BHS Grad Reaches Musical Heights Drumming with Goose

February 27, 2024
Cotter Ellis, upper left, plays drums for Goose. The band will be on tour in June. Courtesy photo

There’s a band called Goose that has become a national phenomenon. The band’s website describes the sound as a “unique brand of irresistible songcraft, fluid musicianship, and spirited improvisational performance.”

Bedford High School alumnus Cotter Ellis explains that Goose’s music has “an indie pop side, but still with a rock ‘n’ roll and improvisational side. It’s pretty easy for the public to digest a lot of their tunes.”

Everybody has an opinion about the music they hear. Ellis has a more authentic perspective. About four weeks ago the band announced that he is its new drummer.

“It really is surreal. It’s about as good a situation as I could possibly find myself in,” Ellis said in a phone interview.  “It’s a band that’s at the absolute top of the ladder. They reached out to me and asked if I would audition. Right from there it was clear that it was clicking. As people and musically, the chemistry was there immediately.”

Goose, he explained, is part of the “jam scene,” perpetuating the legacy of the Grateful Dead and Phish, but more “accessible.” Goose is “at a level that no jam band has reached since Phish,” he said. “They are pretty much playing at the highest level you can get to.” (“So Ready,” released in 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gypxvKKZEw)

“Rolling Stone,” in a recent review and interview, observed, “As much as the Connecticut five-piece are a top-notch live act with an ever-growing draw, Goose loves the recording studio as much as the stage.”  

Bedford High School alumnus Cotter Ellis. Courtesy photo

Ellis, 32, said Goose “hired me to bring a new flavor to the sound,” a personal style he called “purely emotional, visceral. They said I am really musical and less being overly technical. My goal as a drummer is be less of a showoff and focus more on what is going to make the band sound the best.”

For Ellis, March is “like Goose boot camp, five weeks straight.” He will be in western Connecticut with the other four band members, “fine-tuning and making sure it’s really tight.  I don’t really know their music that well so I’ve been learning all their songs.” The band’s summer tour begins in late May.

Ellis grew up alongside “Soul of Boston,” the 10-piece soul and rhythm-and-blues band that his father Dave launched soon after his son was born. “There are pictures of me playing a toy instrument as he practiced his sax,” Cotter Ellis said. “I grew up with that influence. There was a piano in my house, and always music on, of all different genres. I was always drawn to it.”

Cotter Ellis’s first formal experience with an ensemble was concert band in fifth grade at Lane School. He started on the saxophone, but “I switched to percussion because there was a girl I had a crush on in the percussion section and I wanted to hang out with her.”

He said he started working with a drum set in sixth grade and “immediately started a band, and we were together until I went to college.” Ellis, Paul Klein, Alex Kovacs, A.J. Morehead, and Matt Davis “went through a lot of phases” reflected by changing names, from Random Insanity in sixth grade to Juicy Tuesday at the end of high school in the spring of 2010.

But Ellis’s range was far beyond that. 

“I was always interested in listening to all different styles. I did marching band, and there were always a lot of dedicated percussionists with drumline experience; Hanscom kids who had lived in Florida. They had a huge influence on me.”

So did another drummer, the director of the marching band, Jim Felker, now in his 24th year. “We stay in touch through Instagram,” Ellis said.

Cotter Ellis during his high school days. Courtesy photo

Reflecting fondly on his years in Bedford, Ellis said it was “an open-minded and amazing community to grow up in and made me feel comfortable. I always will have a lot of love for the community in Bedford; I loved my childhood there.”

He recalled getting some valuable advice while considering colleges. The bass player in “Soul of Boston” suggested, “Just go somewhere and play and make connections.” 

Ellis enrolled at Plymouth, NH State College in the fall of 2010 with a concentration in environmental biology. “I went out and just played with all kinds of people, and listened to a wide variety of opinions.”

In Plymouth, “I had one of the greatest drum teachers ever,” Ellis said. 

And then, as a junior he began playing with the musicians who became his original band. The group, Swimmer, was together for nine years, mostly in the Burlington, VT area. Ironically, in 2017, Goose opened for Swimmer at a local club. “That’s when they first saw me play,” he said.

“I feel like I put in as much work as I possibly could, but then COVID killed our momentum and there were no gigs anymore.” Ellis said. 

When the scene started to reopen in 2021, “I kind of surrendered my ambition of trying to be successful with original music and played with wedding bands and cover bands.” And then came the call from Goose.

According to Jambands.com, Goose in June will be performing in Colorado, Omaha, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Raleigh, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. Closer to Bedford, Goose is scheduled to play in Swanzey, NH, south of Keene, on June 14 and Portland, ME June 25 and 26, as well as New Haven, CT on June 30. 

“I’ve done plenty of tours, but not on this level with a budget this high,” Ellis said.

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Tim Abrahamsen
February 28, 2024 2:27 pm

Welcome Cotter to Goose! We can’t wait to see you in the band when you guys hit the road soon. Only up from here!

Dorothy Ellis
February 28, 2024 9:52 am

Splendid article, Mike. Thank you, proud Nana, Dot Ellis

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