Live Interview:  Turkuaz

05 May 2016 - The Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Dave Brandwein - guitar, vocals; Taylor Shell - bass; Craig Brodhead - guitar, keyboards; Michelangelo Carubba - drums; Chris Brouwers - trumpet, keyboards; Greg Sanderson - tenor saxophone; Josh Schwartz - baritone saxophone, vocals; Sammi Garrett - vocals, tambourine; Shira Elias - vocals

The Lot Scene sat down for a fantastic interview with Brooklyn-based power funk band Turkuaz on Thursday, 05 May 2016, at The Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO.  Covering topics as recent as their new album, Digitonium, and latest tour of the same name as well as reaching back into the band’s past, the interview yielded some fascinating and oftentimes funny results.  The whole process was a joy from start to finish and we’d like to extend our thanks to the band and the gracious folks who support them in an official capacity for agreeing to this interview.

Additionally, this is the first interview we've been able to offer in an audio format for you, our readers.  Just click on the YouTube video below for the full audio of the interview.

Please enjoy… 


Turkuaz at The Bluebird Theater

Turkuaz at The Bluebird Theater

(Administrative note:  Speakers have been identified where possible.  “TKZ” stands for a response from an unspecified band member.)

TLS:  Really, all these questions stem from our interest in the band and your projects.  And, really, we did spend a lot of time so, hopefully, these questions are going to be of interest to you guys and may be of interest to answer.  So, let’s go ahead and get started.  Um…  //laughter//  We’d like to start things out on a little bit of a light note because, unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it, Will and I are a little late to the Turkuaz party.  So, we’ve become fans as of late and done a quick study.  We saw you guys for the first time last year at All Good and, since then, have followed your progress on JamOn, various places like that, and really have fallen in love with the band.  Well, one of the things that we came to understand was that, back in 2012, there was a Kickstarter campaign.  And we missed that and we’re kinda bummed about that.  But we know that there was a project of that Kickstarter campaign as something that came about.  And that was the “Taylor Shell Sings the Hits” album…

Turkuaz:  You guys did do your homework, didn’t you?

Brandwein - This hasn’t gotten enough press.

Shell - I mean, frankly, I don’t know why we’re pushing any of these other records. //laughter//

TLS:  Tell me about it!  Well, that’s where our question really lies.

Turkuaz:  Shell - It’s all dog shit compared to that album. 

TLS:  When is the public release?

Turkuaz:  It’s gonna be called “Bridge Under Troubled Waters”.  //laughter//  

Brandwein - Is it not out?  Is it not publicly released in any way?  Other than the video stuff?  I guess not.

TLS:  I could only find, like, the commercial that was put together.

Turkuaz:  Oh ok.  It exists.  It’s a real thing.  We should put it out tomorrow.  

TKZ - Tomorrow?

Shell - And it’s like 11 songs, or something.

TKZ - It’s 11, yeah.

Shell - It’s an 11 song…it’s a full-length.    

TLS:  So, of those tracks, like of the band, there had to have been a clear favorite or two, like what was noteworthy?  We have our own in the office, we won’t tell you…

Turkuaz:  “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” is one of my favorites.

TKZ - “Jingle Bell Rock”.

TKZ - “Jingle Bell Rock” is also very sweet.  

Carubba - If you knew the chronology of, like, how we recorded it…we just kept bringing shots of tequila.  //laughter//  …drunk, so the later it gets…

Shell - The premise was that I couldn’t read any of the lyrics before the take or listen to the song and I had to do a shot between each song.  We did, like, 11 songs.  //laughter//  I think I did about four shots before we started.  

TKZ - And they also trimmed his beard…we shaved your beard…

TKZ - We shaved you down by the end.

TKZ - Yeah, yeah.

TLS:  Yeah the video was pretty interesting in that because you got to see your evolution or devolution.

Turkuaz:  It was a six hour delay.

TKZ - It was a good six hour session.

Shell - We were in there for, like, six hours.

Brodhead - We really needed money at the time. 

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Shell - Please, I’ll do whatever.

TLS:  Fantastic.  

Turkuaz:  So, yeah, maybe tomorrow we’ll put it out.

TKZ - Beautiful.

TLS:  Well, you know what?  In the spirit of that, guys, we’d like to contribute something to the band. (Hands TLS flask to Dave Brandwein.)

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Oh yeah?  Look at that.

TLS:  And that’s filled with Ireland’s finest.

Turkuaz:  Whoa, alright!

Brandwein - I was gonna say that felt a little heavy.

TLS:  We figured, just in the spirit…’cause we kinda knew shots were a part of it and everything, you know.  

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Awww, that’s so nice.

TLS:  You seem like a nice band.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Awww, thank you.  Pass it around?

TKZ - Volume Two.  That’s “Taylor Shell Volume Two” right there.

TKZ - That’s what I’m talking about.

TLS:  You know, you kind of want to grease the wheels of good journalism. 

Turkuaz:  Shell - //laughter// … “Volume Two ‘parentheses’  Up to No Good” //laughter//

TKZ - I like that.

TLS:  Perfect.  Know what?  We’ll go ahead and grant you that. //laughter//

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  Oh man, right on.  Well, here, in the spirit of brevity, let’s go ahead and keep going here.

Turkuaz:  Cool.

TLS:  So, we’ve read a lot of other interviews with you guys with various members and stuff…about, it’s a big band, we realize that, a lot of personalities and everything and, from everything we’ve read, things seem to go pretty well for you.  So, we’re not as interested in that as we are really kind of interested in some of the more nitpicky?  So, like, logistics:  you’ve got a ton of instruments, a ton of people…I mean, this is no four person band.  This is no string band.  There’s a lot of electronics, a lot of stuff to set up, so, it’s got to get a little crazy with that kind of hectic, like, scheduling and everything… 

Turkuaz:  What do you mean?  //laughter//

TLS:  So, what has happened as a result of that, being such a big band there’s got to be some story from the road, some particular little thing where it’s like where the stage was too small or, you know, the green room was a little cramped.  Or something like that…

Turkuaz:  Too many too count.  

TKZ - That’s kind of normal.

Carubba - I think everyone’s gotten to know their rig, like, up and down.  Everyone knows exactly the limits they can take it in terms of stretching out and having space.

TLS:  Sure.

Turkuaz:  Carubba - Everyone knows how to do the job to the best of their ability with the most limited amount of space.  So, I think we’ve gotten to know our instruments and how they work in this band really well, by virtue of the fact that we don’t have that much room to do it.  

TLS:  Sure.

Turkuaz:  Elias - Space is the exception so when you have it, it’s a luxury.

TLS:  I bet, like when you play festivals, you know, with a big stage…

Turkuaz:  You saw us at All Good.

TLS:  Yeah, you guys really had, like, tons of room…it was a really cool show as a result.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - More and more we’re getting more room and better stages.  But certainly, our first few years of touring, almost every night was like this much space…

TKZ - Comically small.

Shell - Comically.

TKZ - And we’ve gotten more and more gear as the years have gone by.  //laughter//   

TLS:  More toys.  Absolutely.  

Turkuaz:  Schwartz - I used to have to stand, like, on the floor off the stage sometimes because I’m the same height as everyone when I do that.

TKZ - //laughter//

Schwartz - Not anymore man.  Old days.

TLS:  Back in the dark times.

Turkuaz:  Yeah, we’ve also understood each others’ set-ups a lot better, too, so that helps us work, actually, everything together on stage…my elbow radius, what moves I can do in certain…I guess it’s because it’s always been like this, you know, you just still kind of accept it.  Not that it isn’t very frustrating sometimes.  Some of it just gets to you.  Because it’s always been like this, it’s not like a new problem.  

TLS:  Right, it’s just a new venue.

Turkuaz:  It’s just the way it is.

Brandwein - We usually show up, we allot two-and-a-half hours just for set up not even including sound check and then, for example, yesterday we had to do…so we have that much time but we know how to do it in, like, 20 minutes.  When we’re forced to we seem to do it.

Shell - Yeah, we can flip it however fast that we have to, but to do it at a comfortable enough pace and have the show really be set up as best it can, it takes about two hours.  

Brandwein - The lights are sacrificed.

TLS:  That’s a lot.  Yeah, sure.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Although, I do feel, like, when we do play on big stages it’s nice to have a lot of space, but then being, like, so close together, like, I miss everyone.  You’re so far away from me. 

TKZ - //laughter//

Garrett - It’s like, I want you closer.

Shell - It does create sometimes more of a unity, or just like an intensity of connection.

TLS:  You’re like a big family band.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Definitely.

TLS:  Absolutely.  That makes perfect sense because your energies are so interconnected.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Yeah.

TKZ - Yeah.

TLS:  Right on.  (Chris Brouwers joined the interview in progress at this point.) Yeah, come on in!  Absolutely, the more the merrier.  Yeah, Chris.  Welcome, welcome.  

Turkuaz:  Brouwers - Hello.

TLS:  Parker, good to meet you.

Turkuaz:  Chris loves logistics…

TKZ - Chris is the logistics guy.

TKZ - He would have been the guy back there..

Shell - Logistics is easy!  We just look at this thing on our phone… //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

Shell - It all just magically appears there.

TLS:  Just like that!  What do you know?  Amazing!  And with no work from anyone, right?  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, we’d like to turn, um, real quick to talk about the latest studio album, Digitonium.  Obviously this is the Digitonium Tour.  Um, and, so we really enjoy the album.  We’ve fallen in love with the album; there’s so much depth, so much breadth.  And we put it up there as one of the best concept albums that we’ve heard. 

Turkuaz:  Awesome.  

TLS:  So, kind of start to finish, that’s our opinion.  And we know that you’ve created this new universe, this place called ‘Computer World’ — you know it’s got a unique cast of characters like Murderface and Doktor Jazz and Percy Thrills, the Moondog.  So there’s all these really cool people and experiences that we get to meet.  Um, can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for that world and, like, some of those characters?  ‘Cause it’s this new thing, this new body of work, and it’s so rich and there’s obviously a lot to it.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - If I remember correctly, I think it started with the word.  

Brandwein -Yeah.

TKZ - Yeah.

Brodhead - It was like Dave knew that he wanted the album to be called that a long time ago.  

TLS:  Right.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And we basically just tried to examine the word.  And then we were like into trying to do something really different from our last album, you know, just to do something more electronic.  And, you know, in that world more and then it all just kind of became from the word, we took it from there and then…  

Brandwein - And the word is borrowed from the song “Higitus Figitus” in The Sword in the Stone…

TLS:  Sure.  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - …um, they say ‘prestidigitonium’ and I was always like, man that’s so funny that that word worked its way into, like, this old movie from the 60s that’s about Medieval Arthurian Legend.  You know, it sounds like such a futuristic word to me. So, then that song came first, writing-wise and then, from there, it was just like, yeah, I think this should be the name of the album and just kind of explored that concept a little further.

TLS:  Cool.  Well, it’s an incredible concept, like I said, we’ve been having so much fun exploring it ourselves and getting to know these people, getting to know these facets of this album.  Very incredible.  Deep guys, like really deep, powerful stuff.  

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - If we ran out of ideas, we would just say the word ‘digitonium’… //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  So that’s why!  Oh…the secret’s out, huh?  //laughter//  Well, keeping along the album, we wanted to light on one song in particular which is a song that we really particularly enjoy because it’s been the catchiest, the one we come back to the most, the one that was kind of a sleeper that caught us and that’s “European Festivity Nightmare”.  Um, and, it seems a bit more focused.  Like it’s possibly based around a personal experience?  Or something of those lines?  And, so for us, the song sticks out ‘cause it’s a little different.  You know, it’s first-person; there’s very few first-person songs on the album.  This is one that is very first-person, like this is happening to me.  Or happened to me.  So, are we right?  Are we close?

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Yeah, yeah.  It was just a dream.  I woke up one morning from a dream where I was over in Europe…  We had gone there after we graduated school and just partied in, like, Berlin and a bunch of other cool places — certainly rooted in some of those memories.  But, I was over there and found out we were supposed to be on some tour over here, but I was, like, partying and having a great time, but super stressed out.  It was like a nightmare where I was partying and I had never had that mix of…  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter// 

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - And I woke up and I had this sort of, like, “Beat It” style groove kinda going and I was, like, man we don’t have any songs that sound like that, this would just be a weird concept.  I actually…up until the last minute I kept wanting to rewrite the lyrics to not be that, but…maybe a couple of you were there for the conversation, but we ended up keeping it which…  But it was directly from an actual dream.  And, like, even some of the specific details like the 900 dollars that it cost to get back and all these different, like, some of the visual stuff in there it definitely exactly from the dream, too.  

TLS:  Does that happen pretty often for you?  When it comes to writing new songs?  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Uh, in dreams?  No, no.  //laughter//  That was a rarity.  

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - All his songs are dreams!  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - No, that was a rare occurrence.  Definitely.  

TLS:  Right on, man.  That’s pretty cool.  Not what I was expecting.  //laughter//

Turkuaz: //laughter//

TLS:  Finally, and this is our last question.  About the album, I’d like to turn to the sync.  That’s pretty fascinating as a project.  

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - What do you mean?  //laughter//

Shell - No one’s ever asked us…

Brandwein - The is the first time someone’s actually asked us…

TKZ - Apparently, word’s out.

TLS:  Oh really?  Well, so, we were on the fence about asking you, too.  Like, well maybe they don’t want to talk about it because of, like, whatever considerations or whatever.  But, we’ve got to know.  And people we know want to know.  There’s a lot of questions out there about this because people have seen it, you know.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - The real thing was that, when the album came out we didn’t want to promote that in any way.

TKZ - We didn’t want it to be like a gimmick.

Brandwein - It would completely overshadow it.  Also, curiosity of, like, are people going to figure this out?

TLS:  Totally.  Well, you left all those clues!

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - ‘Cause if you know the movie pretty, like…I was of the mentality that people definitely would figure it out.  If they knew the movie well enough, I mean just looking at the album art and titles of things…

TKZ - Lyrics.

TKZ - Lyrics.

TKZ - Turns out there’s large leaps of logic that you have to do to actually get to it.  Like when we actually had to make it ourselves just to put it out there…

Brandwein - No, people did catch on.  There was stuff early on, like, on Phantasy Tour or something…

Shell - Yeah, before we said anything, yeah.

TKZ - But we haven’t officially said anything.

TKZ - Right now.

TKZ - Let’s do it.

TKZ - You can talk about it now, officially say something.

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - On the record.

TLS:  No, I mean…

Turkuaz:  We fucking did it!  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Shell - You should check that shit out — it’s pretty tight!!  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - I’ll share a story with you of just how crazy detailed we got about it.

TLS:  Please.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - So we did all the tracks and, you know, I mean it was really complex and Dave can talk about it more, actually how it…the process is a very weird thing.  Trying to line up two things and make it all fit.  And, like, at the end, to get all the little motions and stuff to make it work we had to, like, do with a layer of sound effects.  Dave and I spent a lot of time doing these layered sound effects and we were done at the main studio and I was working in my brother’s basement ‘cause he has a little studio right there.

TLS:  Nice.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And he has, like, a regular job and we was, like, going to work one day and I was down there just turning synthesizers to try to make the sound of a squirrel jumping…

TKZ - //sound effect noises//

TLS:  Right, yeah.  Sure. 

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And he, like, literally walked in on me and was like, “dude, are you OK?” 

TKZ - //laughter//

Brandwein - We were joking that he calls us and we’re like, “Craig hasn’t been in the band for awhile.

TKZ - //laughter//

Brandwein - I don’t know what he told you he’s doing in there, but…  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  So, you assured him that you were OK.

Brodhead - No, this is…we’re really doing this.  It was that point of insanity, of actual attention to detail that we did it so…

TKZ - But we sat in, like, the…when we were doing, like, edits when we were sitting in the control room, like, “is this bubbly enough?”

TKZ - “Does that sound like bubbles?  We need more ‘room’ sound bubbly.”  It’s like everything little thing, like…

TLS:  That’s fantastic.  So, did you always know that you wanted to do that when it came to writing…?

Turkuaz:  It was a joke.

Brandwein - It was kind of a joke…I mean…

Shell - We started talking about it really early on.

Brandwein - What it was…was that song was based on the film and I was like, maybe…and it talks about, in the song “Digitonium” like, you know, Sir Ector and some specific stuff from the movie.  

TLS:  Right, totally.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Help me remove the sword. Man, maybe though, it should just be a theme album about, like, surrounding that movie.  And then it was, like, man, what if we could make it go along with the movie?  Which, kind of, it was said and then forgotten for a little bit.  But then you had the demo for the first, what ended up being the first song, the “Introduction” and, for shits, I was like alright this sounds like a cool first track to Digitonium, let me just see what happens.  And I put the DVD on manually and I was, like, I see how lyrically you could make stuff work over this and, like, timing-wise where the pieces kind of lined up, but then you’d have to shift where things go to find the right timing.  And that was really the first one that got locked in and then the second track was, like…so those two were kind of written to the film where some other stuff we had to, like, massage it a little.  

TKZ - I feel like I remember being in the studio and we even had a couple of tracks recorded and we were still talking about it, like, are we going to go through with this?

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - Can we actually make this happen?

Brodhead - Well, we got to, I mean…very close a bunch of times and, like, completely scrapped it, because we were going to have to do the vinyl, get that on time, and, like, that has to get pressed…those orders need to go in, like, way early.  And, we’re like, we’re not done.

Brandwein - So then the vinyl wouldn’t have the sound effects, there were a bunch of logistical issues that’s, like, man is this really worth it?

Brodhead - And then we even got it all finished and were like, we’re 15 minutes short.  

TLS:  Oh really?

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - Yeah.  And then we had to, like, just make…that’s where some of the interludes and stuff came from.  To fill in those gaps.  

TLS:  Sure.  Yeah, totally.

Turkuaz:  Shell - And I remember for me the moment that is was, like, alright we should actually do this versus us joking about it…yeah, Dave lined up, he started looking at some of that stuff…

TKZ - That fucking ‘ribbit’.

Shell - And the line “ribbit” in “Doktor Jazz” like lines up exactly, yeah…

Brandwein - I literally was lining up randomly…

Shell - Totally random and it was like:  now we have to do that!

Brandwein - It goes:  “your heart it beating ‘ribbit, ribbit’ like a froggy.”   And then a frog comes on the screen.  Then, goes “yeah!”  And then the frog, like, says “yeah.”  

TKZ - And the bubble comes out!

Brandwein - I was, like, “Dude!  What the fuck was that?!?”  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - I was just, like, moving around, seeing where it worked.  I didn’t even think about the frog thing and it just, like, came on the screen and, was like, alright we’re definitely doing this now.

Shell - It just, like, happened…was like, “oh, we have to do this.  That’s serendipitous.  Let’s do it.”

Brandwein - Yeah, that’s true.  That was the quote, I’m sure.

Brodhead - The other thing about it, too, is we went in, when we went into the studio, we had been touring just absolutely relentlessly, like had no time to do anything.  And then we got there and, like, alright, well what are we doing here?  And just had, like, the name and had all this stuff, so once had decided on this concept it helped it to come together a lot faster.  ‘Cause now we are focused on…we have constraints that we can work around to try to just create a world.  You know…

Brandwein - And we hadn’t written so much which ended up being advantageous.  It gave us the ability to write to the…we only had, like, five songs…

Shell - Five songs going into 24 tracks…ended up.

Brandwein - Yeah, of course, you know.

TKZ - Yeah.

Shell - Nine of them are in…

TKZ - Exactly.

Brandwein - But even the interludes gave us a cool opportunity to play with the film stuff more and some of the dialogue and things like that so…

TKZ - And it’s kind of neat some of the interludes that we did specifically for that we’ve now turned into songs that we play as a live band.

TKZ - And kind of use that as a building block… 

TLS:  Cool, like just a framework.

Turkuaz:  A framework to go…

TLS:  Yeah, and just go somewhere else with it.  That’s awesome.

Turkuaz:  Yeah.

TKS - Yeah.

TLS:  Well, on behalf of music nerds and appreciative fans everywhere, let me say thank you so much…

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  For sticking to it, we really appreciate the end result there.

Yeah.  We watch it a lot.  Because it’s very, very cool and it’s very worthy.  And it’s very fun, yeah.  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - We kind of wished at the end that, we were, like, man we could keep working on this forever.  You know, some parts are way more on point than others, but it’s a cool ‘audio companion’ I feel like, to the film all the way through.  But, yeah, we were down to the wire.  I think we were recording voiceovers and sound effects until, like, the day before we sent it for mastering.  To try to get it done in time.

TKZ - And one of the hardest things about it was when we finally wanted to share it with people, the copyright shit is so huge.  

TLS:  Yeah, we were wondering how big of a concern that was. 

Turkuaz:  Yeah, so that took a lot of, like, just in the little back alleys of the Internet, like, figuring we can be here and it won’t get too much attention.  So…    

Brandwein - Yeah, it is crazy in terms of posting it, they take it down.  They tend to take it down pretty quickly.  

TLS:  I’ve seen them take it down pretty quickly.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - But it is, in general, in the legal world kind of unexplored territory.  There’s nothing technically wrong with making something that goes with something.  

TKZ - Once you share the content, though, it’s different.

TKZ - Yeah, right.

TLS:  Absolutely.  

Turkuaz:  Shell - But that one link has stayed strong still.

TKZ - I hope so.

Brandwein - Yeah, that’s probably where you saw it.

TLS:  Yeah, I got it, I guess, from the Live for Live Music thing or the JamBase one…

Turkuaz:  Yeah, from that link.  As long as that’s still up. 

TLS: Yeah, it’s still up and you can still download the mp4.  Which is great.

Turkuaz:  Shell - Oh, OK, cool.

TKZ - There you go.  Now it’s out there.  

Shell - That’s a really crucial way for it to spread ‘cause that’s, like, hard…

Branwein - And I do think that headphones is the best way. 

TLS:  OK.  For the record, haven’t done that yet.  OK.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - I think just sitting, watching with headphones is…you’ll catch the most stuff that way.  

Shell - There’s a lot of little subtle stuff.

Brodhead - Hear that nerds?!?  Put on your headphones!

Brandwein - Put your headphones on!

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  That’s awesome, guys.  That’s all I’ve got.  That’s all we’ve got.  Yeah guys, thank you so much.

Turkuaz:  Yeah, thank you.

//closing pleasantries//

I cannot stress enough how enjoyable and informative this interview was.  We certainly hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  We are so grateful to have had this opportunity and look forward to a long and lasting friendship with this incredible band of merry music-makers.  Best of luck in all your endeavors, Turkuaz, and we hope to see you again mighty soon!  Bravi!

Turkuaz at The Fox Theatre

Turkuaz at The Fox Theatre

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