For the uninitiated, Turkuaz is a super high energy, jam funk band that almost burned down The Mint back in May. Last week I caught up with Dave Brandwein, frontman of the power-funk road warriors, in advance of their return to LA this Thursday for a performance at The Teragram Ballroom with The New Mastersounds.
Calling in from his home in Brooklyn, Brandwein was on a rare break from touring. We chewed the fat about what typically plays in the band van, the last two tracks off of their excellent release, Digitonium, and the origin of their tongue-twisting band name. Check out our conversation below, and LA, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW THURSDAY NIGHT!
In the band’s van, what kind of music are you putting on lately? What’s in the playlist?
It depends who is riding shotgun. Whoever rides shotgun picks the music. Some older classics, and what our friends are working on, like Snarky Puppy. Also, The Bees out of England. Paul Butler from The Bees has produced Devendra Barnhart, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Michael Kiwanuka.
We travel with 12 people, so its a wide variety. Honestly, 75% of the time I’d say we listen to podcasts and talk stuff because we are so inundated with music so much of the time.
The last two tracks off of Digitonium, “Bermuda” and “King Computer,” stand out stylistically from the rest of the album. Do you ever play them live?
Not so much now. When the album first came out, we did a few shows where we played the album in its entirety, which was really cool. I hope to do that again at some point. But there are a lot of production elements involved that you can imagine by listening to the record that can be a little bit tricky to do live.
“Bermuda” was written on a Juno 60 synth as an interlude, so we haven’t played it live. It was written to be a part of “King Computer,” where I worked out this chord voicing thing. But it sounded really nice on its own, so we recorded that. It’s basically the chords to “King Computer,” the fifth part slowed down.
Something about “King Computer” evokes something from my childhood. Perhaps the Reading Rainbow theme?
I think it’s something in those synth tones. We really went for those late-80s/early-90s, childlike-sounding synth tones and chord voicings. Even though it’s really synthetic, there’s also something very organic about it.
The band’s name. I saw that there was a Turkuaz Airlines that went bankrupt in 2010. What is the origin?
For us, it came from a little Turkish bodega across the street from our home studio in Boston when we lived there and a couple of us went to school there and started the band. It’s where we’d buy cigarettes and European Fanta. We would go there pretty much every day.
You mentioned Snarky Puppy earlier. With their percussionist Nath Werth joining your tour shortly, how might that change what you do?
We have Nate play every chance we get. He’s so solid rhythmically. Though extremely meticulous, he has a lot of ideas and plays a good amount rhythmically.
It keeps us all more simplified because he fills in a lot of the gaps. With his and Mikey’s (drummer Michelangelo Carubba) chemistry, energy, and sound, the rest of the band is able to lay back and dig in to our parts. It’s really great having him there. We play 150-200 shows a year, so playing with Nate makes finding new inspiration really easy.
You’re co-headlining this tour with The New Mastersounds. Who is in the headliner slot at the Teragram in LA?
Turkuaz is headlining in LA, most dates in the Northeast, and a few other areas. No matter who headlines, at the end of the night, both bands get on stage for the encore. Depending on which song we do, it’s as many as 13 people. That’s always a fun way to close it out.
I’ve read interviews where Turkuaz members discuss their sound as akin to The Talking Heads. But in terms of your voice specifically, I often hear Peter Gabriel. I mean, if I close my eyes, I truly think it’s Peter Gabriel singing. Do you hear that?
Absolutely. I’ve even noticed it. Not from a point of trying to do it, but when listening back to a song like “Murder Face” or something like that. I think it’s from listening to (Peter Gabriel’s music). For that matter, I feel like I am almost a combination between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. The Peter Gabriel stuff is more timeless, but there’s something to be said for some of the ’80s Genesis tracks. [laughs]
One more. When you guys come through LA, or on this trip, what do you try to do or see in LA?
We make sure to always get a burrito or taco from a stand or one of those trucks. We’re big In-N-Out burger fans. We go to the beach.
We have friends there, so that’s also a big part of it. There are so many people we want to see, but unfortunately, we are usually there only for a day or two. Most friends tend to come out to the show. There are so many people that we know from school or the industry over the years that end up out there, so it’s always an action-packed day or two. We make sure to get some good food, see some good friends, and play some good music.
Tickets for Turkuaz and The New Mastersounds, November 10th at the Teragram Ballroom are still available. Come get funked up side your head.