Tonight: Cosby Sweater takes over Thunderbird Cafe


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You search “Cosby Sweater” on the Internet, you get two results we’re comfortable discussing. One is a hideous, oversized, garish sweater made famous on an ’80s sitcom.

The other is a sleek three-man electronic music group from Indianapolis that is making its first Pittsburgh appearance tonight at Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville.

The latter is the one you want to check out.

David Embry remembers every detail of how Cosby Sweater came together.

“Our first show was March 9 of 2012,” he said in a phone interview this afternoon as he and his bandmates were driving from last night’s Cincinnati show. “I had another band called Embryonic Fluid, which was just me and a keyboard player. And he couldn’t make it that night.”

Mr. Embry reached out to Nicholas Gerlach, a tenor saxophone player, who then suggested that it would be helpful to have a drummer. Mr. Gerlach brought in Richard “Sleepy” Floyd.

“I literally met Sleepy that night, about 20 minutes before the first show,” Mr. Embry said. “And all the music really came together. It’s worked out really well.”

A club promoter approached them about booking another show, and the guys realized they needed a new name.

“I told him we were tossing a few names around and we kind of liked ‘Cosby Sweater,’” Mr. Embry said. “And the promoter said, ‘If you name it Cosby Sweater, I’ll give you an extra $200.

“We actually see some people in the crowd wearing them at almost every single show. We try to wear them on stage, but it gets super hot and I usually end up taking it off by the second song anyway.”

The music they play is even hotter than a Cosby sweater. Jordan Calvano, a writer for TheUntz.com, sized them up in a recent review.

“Everything about Cosby Sweater is catchy,” he wrote. “From their witty moniker and humorous album covers, to the abounding funk they unleash. The burgeoning trio has established a knack for composing spellbinding numbers in the field of live electronica, fusing slick production with head-turning instrumentation on each robust release. This results is something so effervescent, so hair-raising, that even their most docile efforts could turn a dance-floor upside down.”

The band has produced two albums — not counting the Christmas collection and the live album coming out next week — and already shown marked growth.

“What was once rough around the edges is now suave and majestic,” Mr. Calvano wrote. “What used to sound raw has gelled and become neatly woven. That being said, we’re not the least bit surprised. The three musicians are finally discovering their niche as a core unit, each contributing to the album’s overall harmony.”

“I think he nailed it on the head,” Mr. Embry said. “Our first album, all the tracks are pretty high-energy and a very raw sound. The next one, ‘#CoolStorybro,’ we were clearly getting better. Maybe because I’m getting older, but it has more subtle tones instead of in-your-face chainsaw.”

Electronica, a relatively new genre of music, is still growing, with new artists testing its fluid boundaries.

“I feel like there’s two electronic worlds right now,” Mr. Embry said. “The underground, the hipsters, where we would be. And there’s so many bands coming out. And then there’s the DJ thing, which I think is dying out. There’s like a bubble that has grown so big, but I feel like it’s getting ready to pop.”

Cosby Sweater takes electronica and incorporates jazz theory into it, Mr. Embry said.

“In my opinion we’re a live band,” he said. “If you listen to our albums, you really get a completely different experience when you come to see us live. It’s not like we just go up there and play the tracks like you hear them on the albums. We definitely have some improvised sections, and they change every night. We’re kind of like a jam band, how we go in and out of songs seamlessly.”

The result is music that is fun to listen to — and weird to dance to.

“It’s definitely dance-oriented music,” Mr. Embry said. “People move really crazy to our music, for some reason. And it’s very infectious. There’s not a single place where we play that people don’t come up to us and say, ‘Oh, my God. I couldn’t stop dancing.’”

He expects the same thing in Pittsburgh. But you never know.

“It’s weird when we hit new markets. Like when we first went up the East Coast we didn’t know how to play,” Mr. Embry said. “We could tell people were digging it, but they hadn’t heard anything like it before. People don’t want to hear slower stuff. They like the faster, dancing stuff.

“Tonight, we’re playing one set, so basically we’re going to throw all of our bangers out there and introduce people to the sound. Anytime we play a new city, I always pick out different kinds of stuff. So once we play a hip-hop track, and then we might say, ‘OK, people weren’t into that. Let’s try something else.’ Until we find what works best.”

Cosby Sweater will be joined by Arpetrio in a show set to start at 8 p.m. at Thunderbird Cafe, 4023 Butler St. Doors open at 7 and the cover is $12.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.


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