one, “New Love,” that sounds like a California surfer’s anthem. I want to let my (really short) hair down and splash in the waves, which wouldn’t be all that difficult, since the beach is just a short walk away.

Papadosio continues to surprise me with its ability to capture and bend so many different genres to its will; the latest two-disc album, To End the Illusion of Separation, is a shining example of that, and this new song is no exception.

“When do you guys have time to write music?”

Sam Brouse (keys and vocals): “Sometimes you have those moments where it’s like, ‘I need to write a song right now.’”

There are always ideas, he says, but it’s a matter of finding time to rehearse and flesh things out. Mike tells me they have a new studio now, though, so the future is looking good.

Another new track is played. Anthony thanks the crowd for our support, and asks us to give some love to Stokeswood, their opener for this three-night run. The group successfully got the crowd “hyped” for the night with its multi-genre dance party explosion. The guys have enjoyed playing with them these last few days.

Stokeswood gets the crowd moving

They tour constantly. Mike says they get to spend an average of 150 days out of the year at their Asheville, N.C., home. I ask them how that is — being on the road so much — and how it has changed them.

Anthony quips that “strong women” are the reason he’s survived.

Sam says they’ve grown together and come to learn what each one of them needs to be happy. The biggest thing is grace — learning how to deal with and accept each other’s quirks — and the trust they’ve built. “We’ve evolved from friends to brothers,” Anthony adds.

When I ask the guys what their most recent lesson has been on the road, Anthony pipes up, “It matters what you carry with you.” The life of a touring musician has a lot of tendency toward stress, so he really must be mindful of what he carries, physically and spiritually, and “travel lightly.” It is never worth it to despair, especially with fans depending on them for great shows, night after night.

Throughout the night, the band’s visual setup adds that extra layer of stimulation that brings a completeness to the event. Paintings and strong messages of unity, love, and striving for change (the same messages that are so prevalent in Papadosio’s music) grace the three screens behind the band. In those rare moments when I haven’t closed my eyes and shut out the world in order to let myself vibe in the spiritually opening effect of the music, I look up to see beautiful goddesses and images of stories ripped from the headlines, enhancing that subconscious transfer.

“Where do the images you use in your visuals come from?”

Billy Brouse (keys and vocals) informs me that Jason Takahashi, the man behind it all, knows a lot of talented people and brings that all together for them.

But the band knows its share of talented people, too. It seems to have a love affair with the visual arts. Look at T.E.T.I.O.S: The hard copy album comes with a booklet that includes a visionary piece for every song. Live painters and performers of all sorts can often be seen at Papadosio shows. It is only natural.

“People want to create with us,” Anthony remarks. It isn’t something that was forced, it “just happened,” and they wanted it to happen.

The night winds down with Paradigm Shift as the encore, after near riot-level clamor to get the band back on stage. I don’t want it to be over; no one does. The cleansing effect of Papadosio’s music is something I have yet to encounter elsewhere, hence my dedication. After an almost 15-minute jam, the show ends, and the mist begins to rise.

I head over to the merch table to thank the tour manager, Andrew Koontz, for the chance to speak with the band. He is busy, with several people lined up to grab a piece of the show to take home. A stack of Rootwire flyers on the table gets my attention and I grab one. Going down in Logan, Ohio, August 15-18, the lineup features three sets of ‘Dosio, Karsh Kale, Bluetech, Dopapod, EarthCry (Anthony’s solo project), The Human Experience, and many more. I’ve heard great things about this festival in the past, and definitely want to make it up for 2K13.

I ask the guys if there’s anything special in store for Rootwire this year. Mike and Anthony are both really excited about the lineup; they say it’s the best one yet. Anthony also mentions increased accessibility — an emphasis on being local, eco- and kid-friendly — to open things up to different age groups that may not have felt so accommodated before.

We sit and chat for a few more minutes, and then I leave the guys to prepare, not before requesting they come play Orlando the next time they’re in the area. I step out into the last few minutes of Stokeswood, feeling groovy and blessed. I have a feeling something good is going to happen here.


Thandiwe Ogbonna is a music writer gone rogue.
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