Theo Katzman

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A skilled multi-instrumental, singer, and songwriter, Theo Katzman is known as a founding member of indie funk group Vulfpeck as well as for his own blue-eyed soul-infused pop. He released his first solo album, the acoustic-minded Romance Without Finance, in 2011, the same year Vulfpeck emerged with their debut EP, Mit Peck. A primarily instrumental group modeled after classic R&B rhythm sections like Funk Brothers and the Meters, Vulfpeck hit the Billboard R&B chart for the first time with their full-length debut, 2015′s Thrill of the Arts. Katzman’s second solo album, 2017′s Heartbreak Hits, expanded upon his debut, blending rock with singer/songwriter pop and soul.
Growing up in Long Island, New York with a father who was a bebop trumpet player, Katzman joined his school orchestra on clarinet in the fourth grade but became more inspired to play music after discovering drums at age 12. (He eventually studied Afro-Cuban percussion under Richie Rodriguez.) He took up the guitar at 14 and started writing songs in high school. Katzman left his home state in 2004 to enroll in the Jazz and Contemplative Studies program at the University of Michigan. A year later, he joined the Ann Arbor instrumental outfit Toolbox, which eventually rebranded as electro-pop group My Dear Disco (and later Ella Riot). In addition to touring with the band as guitarist/backing vocalist, Katzman appeared on My Dear Disco’s 2007 eponymous EP and 2008 full-length debut, Dancethink LP. Among the group’s other members were Katzman’s roommate, Joey Dosik (keyboards/saxophone), and bass player Joe Dart. In the meantime, Katzman completed his B.F.A. He went on to form Vulfpeck with Dart and two other music majors, Jack Stratton and Woody Goss.
As a singer/songwriter, Katzman followed his 2010 EP Solo Acoustic with the self-released Romance Without Finance, his first studio album, in 2011. Dart, Goss, and Dosik were among the musicians who contributed to the recording. Vulfpeck’s first EP, Mit Peck, also arrived in 2011. The next year, Katzman sang on fellow Michigan alum Charlene Kaye’s solo album Animal Love, and Vulfpeck issued second EP Vollmilch. The band’s third and fourth EPs, My First Car and Fugue State, followed in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
In 2015, Vulfpeck’s first full-length release, Thrill of the Arts, featured guests including Dosik, singer Antwaun Stanley, and guitarist Blake Mills. It hit the Top 20 of the Billboard R&B Albums chart and led to a performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That year, Katzman also co-produced and performed on Michelle Chamuel’s debut, Face the Fire, an album that also included guest spots by the rest of Vulfpeck. The funk group’s second long-player, The Beautiful Game, arrived in 2016 and landed on a handful of Billboard charts, including R&B Albums, where it reached number six. Katzman contributed to Dosik’s debut EP, Game Winner, also from 2016.
Six years after self-releasing his solo debut, a Los Angeles-based Katzman followed up with 2017′s Heartbreak Hits. Recorded in Ann Arbor, it featured appearances by Goss and Dart, with Katzman covering all drums and most guitar on the album. The year 2017 also brought the release of Vulfpeck’s third LP, Mr. Finish Line, a Top 40 independent album that included appearances by Bootsy Collins and drummer James Gadson. Katzman also contributed percussion to the title track of Kesha’s Rainbow LP alongside track producer Ben Folds.
In 2018, Katzman and Dart collaborated on Dosik’s retro-soul-styled full-length debut Inside Voice, and were part of his backing band for an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Vulfpeck returned to the Top 40 of Billboard’s independent albums chart with that year’s Hill Climber. The Katzman live album My Heart Is Live in Berlin appeared in 2019. ~ Marcy Donelson