Gretchen and the Pickpockets formed about six years ago while front-woman Gretchen Klempa was a student at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Since then the band has been performing in and around the Granite State, pleasing crowds with mostly upbeat funky tunes enriched with lively horn hooks.
Now Gretchen and the Pickpockets has released its second full-length album. It’s called “Falling Rising.” Gretchen and her brother and bassist Mike Klempa stopped by NHPR’s studios to speak with Peter Biello about their new album.
Tell us about the origins of the band. How did you get started?
Gretchen Klempa: I was a sophomore in college, maybe, and my dad for years has been like, “Why don’t you guys start a band?” and we were like, “Yeah, dad.”
Mike Klempa: Because we did music independently all throughout high school, Gretchen in middle school, too. We never did anything together. I don’t think we would have survived.
So you went to high school and middle school in Exeter, and college at UNH in Durham?
GK: Yep. And our dad was like, “Why don’t you guys start a band?” And we just ignored him. And then we thought we just should. And then we just searched for—it kind of fell into our laps, I guess. That’s just how it always happens, I feel. You just by chance meet the people you meet.
MK: Yeah, we went to high school with our drummer. And Gretchen met Ryan, our trumpet player, through a friend of a friend.
GK: Then we met Richie through Ryan.
MK: And then we just grew. And we were looking for a band name and we live in Pickpocket Woods, and so our dad was saying, “You should be the pickpockets. You should be the pickpockets.”
GK: And we’re like, Okay, Dad.
MK: Stage-dad, telling us what to do. But then we thought it was pretty good.
Tell us about a track you like from this album. Set us up for one.
MK: I don’t know. What’s your favorite song off the album?
I was going to say, my favorite song is “Let Me Do My Thing.”
GK: That’s a fun one.
Let’s play it.
All right, so tell me the story of this song.
GK: Our trumpet player, Ryan, wrote this song a couple of years ago and he brought it to the band and we were all like, “Yeah!” and we fell in love with it. It’s a fun song, supposed to make you tap your feet.
What draws you to this type of music?
MK: Everyone in the band has similar interests in music but also very different interests. So everyone’s pulling from a different perspective on all the songs.
GK: There’s a common denominator. All of us love the kind of funk and jazz and grooves.
MK: We just try to do them in different ways.
There’s one song that seems to have a kind of Caribbean feel. I don’t know if that’s the way to describe it.
GK: Oh, yeah. “Take Flight.”
MK: This is another one that Ryan wrote, our trumpet player. And he spent some time in Africa so I think he’s kind of inspired by the African drumbeats.
What is New Hampshire’s music scene like from your perspective, from the perspective of a band trying to a build a name for itself. Is New Hampshire a good place to do that?
MK: Yes. I can only speak to the Seacoast, which is where we’re from. But as a UNH band, there’s a large network cultivating the young musicians, giving opportunities that I don’t think cities could really offer, and that really helped us gain traction and momentum going in.
GK: Yeah, sometimes I look back and I feel like we’re a little bit better than we were five years ago and I think, “Oh, thankfully they gave us a shot and they let us play at these venues and shows.” But I think, “Uh, really?” Looking back at our old videos, it’s funny, but I’m really thankful for that.
New Hampshire is a good place to learn?
GK: I think so.
MK: And stay.
And stay. Is that your goal, to be a New Hampshire thing, or are you looking for a national stage someday?
MK: We’re very happy to be from New Hampshire, and I don’t think we want to be just a New Hampshire band or a New England band. We want to be a …
MK… International band, is the goal.