A Conversation With Quilt

I met Derek Pinkham and Chris “Cuzo” Cocuzzo at Muddy Waters on a beautiful Friday afternoon to discuss their band, Kwilt. Muddy’s is something of a Burlington tradition for UVMers and townspeople alike. The delicious coffee and homey tree-like decor provided the perfect atmosphere in which to interview this local college band.

I met the guys at 5:00. Derek was drinking an organic coffee and Cuzo was sipping a pint. They immediately began speaking excitedly about Kwilt, impressing me with their focus and dedication to music.

I expected Kwilt, as a college band, to consist of a few kids who thought it might be fun to jam around a bit, but instead I was presented with deeply committed individuals struggling to find the time to rehearse, do schoolwork, and still have social lives.

The balance is not always easy for Kwilt, composed of members Derek Pinkham (Guitar, Vocals), Chris “Bert” Hebert (Bass, Vocals), Peter Krag (Keyboard, Vocals), and Chris “Cuzo” Cocuzzo (Drums, Vocals). “I’m a history major, and I read sooo much,” says Cuzo, lamenting the busy schedule that prevents more practice time.

“We are all eager readers,” says Derek, who is especially fond of The Odyssey and The Iliad. “We play a lot of chess together, too.”

The members of Kwilt resist the generalization of the band as “a jam band,” asserting elements of funk and jazz, and even a similarity to the classic piano trio.

The band’s inspirations are as varied as their sound: Cuzo cites Phish, Johnny Cash, and Wilco as major influences. Derek mentions Radiohead, Van Morrison’s album “Astral Weeks,” the Talking Heads, and Raisinhill. Derek loves the movie, Dead Poets Society, and cites it as a major influence on both his music and his life.

Derek also admires Jimmy Buffet. “Playing music is like sailing… Jimmy Buffet was a sailor. He was the son of a son of a sailor. I agree with Jiimmy Buffet, the way he thinks, you know… A successful businessman, a wise man. He came from, you know, some great roots, and took his big tropical Caribbean feel to his music and said, ‘Hey, here I come,’ you know? Jimmy Buffet, I mean one thing he said was, ‘There’s a cowboy in the jungle, and it looks so out of place.'”

Indeed.

Derek and Cuzo met through a mutual friend, and Derek met Bert outside of Simpson Dining Hall, where Bert and Derek jammed together for awhile. Peter was discovered playing piano in a practice facility on campus. Bert and Peter also play jazz in an orchestra, and played at the Flynn on Friday, February 13th.

Derek does most of the writing for the band, and he writes everything from quirky songs about spiders to long pieces for his composition class on Samson and Delilah.

While last year the band played many campus gigs, including performances at Slade Hall and at a blood drive, and participation in Battle of the Bands, they are now looking forward to expand off-campus.

The dynamic between Derek and Cuzo made it easy to see why the band works together so well. Constantly playing off of each other’s ideas and thoughts, the two made a funny pair, as they in turn agreed and disagreed with one another.

“We’re planning on somehow starting something for children. We’re somehow planning on starting an educational facility and/or club, you know, in terms of learning music.” Derek says at one point.

Cuzo looks at him as if he is crazy and says, “Educational facility? We want to break into the bar scene and start rocking.”

They do agree, however, that they would like to raffle off a quilt for charity.

The two say that this playing off of each other’s ideas translates to their music as well, where they often pick up on small cues or themes from each other.

“When we’re really on our game, when we’re really grooving, I feel like I can read everyone’s minds,” says Cuzo. “Because I can tell where Derek’s going, I can tell where Peter’s going; it’s like the best high in the world, and I don’t even take drugs.”

With two juniors, a sophomore, and a freshman making up Kwilt, the future is uncertain, but the band members are open-minded. “Terrible things do happen, but great things happen. So we’re just kinda living today, working toward those great things, pushing toward them,” says Derek.

“As a good friend once told me, it is wise to consider what the great Stravinsky said, ‘In music, nothing fails like success.'”

When pushed for an explanation of this quote, Derek says, “When you succeed, keep going. Never feel like you’re at the top of the mountain.

Because there’s people feeding on the sumptuous feast all day, but I… You know, I like to go for the berries and climb to the top more slowly. You know, get somewhere and be like, “Now I’m at the sumptuous feast. Should I dig in or put a little in my sack and keep going?’ And I put some in my satchel and continue.”

After a pause, Cuzo says, “Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to that.”

The band is thrilled to be playing in a place as receptive to new talent as Burlington, and as peaceful and different a location as Vermont. “The air is different here,” says Derek. “I can’t get enough of Vermont,” Cuzo agrees.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the two members of Kwilt I met that day. I walked away thoroughly charmed. The band will be playing at RadioBean Saturday, February 21st.