Staff Spotlight: Maddy Wildman and slapslap
Maddy Wildman, UMS’s University Programs Manager, is also a member of the Ann Arbor-based band slapslap. Self-described as “sitting somewhere between creative improv, up-tempo dance music, post-funk, and performance art,” slapslap consists of two electric bassoon players, Maddy Wildman and Ezra Gans, and two percussionists, Tanner Tanyeri and Cameron Wilson.
On Friday, July 2 at 7 pm, slapslap will perform at the Riverside Arts Center Parking Lot in Ypsilanti as a part of A2SF (Ann Arbor Summer Festival). The event is free but registration is required.
In anticipation of this performance, we asked Maddy some questions about the band and what she is most looking forward to on Friday.
UMS: Can you tell us how slapslap began?
Maddy Wildman: One day Tanner (one of our drummers) messaged me on Facebook: “Hey, wanna start a band with two electric bassoons and percussion? We could play house parties or something.” Ezra, Cameron, and I were immediately into it. Then we just kind of got together and started playing and making songs. Our first big show was Cameron’s birthday in the legendary living room at 412 N. Thayer (yes this living room).
As far as the name, we were getting lunch at a No Thai and just kicking around names. Most of them were terrible: Biomagnetic Bison, Sauce Policy, Slippery When Wet…at one point Cameron threw out the name slapslap. We were all like, “nah, what even is that…actually, wait, that’s perfect.” The name kind of became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a big reason why slapsticks are the backbone of our music. It’s also just like a vibe. It really gave us permission to lean into the memey side of what we do. Just like the name, our band is chaotic, fun, and kind of confusing. Like, I don’t even know what slapslap is half the time but when we do it it’s 200% slapslap.
Would you talk about the instrumentation of the group? From electric bassoons to slapsticks and “contraptions,” slapslap has always had a one-of-a-kind sound. How did this develop?
Yeah, the instrumentation is huge. It’s so unusual that it kind of ensures that all of our songs are pretty unique sounding. The aux percussion setup is the secret sauce in my opinion. Lots of wacky noises to play with.
The compositional process for slapslap is wild. We all bring extremely different interests and tastes to the rehearsal room and yet come out with something that distinctly slaps. We’ve drawn from a lot of different inspirations, really whatever we happen to be listening to at the time: Moon Hooch, Frank Zappa, Brad Mehldau, The Westerlies – just to name a few. I think we’re really good at allowing ourselves to try out even the weirdest ideas. There’s kind of an “anything goes” energy to the band. That’s definitely how we ended up with a song about a bad infomercial.
Your members are currently split between Ann Arbor and New York. Has slapslap been able to stay active during the pandemic? Has this distance been a challenge, or has it felt somewhat more natural during this period of distancing?
We’ve done a little virtual slapping while apart. We proudly presented “slapslap presents: A slapslap Flapjack Breakfast: A Dinner Theatre” with our good friends at Fifth Wall Performing Arts. But for the most part, we’ve been laying low. So much of what we do in rehearsal and performance relies on the buzzing energy of people together, so I think it was the right choice not to force our work into the virtual space.
Your gig with A2SF must be the first in-person slapslap performance in a long time. Is there a certain aspect of live performance you’re most looking forward to?
Yeah, the last show we played was on March 9, 2020! We squeezed like 50 people in the living room for that. In retrospect, that was not super public health informed!
We’re so so pumped to play live again. It’s absolutely essential to what we do. So much of slapslap is visual, shocking the passersby who are just like… “wtf?! I don’t know what that is, but I’m into it!” I’m definitely excited to grab the attention of random people walking around downtown Ypsi. Audience participation is also pretty important to us, so expect to get a little of that when you come! Slapslap is shamelessly fun and I am so hype to bring the audience back into that experience.
What can we expect to see on Friday? Will you be wearing hard hats?
New songs for sure! We’ve got a couple in the works, maybe more to come this week. We might do some skits with that audience but I don’t want to give anything away yet (also why decide so early?)
The outfits are being heatedly discussed among the band. Hard hats are a given (like duh, what is this, amateur hour?!) but the rest of the outfit is still TBD. Just like almost everything we do, I’m sure it will come together last minute but still be very very honest to who we are. Slapped together as they say 🙂