clip of a completely improvised jam recorded in the Union Square subway station — was posted in 2014. It went on to rack up more than 7 million views.
In the years since, they’ve collaborated with high-profile acts like Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks, as well as artists like British Soul singer Jess Glynne and EDM producer Kaskade. They’ve reached such a level of pop culture success that their sax player Leo Pellegrino is having to sue Fortnite developer Epic Games for purportedly ripping off his likeness and “signature moves” without permission.
As impressive — and highly unusual — as this list of achievements may be, Too Many Zooz trumpeter Matt Doe is no less proud of the trio’s humble underground origins.
“At the time, it felt like the music world viewed us as second-class citizens, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t get it,” he says of the group’s subterranean playground. “But for us, it was literally such a no-brainer. Every band in New York City is looking for a rehearsal studio, right? And we not only had a rehearsal studio (the subway stations), we were getting fucking paid — and paid well — to rehearse.”
It wasn’t long before the band’s irrepressible music and eye-catching dance moves reached well beyond those subway platforms. They began touring America, then Europe, while recording and releasing an album and five EPs over the next five years.
Too Many Zooz's latest single and video, an instrumental cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” was released in mid-September; the video now has more than a half-million views on YouTube. The track craftily juxtaposes musical genres, shuttling from Dixieland to Dubstep, with a number of genre-blurring stops along the way.
As it turns out, Too Many Zooz’s fans haven’t been the only ones paying attention. After a string of lower-profile collaborations, they received an unexpected invitation from Beyoncé to appear on her 2016 album Lemonade. The full band participated on the track “Daddy Lessons,” while Doe also contributed trumpet to the hit “Formation.”
“Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m the last person to get excited about all this,” Doe says. “Of course, I’d be lying if I said that getting a call to work with Beyoncé wasn’t exciting, but for me, I try to approach every session the same way. If you’re going to take the job, do the job, you know what I mean? And with Beyoncé, it was the same thing: You show up and do your very best with what you have — which, in my case, is my trumpet — to serve her record.”
When it comes to their own music, Too Many Zooz gleefully celebrates random acts of creativity.
“It’s not that there’s no such thing as a bad idea, because there are bad ideas,” Doe says. “But it’s more like, everyone in this group is entitled to say, play and act however they want. None of the three of us are ever going to be like, ‘Yo, don’t play that or don’t say that.’ Like, we just don’t give a fuck, bro. We have this creative and democratic environment, whereas I know a lot of bands and artists who don’t have that.”
Doe views the bigger picture in much the same way.
“We live in a world where people will make fun of you and condemn you for just trying something different,” he says. “So if you’re in a place where your ideas are constantly challenged, and there’s this dictatorship over your creativity, fucking leave. Just run so far from that. Because if you hold onto that mentality, you’ll never ever evolve or change.”
Too Many Zooz plays Saturday, Feb. 1 at Northside's Urban Artifact.
UPDATE: It was previously announced that this show was sold out. A post on the Facebook event page now says limited tickets will be available at the door beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday night. Click here for details.