Lisa Wimberger and her husband, Gilly Gonzales, are percussionists extraordinaire: The two keep time for local acts Lunar Fire and Inti, but they also bring some of their other, subtler drums out to play in their project Lil Sum'n Sum'n.
This Thursday, November 18, the duo is releasing Lil Sum'n Sum'n's latest album, Into the Deep, at the Bluebird Theater, where listeners will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime set featuring dueling hang drums, one of the rarest drums on the planet.
We caught up with Wimberger to ask about the new album, what it's like collaborating with your spouse, and what we can expect at the release party.
Westword: For those who aren't familiar with Lil Sum'n Sum'n, can you explain what that project is all about?
Lisa Wimberger: Our project is improvisational world percussion-fusion, and we play an array of common and rare drums and instruments. We mix a little bit of traditional West African technique and Afro Cuban technique with Middle Eastern and Western-influenced music to form a percussion experience that has a really global and melodic effect.
We were inspired to create this project because in our various other projects, we're playing some of the bigger, more in-your-face instruments, and we have this beautiful collection of really subtle and melodic instruments that don't get to be featured. We wanted a way to feature some of the subtleties around percussion.
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I feel like there are a lot of percussion groups out there that specifically address a genre, from metal to salsa -- all of these very specific genres -- and we wanted to fuse all of that so that the music could reach everybody, and it wouldn't distinguish between one crowd or fan base and another. We wanted this to be an expression of connection.
What can you tell us about Into the Deep, and how is it different from your previous album?
With Into the Deep, we really wanted to feature just percussion. Our previous album, Released, was percussion-focused, but there were some melodic instruments on top of it. This one, we wanted to feature the melody of drums, because they have such a vast spectrum of melody that becomes really lost because they just become the timekeepers in a lot of other projects.
We focused on making each song have a voice, a melody, and on distinguishing each song from the other, so that the CD itself sounded really diverse. The first and the last songs, "Breathe" and "DEvine," feature hang drum, tablas and beautiful, ethereal vocals -- and that is not necessarily representative of the whole album, because then you go to "Tsunami," which is a very driving, adrenaline-infused piece that features a traditional drum kit and West African douns, and then we have some very soundtrack-sounding pieces, and we also have pieces that feature just wooden drums, and we have songs that feature just the animal-skin drums, like all the different djembes that we have.
So each song really has a very different feel, a different intention. Some of them are really groovy and danceable and take you on this soundscape journey, and some are meditational, so we really wanted to feature the diversity of all the beautiful instruments that we play.
What's it like collaborating so closely with Gilly, your husband?
Well, I feel very blessed to be able to play music with my husband. It's a gift that I don't take for granted. We bring out in each other very different things, and we bring to the table very different things. Gilly's specialty, if you will, is he's an amazing kit player, he's an amazing tabla player, his sense of musicality is very refined and sophisticated, and he brings all of that -- and he brings a lot of production knowledge to the recording of the pieces.
I come from a dance background, so I just want to get into a groove and find a way that my body can move to it, and my background is a little bit of the West African, Afro-Cuban and salsa dancing, so I bring this other flair to the music. And we really complement each other. So when we're creating, sometimes he lays down the foundation, and I fit into that, and sometimes I lay down the foundation rhythm, and he fits into that.
We craft the songs together; it's pretty equal across the board as to the different instruments we're playing, and we sit together while we're mixing and mastering. He does most of that, but I'm sitting there next to him listening and giving my feedback. It's an amazing opportunity to collaborate like that.
Tell us about what you have planned for the release party, and about the dueling hang drums.
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Hang drums are extremely rare. They are probably the most beautiful drum I have ever heard. They stopped production on them a couple of years ago in Switzerland, so they are very hard to get. We are blessed to have one. It's rare to hear a hang drum in person; it's even rarer to hear it over a large sound system; and it's exponentially rarer to hear two of them at the same time.
We are blessed to have a friend with a drum, and we have Issa Malluf coming up from New Mexico, and Gilly and I will be playing one simultaneously, and Issa will be playing the other, so there will be three people playing hang drum over a professional sound system, and that's literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Ariana Saraha is going to be doing vocals. She recorded with us; her voice is so beautiful and transforming, and we're excited to have her there. We're thrilled to have Kailin Yong, who is a beautiful, beautiful person and soul and a beautiful violinist. He has graced us numerous times with his strings. He'll be there for the last few songs for the set. And we have opening and closing sets with DJ Buddha Bomb, who is one of my very favorite DJs in the Colorado/New Mexico scene. We're really excited to have him play those sets. Additionally, he's playing our CD tracks in his sets, so Into the Deep runs through the whole entire show.
And we have two amazing live painters. We have Kevin Wilkinson there, and he is responsible for the beautiful, beautiful artwork that we've had on both our CDs, and Jeremy Robinson will also be painting. He's painted live at some of our shows this past year, and we're really excited to have the live component and community feel of bringing all these different genres. The fusion doesn't just happen with our drum sets; it happens with electronic music opening and closing, it happens with the artists. Lil Sum'n Sum'n, CD-release party, 8 p.m. Thursday, November 18, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $10-$12, 303-830-8497.