Maybe you are looking to get out with family and friends to start off the holiday weekend, maybe you want to get away from the family for a little bit, either way do yourself a favor and head to Nietzsche’s Friday night for Turkuaz w/ Alan Evans’ Playonbrother. I promise you will have fun. I know that might be bold to say, but I have confidence in the abilities of Turkuaz to make you dance, hoot and holler late into the night. Also they are on the road celebrating their new album, Future 86, so go out and show the support if you can.
Check out the interview with guitarist/ singer Dave Brandwein and watch this clip of “Feelin Alright” for a good idea of what to expect…
Turkuaz not only cover great songs but also have excellent material of their own to choose from.
I hope to see you there. Be sure to check back next week for photos and a review. Here’s the Facebook event. And now onto the interview…
Taylor and I lived together in Boston while in our last couple of years at Berklee. I built a home studio and we were working on a ton of different projects for exisitng bands. One thing we didn’t have though, was a funk project, which was strange because anytime we played music for fun, it was always funk or dance music.
So we started a nameless project which we temporarily called the “funk/disco” project. We created some demos and started writing songs really just for fun. At this point, pretty much all of our time was spent at home recording. We didn’t go out much at all, except occasionally to the Turkish market across the street (can you guess what it was called??). And though we didn’t leave the house much, we had lots of friends over — one of whom worked for Berklee’s record label, Heavy Rotation Records.
Unbeknownst to us, our friend submitted these demos to the label to see what they thought of it, and they immediately contacted us and asked us to be a part of their compilation that year, as well as their annual showcase, which was at the Berklee Performance Center for about a thousand people. After some debating as to whether or not this was something we wanted to do, we called 8 or 9 of our friends to do the show with us (5 out of 9 of us to this day were on that first show), and named the band after our favorite Turkish market, Turkuaz.
At the time, we were especially into Sly and the Family Stone, as well the Talking Heads — particularly the film “Stop Making Sense”. I think from the get-go, the vision was to embody the spirit of Sly’s band, with the theatrical aspect, strangeness and lyrical quirkiness of the Talking Heads, all while basically having a big party onstage with our friends. Though some has changed, I think many elements of this still exist now.
What instruments are in the band?
The band now consists of drums, bass, 2 guitars, 4 keyboards, trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax, 4 vocals, 2 tambourines, and sometimes even a talkbox, all played by 9 band members.
We’re now hovering around 180 shows per year or so. Which means 200 plus days on the road. Not to mention any additional rehearsing, writing, recording, etc.
We’re definitely working hard, and it definitely feels like it. But of course we all love doing it, and we know why we’re doing it, and the goal it’s meant to achieve. This is how we get people to hear our music and become fans, hopefully for life. It pays off I’d say almost on a daily basis, which helps make it all possible. We’re not relying on any shortcuts, labels or any magic tricks. Just hard work, good shows, and good songs.
It has not always been this way, as our first several years we were only playing a few shows a month at most. We didn’t really hit the road until late 2012, so we’re just barely a couple years into paying our dues on tour.
This album was put together over the last couple years, precisely as we began touring heavily and becoming a more seasoned live band. It’s the first of our three original studio releases to feature Craig (guitar, keys), Sammi and Geneva (vocals), which we’re all very happy to finally have.
It was all recorded and mixed at my studio in Brooklyn, NY (Galaxy Smith Studios – the modern day version of what once was that home studio back in Boston). The album is comprised of some songs that have been staples in our live show for a long time but never were recorded (Bubba Slide, Future 86), and some that were written and cultivated more in the studio than at live shows (Physical Challenge, E.Y.E.). It’s got rock elements, funk, and even some soul. Most of all, it’s definitely our favorite studio recording to date.
Very occasionally I’ll sit down and write something with a guitar or sitting at the piano. Or the band will put a groove together in rehearsal or in the studio. But 90% of the time either myself or one of the other guys will make a demo with some specific groove and instrumental ideas in it, (drums, bass, guitar, keys, etc.), and I’ll write the vocal/lyrics over it.
Once I record lyrics over the demo, I send it around to everyone again and we finalize the arrangement and all the instrumental parts in a rehearsal or even at a soundcheck. The arrangement of the song, meaning the song form and each person’s exact part, is where we all truly collaborate. Very rarely will I come in with parts for everyone, though it happens in some specific cases if I pictured a specific horn line, synth line, etc..
So far I haven’t really collaborated with anyone on lyrics or melody, which I think really just has to do with my writing process. It’s very stream of consciousness and not rooted in any sort of rhyme or reason so to speak. But that could certainly change one day. Everyone in the band has great musical ideas.
Turkuaz has some great cover songs in the repertoire. Who chooses the covers and how often do you filter in new ones/ filter others out?
It’s really hard to say. But when it comes to covers, it seems there’s a bit of a collective Turkuaz consciousness that just knows when it’s time for us to cover a certain song. Some choices are better than others obviously, but it’s usually something we’ve all been thinking about for a long time. Some are songs that are under the mainstream radar and we kind of dig them up and make them our own, and some are classics that although it could be risky territory, we’re kind of just say “what the hell” and go for it — though we do have our limits of what we’re willing to attempt.
Obviously the reason overall we love doing covers is because we’re blessed with ample instrumentation to pull off a lot of songs that some bands can’t (or just shouldn’t) do. I think we’ve grown a lot as a band and as arrangers in covering certain albums and artists. We’ve done whole shows of Talking Heads, Joe Cocker, and we’re even doing a Sly set later this year. I think it’s something that a band can really grow from if done well.
Name a few bands that have influenced Turkuaz, whether it be sound or stage presence.
Well all 9 members have very different influences. But as a band, I think I can confidently name off a few…
As stated before: Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Talking Heads
Some other notable ones: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Allman Brothers… I could go on forever..
We usually just let loose and join the fun. Sure, if there’s a particularly grueling run of shows, there are moments where you’re dripping sweat, looking down at the setlist and you see you have a whole hour left, it can possibly feel like work just in terms of the amount of energy that you must put out, whether you feel like it or not. But at the end of the day, I think we’re glad for that to be our job, and our worst case scenario most times. It’s hard not to have fun up there with the type of music we play, enthusiastic fans, and 8 of your best friends up there with you.
Well first we spend an hour or two loading up all our gear. And after all the load out and the show, everyone’s usually pretty tired. So it’s often pretty calm. It’s usually a very short ride to wherever we’re going after the show except for the occasional long haul back home. Needless to say, it’s cozy in there, but we’re all so used to it at this point, and though we look forward to a day with cushier travel accommodations, we make it work!
Well, first and foremost, we’d probably be sleeping or relaxing. Posted up in a hotel room or in a friend or family member’s home and enjoying not traveling for a day. Or.. correction.. Most likely we’d be traveling – to get closer to wherever the next show is. But if not that, definitely relaxing.
If we’re blessed with more than one day off, we’re known to check out the local sites from time to time. Or maybe a casino, Maybe an amusement park. Maybe a nature hike. We sometimes split off and do our own thing if we’re in a bigger city where people have family and friends and there’s lots to do. With the wide range of where we tour, our activities would largely depend on what part of the country we’re in. A day off in Chicago is different than a day off in Sedona for example.
Haha. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Sammi does an excellent job of keeping our instagram up to date. It always acts as sort of a chronological travel log or scrap book. You can go on there and see all of our various adventures, funny roadside sightings, friends, food, etc. It’s a good way to always check in and see what we’re up to — at least the internet appropriate things.
We’ve been more into simple color coordination lately, and wearing nice presentable clothing. We tend to go in and out of phases of actually having group outfits. Although, the jumpsuits have a way of occasionally making their way onto the stage. You never know!
Well the hard parts are not having tons of personal space, or alone time. Or even just time to go off and explore, when we often have such a tight schedule and a lot to do each day just to make the show happen. Being away from loved ones can be hard. Eating and exercise are also difficult sometimes as you could imagine. But it’s most often offset by the upsides.
The best things are traveling and seeing new places, new people, as well as friends and family all over the country. We link up with some of our favorite other bands on the road. We tend to have a good time, and as I mentioned earlier, we’re all really good friends. There are no hired hands in Turkuaz. We are a band in the true sense of the word, even with so many people. We do this because we love it, and we want to spread our music as far and wide as possible. Though one day we’d certainly welcome our schedule mellowing out a bit, we’re going full force right now because we believe in it. We power through. What’s power funk without the power?