GOODGOODNOTBAD is a student band spanning all four current class years and several musical genres. The band is made up of drummer Stefan Laos ’17, bassist RJ Tischler ’16, saxophonist Sam Wallach Hanson ’18, and rappers Harsha Sen ’19 and Tiyé Pulley ’19.
The band formed earlier this year, when Laos contacted Pulley after being impressed by a performance of his at Olde Club.
“I heard Tiyé perform last semester at Olde Club. A lot of the music I listened to took rap and mixed it with different genres or included live instrumentation. I really wanted to do that, be a part of that, but had only played rock up until now,” said Laos.
The other band members fell into place as Pulley and Laos reached out to others who they thought would be interested in being apart of this project.
“The first session I was like ‘I kinda told Harsha about this and he was excited about it so I’m gonna bring him,’” said Pulley.
The band’s name arose from necessity. In order to compete, they needed a name for their group. Pulley jokingly proposed a reference to a similar group and the name stuck.
“Our band name is GOODGOODNOTBAD, a play off an actual jazz trio called BADBADNOTGOOD. Our sound is also pretty similar to theirs, so we’re sort of paying homage to what they’ve done,” said Laos.
The band plays a genre described by Wallach Hanson as “rap/jazz/funk.” A unique facet of their performance is that it is largely improvised, especially the saxophone and vocals. In fact, all of the rapping Pulley and Sen do is freestyling. This means that the songwriting process for the band is focused around Laos and Tischler constructing a form for the song.
“Either Stefan will try a beat that sounds cool and then I’ll play something over it or vice versa, I’ll bring a riff and he’ll play a beat under it. Other times, we’ll listen to music and try to, not necessarily mimic it, but play something similar,” said Tischler.
The choice to have all of the rapping for their songs be freestyled is an unusual one. Several band members explained what their music gains from this choice.
“Coming from doing a lot of jazz, a lot of jazz is also improvisational. Because you’re not just playing the same thing over and over, you can’t just get into your own head, you have to be interacting with other people,” said Wallach Hanson.
“Although we have preset forms for all the songs, every time we play the song it’ll sound a bit different. It’s cool to hear the evolution of the song, hear what we get on any given night,” said Laos.
The members of GOODGOODNOTBAD identified artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington, who have both recently done groundbreaking work in the genre of rap/jazz/funk, as significant influences. Laos additionally named Hiatus Kaiyote as well as his drumming-specific inspiration.
“My favorite drummer of all time, Larnell Lewis, just has this ability of musicality that is unmatched. He just knows what to play and how to play it in every single genre,” said Laos.
Sen explained that his decision to develop his freestyling skills was actually inspired by a Bengali MC he knew.
“There was one guy back home, he called himself A-List. He’s a phenomenal freestyler. He was probably the first person I saw who could freestyle fluently,” Sen said.
As far as his inspiration, Pulley responded only with, “I would have to say Ronald Reagan.”