The Big Sip Laps up Success



The Big Sip’s cover photo for their first EP, “Music For Clapping.”


Middlebury’s biggest student musical act, The Big Sip, proves that sometimes, all it takes to assemble a band is a single night.

“We actually all met our first day, because we lived in the same hall, and jammed together the very first night of college,” said bassist Jack Cattabiani ’20. He along with Matt Dienar ’20 (guitar and vocals), Nick Schrope ’20 (keyboard), and Evan Mercer ’20 (drums) became fast friends, created a band, and settled on the name “The Big Sip,” which, as Diener explains, refers to someone taking “a Big Sip of pavement” (i.e. falling on the ground). The band’s first performance as a group was at the first Wednesday Open Mic Party (WOMP) of the fall of 2016. Since then, they’ve put themselves on an arc of growth, starting with their first non-WOMP show in Laurie Patton’s house and escalating to venues such as Burlington’s Higher Ground and Sidebar.

They’ve also been busy in the studio, making their own music.

“We started with mostly covers,” Cattabiani said.“[We were like a] Vulfpeck-cover-cover band. We’d only cover Vulfpeck songs or songs they’d covered.” But as they grew as a band, they produced their own, unique songs, influenced by the band’s various musical sensibilities.

“We all come from a jazz background,” said Diener, but both he and Cattabiani emphasized the wealth of influences the band uses, citing funk, rock, hip-hop and R&B as inspiration to create a unique sound that can’t quite be pinned down to any one of those genres. Their debut EP, Music for Clapping, is filled with funk and rock-inspired bass and guitar work, but the jazz influences still shine through, largely thanks to the band’s recording process that lends itself to showing off their improvisational talents.

Diener said that Music for Clapping was only recorded with “two tracks, one of all the instruments and one with the vocals.” This somewhat unconventional choice made parts of the album tricky to work with in post-production, with Cattabiani noting that the mixing of the five-track EP took months to finish, but it paid off musically. Near the end of their first track, “Escaldita,” you can hear jazz improvisation where the bass is playing off the guitar, and vice versa, creating an organic musical moment that can’t be pre-written in normal songwriting.

“It happened in the moment, and now it’s captured forever,” said Cattabiani. This sort of “jazzification” is present in some of the band’s cited influences, such as BADBADNOTGOOD, whose jazzy spins on hip-hop tracks give them a unique sound (a sound also seen on the lone cover in Music for Clapping’s tracklist, a funk and jazz-ified cover of Chance The Rapper’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses”).

But The Big Sip isn’t content with this sound they’ve found. They’re still trying to evolve it and find their identity as artists. That’s as good a reason as any to be excited for their new EP, the release date of which is up in the air, but contains material good enough to get them a manager, a big business move for such a young group. It’s hard to say what exactly to expect from them in terms of evolution, partially because the band members themselves have trouble articulating. Writing original music is difficult, and Diener and Cattabiani themselves refer to burnout they experienced for a time when trying to have new music ready for every new set. They’ve moved back to having covers ready to entertain event-goers, but they’re still puzzling out what their own oeuvre ought to look like.

“Nothing we do while we’re here really matters,” said Diener, comparing Middlebury to a crucible, a breeding ground for a fledgling artist before they’re spit out into the real world. Music for Clapping is a great record, but it’s also the first for a very new band, and when fans of the sure-to-be-world-renowned The Big Sip (or whatever band evolves from them) look back, the work they do here as they try to find their footing could very well be their origin story.

“I don’t know what exactly I’ll end up doing,”  Diener said. “I feel my purpose in life is to play music.” No one but The Big Sip knows for sure what’s next, but keep an eye out in the coming months for the newest EP and its release party. And if any talented vocalists are looking to be a part of this musical evolution, give The Big Sip a call. “We need a rapper,” Cattabiani said.