Imagine watching a rock trio play, but hearing an orchestra.
The stop on Tybee Island is part of Kumpel’s East Coast tour.
“I’ll start in Philadelphia and go as far as Jacksonville,” he says. “Traveling is what it is — the task of bringing music to the people and what I do for a living. It’s not as glamorous as some people think.”
Based in Brooklyn, Kumpel has toured in Europe, across the United States and in Canada. He has played with Joe Jackson, Feist, Rickie Lee Jones and Nine Inch Nails.
As a solo artist, Kumpel plays a six-string guitar by looping layer upon layer in the unique style he calls “LOOPestra.” It sounds like a guitar orchestra.
Despite the way it sounds, everything you hear on stage is played live. By using looping technology and mixing vintage and modern sounds, Kumpel creates myriad textures that sound like several guitarists are playing, but it’s just his trio.
Kumpel likes to call it a “veritable funkdafied psychedelic orchestra.”
It will be preceded by a special performance by local acoustic guitarist Richard Leo Johnson, who will open for Kumpel.
Coming from a musical family, Kumpel was exposed to music early.
“My mom is a gifted piano player and church organist,” he says. “She is pretty brilliant on the keyboards.
“My father was a mathematician. He liked to dabble in Broadway showtunes and sing and play on the piano.
“If you sit at the piano and put your entire arm out, my mom can tell you every single note you play,” Kumpel says. “She has perfect pitch.”
While Kumpel doesn’t have perfect pitch, he doesn’t miss it.
“People who have perfect pitch get annoyed when things are out of tune,” he says. “She doesn’t like to listen to Turkish music or music that has different tuning than American.”
The family home was literally filled with music.
“My early life was an organic introduction to music by osmosis,” Kumpel says. “They had all kinds of instruments around the house — flute, violin, piano, organ, guitar, ukulele, a recorder.
“My mom was home with us. She encouraged us to play around with instruments.
“We got a family jam going on 24 hours a day,” he says. “Both of our parents were in barbershop quartets, and we would drive around in the car, which is how I learned to harmonize at a very young age. My sister and I figured out the parts.”
When he was 3, Kumpel’s father showed him the basics of playing the ukulele.
“Little boys want to imitate their father,” he says. “I immediately got better at it than him.”
His parents also influenced Kumpel to take up guitar.
“I’m sure part of it is my mom is so good at keyboards and my dad was so shy about keyboards, that it influenced me into not wanting to play piano,” he says. “I was lucky enough to grow up in the 1970s.
“In third grade, the teacher let me take home instruments to see which ones I liked.
“I already played the guitar and ukulele and ended up playing saxophone in marching bands, in concert band and the school orchestra. I was also in the choir.
“I knew I wanted to be a professional musician at 12,” Kumpel says. “I’m not sure why I decided this, but I guess I was pretty full of myself at 12.”
At one point, Kumpel sat his parents down for a talk.
“I told them I was going to be a professional guitar player,” he says. “I think it could have gone better.
“Some people have a lot of support as musicians. I didn’t have that, really.
“I think my father wanted me be a scientist,” Kumpel says. “My mom was mixed on it. I realized I could do it for a living if I put a lot of work into it.”
And that’s just what Kumpel did.
“When you have to make yourself up and invent yourself, you can have a chance of being somebody you are proud of,” he says. “When I was 15, I was in the all-state jazz band.
“That was really hard to get into. They chose only one guitarist in all of New York state.
“When I went to the University of Miami for music, I got another chance to say, ‘See?’” Kumpel says. “While I was in Miami, I got hired to be in the band Rare Silk, which had a Grammy nomination, so it had some clout.”
Kumpel toured with Rare Silk for a year.
“I realized they were not paying me enough,” he says. “I asked for more money and the others asked for more, and they fired the whole band.”
But Kumpel did get the opportunity to open for Miles Davis at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.
“Then I went back to school on a full-ride scholarship and played in the top big band there,” Kumpel says. “I did a tour of Italy with them.
“At the end of that, I decided to go to New York. Basically, I joined the groups of New York musicians who were there to just learn and slug it out.
“It probably took me longer than most people,” he says. “I don’t know why that is, but there are definitely high states in New York and I was in there with the best of the best.”
All the while, Kumpel wanted to write his own music.
“I made records in 1994 I’m really proud of,” he says. “In the late ’90s, I got signed to EMI Music Publishing writing songs for Warner Brothers artists, but nothing happened with the artist I wrote with. The record came out and totally bombed.”
But from the experience, Kumpel learned he could make money writing songs.
“I started writing and producing and writing songs with lyrics, branching out my brand,” he says. “I played with Nine Inch Nails and did an MTV Awards appearance with them.”
All aspects of the music business appeal to Kumpel.
“I like to butter both sides of my bread,” he says. “I enjoy being in the studio just as much as being on the road. In the studio, I hole away for a couple of weeks or months, and put my best efforts putting something forward to make it sound really great.”
At the Tybee Post Theater, Kumpel will present his LOOPestra Orchestra.
“I like to mix styles,” he says. “There’s a lot of roots music in there, a lot of ambient and avant garde stuff there.
“It’s sort of like blues meets jazz, meets roots and avant garde. I’m probably kind of a strange person.
“I have a pretty broad palate of tastes and am not shy about mixing them,” Kumpel says. “I’m not a purist, so I’m not afraid to play a country song and go right into a fusion jazz song into a reggae song and heavy metal after that.”
Not many musicians use the technique.
“I didn’t one day say, ‘I’m going to do this,’” he says. “In all of New York, you couldn’t find anybody willing to do this.
“In the early 2000s, a company came out with a looper, which is a device that loops the sound. I thought I’d use it to do rhythm guitar.
“I got one and experimented with friends about the best way to go about it,” Kumpel says. “I have a bass player, Dennis Marks, who teaches bass jazz at the University of North Florida, and one of the students, drummer Stefan Klein. He’s the top drummer at the school.”
The possibilities are infinite.
“Because I loop the sounds, I also loop the band, so I never have the same band twice,” Kumpel says. “I have favorites in New York.
“We’re improvising music in front of people live,” he says. “It’s got to be totally fresh. That’s what keeps it fun for me.”
IF YOU GO
What: Teddy Kumpel LOOPestra with special performance by Richard Leo Johnson
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 24
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
Cost: $20, $18 for members
Info: www.tybeeposttheater.org, 912-472-4790