Article and Photograph by Tim W Merrill
Band managers are sometimes the unsung heroes of our beloved, ever-growing live music world. Fanbases, even of the most devout variety, might at times not know just all of what the manager of a touring music act might be responsible for. Schedules, meet and greets, gear transport, hotel arrangements, festival itineraries—the list goes on and on for what an artist manager might be in charge of keeping together. And it’s all in service to that sacred hour, or two hour or three hour, live set that we all do get to see. In our appreciation towards artist managers and what they do, we’ve set out to interview those in the trade to learn about their backgrounds.
Twiddle have a busy schedule ahead, including a gig with Phil Lesh and Midnight North tomorrow night, the return of their own hosted festival at the end of the month, a full fall tour, and more. Today, we have an exclusive interview with their equally busy manager, Kevin Rondeau. Enjoy this Q&A with Rondeau below as the second installment in our music management interview series, and ICYMI, check out the first installment with Dave DiCianni here.
And stay tuned for more to come!
The Poke Around: What are your 5 favorite albums of all time?
Sublime – Sublime
Derek and the Dominoes – Live from the Fillmore
Twiddle – PLUMP
Billy Joel – The Bridge
Nirvana – Unplugged in New York
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Kenny Brooks and Twiddle, 9/14/13, my wedding. Having Amy and I’s closest friends and family dancing to Twiddle in a Vermont barn, that one is hard to top. I truly love Kenny Brooks.
Who was your first favorite band?
I had two older brothers, so it was hard not to fall hard for The Grateful Dead and Phish. I fell quickly into the worlds of both.
Who is your favorite artist?
AJ Masthay was so out of our (Twiddle) league when he first agreed to do a linoleum block print for us. He did us a favor, lowered his minimum print requirement, and delivered “Green is Good” for a Spring 2014 run. He has done several pieces for Twiddle since then, and they seem to get better and better. His content, style, process, everything, just a veritable master at his craft.
Who is your favorite author?
Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), Gary Paulsen (The Hatchet).
Where and when did you first experience Twiddle live?
2006 – The Bitter End in Bridgeport, CT. It was a cheap dive bar, that’s since changed ownership a few times. There were less than 5 people there. I bought Natural Evolution of Consciousness, and was in awe of Ryan and Mihali’s musicianship.
I know you’re a family man. How old are your kids now? You are fairly active being on the road with the band. How do you find balance between the hectic pace of the music industry and family life?
Georgia is 3 and a half, and Levon will be 2 on August 12. It’s hard to get back from one week, or four weeks, and try to turn the work off for a few days and really be present. Because it’s 24/7 in the music industry. But that means there is flexibility too. I can make up time when and where I need to. Late at night, on the weekends, waiting in line at the grocery store. There are many ways to check an email.
When not on the road what does the typical day managing Twiddle look like?
It’s always different. I look at it from the perspective that there are not enough hours in the day. There are always shows that need to be marketed, future plans and touring that require planning and attention, and so much more. So I might be sitting in front of my computer for most of the day, or out driving around making sure the Tumble Down promo materials are out in force, and being utilized effectively.
What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
It’s largely consumed by Georgia and Levon. We go to the aquarium in Burlington a lot, the park, hiking, traveling to visit family. The other answer is I spend my free time working for Twiddle and Midnight North.
What is the White Light Foundation? How would you best describe their role in the Twiddle community?
WLF is Twiddle’s charitable arm. A fully recognized 501c3 organization, the WLF’s mission is to give back to the local communities Twiddle plays in. Often we try to give back to a charity or cause that is near and dear to the Twiddle community too. It’s really special to watch the Twiddle family give back in this way. Because more often than not the recipients of our efforts are in some way connected back to someone in the community.
Congrats on the successful trip to Colorado headlining Red Rocks for the first time. Did you make the trip out west? What was that like from your perspective?
It’s hard to describe what that weekend meant, to me, to the band, or longtime supporters. I made the trip. There were moments all weekend long I will remember for the rest of my life.
What’s next to cross off the bucket list of historic venues for Twiddle to headline?
The Rock (Alcatraz). The band would be proud of me for that answer.
You’ve been working with Twiddle since 2011, if I’m not mistaken. Describe if you could the evolution of your position with the band.
It’s key to note here, that without the help of my best friend Dan Travis, Twiddle’s tour manager, my partner, none of this is possible. I spent many years balancing my teaching career, while managing Twiddle. It’s been 3 years since I “retired” from teaching. But in the beginning, I was helping them book shows. I knew nothing about booking agent stuff, but I learned a lot on the fly. Same goes for managing the band. It’s a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. Soon after booking shows for a while, Mihali suggested I become the manager. The band needed one. It all happened organically, stemming from a genuine place. Twiddle had been my favorite band for years (2006-2010), so the four guys knew I had the right intentions. At the end of the day, trust is the most important piece of the artist/management relationship.
The 3rd annual Tumble Down is approaching fast. Through the first two years a couple of big names have sat in with Twiddle. First Page McConnell and last year Phil Lesh. Should fans expect a similar trend this year?
Even before Page jumped on stage year one (2016), Tumble Down already felt magical. Phil graciously making the trip to Burlington in 2017 felt even furthur removed from reality. I would just expect a tender weekend of music, community, and magic.
Throughout the years Twiddle’s concert print/poster game has consistently been strong. You’ve worked with big names like AJ Masthay, David Welker, and Chuck Sperry, just to name a few. Hit me with a few names you’d like to collaborate with on future prints.
I try to be very patient when approaching artists I admire and appreciate. Welker, for instance, politely replied to my requests for years before committing to a project. Patience is key. Politeness helps. When an artist says they don’t have the time or availability, I just happily say thanks so much, and that I will reach out down the road. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. To make a long answer short, Miles Tsang.
The music scene is plump with up and coming talent from coast to coast these days. Give me a few bands on your radar that you recommend listening to.
Pappy Biondo has a new solo album out called “Back to Basics,” and Midnight North is about to drop a live album featuring Mihali and Ryan, alongside Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. Billy Strings is another I am looking forward to seeing live at Tumble Down for the first time.
It takes a village. I know team Twiddle consists of much more than the band. From merchandise and front of house to lighting and sound directors and techs just to name a few positions. How big is the crew behind the scenes?
On the bus it could be 10-12 guys. 4 in the band, tour manager, guitar tech, lighting designer, merchandise, video, front of house engineer, monitor engineer. It’s always flexible depending on our specific needs that show/tour. Then there is another village behind the scenes. We work collaboratively with Ben Baruch and the 1111 Group for management, a team at Paradigm for booking representation, Kat Horton drives our amazing Street Team, and the list goes on—Edmund Edwards, Mike Bishop, Dan Robb, Owen Murphy have all helped for years. So yes, it takes a village and there are so many other people that deserve to be recognized.
With Plump Chapters 1 and 2 in the rearview mirror, how long before fans might get a taste of new material?
We have learned through experience not to suggest any timelines, until we really know. We’re touring hard all the time, and the guys have some other projects in the works including some solo albums and more. I think they know the next Twiddle album looms on the horizon.
Special Note from Interviewer Tim W Merrill:
There ain’t no I in friends but there is in interview. A huge thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m eternally grateful to you for giving me my first opportunity in a photo pit a few years back. Thank you for all that you do to help nourish the scene. I appreciate you!