Lettuce: In the Pocket

Lesley Mahoney
September 24, 2012
Lettuce got its start at Berklee and was back to host a clinic and concert at the BPC.
Lettuce frontman and drummer Adam Deitch
Saxophonist Ryan Zoidis
Photo by Dave Green
Photo by Dave Green
Photo by Dave Green

Call it musical synergy. Or more specifically, advanced pocket rhythm. From the moment they started jamming one summer at Berklee’s Five-Week Program, this group of aspiring musicians couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to do it again. 

“It was an unexplainable, undeniable connection we had immediately that made us keep in touch,” said saxophonist Ryan Zoidis during a conference call phone interview with Lettuce frontman and drummer Adam Deitch. “As soon as we played together, we all couldn’t wait to play together again. That feeling is still there.”

“All of us have a very common ground of advanced pocket rhythm,” Deitch said.  

It was that connection that led the original members to study at Berklee full-time after the Five-Week Program (most of the band’s current members are 1998 Berklee graduates), and form the seven-piece funk collective.

Fresh off the release of its third studio album Fly, the Brooklyn-based band came full circle two decades later when it came back to the Berklee Performance Center stage this summer for a clinic and concert. 

In fact, for Deitch, this time around was a much better experience. Back when he was at Berklee, he played the BPC with Dennis Montgomery III’s gospel choir; despite Montgomery’s support and guidance, he recalls feeling not only over his head—“these were all real deal church guys”—but also distracted, thinking about jamming with Lettuce. “To redeem myself and come back here completely in my comfort zone was like a breath of fresh air,” he said.

One secret to Lettuce’s success is its ensemble mentality, truly operating as a unified group. At the same time, the musicians credit their own solo endeavors with fueling the band with new, dynamic creative energy. 

“A lot of bands together today never got to see what they could do on their own,” Deitch said. “It eats away at your core being. If you don’t do it on your own, you don’t know what you can bring to the group. That’s one problem Lettuce will never have.”

Lettuce’s members’ production, songwriting, and performance credits are impressive, including sharing the stage and studio with such artists as Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Lady Gaga, John Scofield, Britney Spears, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Wyclef Jean. 

The fact that each member’s musical projects and interests span such a wide range of music—from hip-hop to funk to reggae to jazz—contributes to Lettuce’s range.

“It’s really ridiculous how big spectrum is between all of us,” Zoidis said. … I might be checking out some ’60s country record and (Erick) E.D. (Coomes) is super into pop hip-hop right now.”

Along with Berklee’s influential instructors and performance opportunities on campus, Deitch and Zoidis point to their gigs at Wally’s as fundamental to their musical growth. 

“(Owner) Paul Poindexter was a father figure to all of us, allowing us to be there and hone our craft playing live,” Deitch said. 

It all comes down to seeking out and capitalizing on opportunity. 

And even to this day, the genesis of the band’s name—a play on the musicians’ eagerness to “let us play”—holds true.