Turkuaz Talk About Trust, Growth and Overcoming Challenges With "Life in the City": "I Hope That People Still Come Away From It With a Positive Feeling"
To say that Brooklyn-based funk band Turkuaz are a melting pot of sound would be an understatement. With nine incredibly unique artists bringing their own influences, viewpoints and sounds to the table, there’s nothing that Turkuaz can’t accomplish, and that much is obvious on their recently released full-length, Life In The City. By balancing male-female harmonies, massive guitars and wild brass sections for a sound that blends rock, R&B and funk, Turkuaz give each song on Life In The City its own personality and strengths.
We recently caught up with the band to talk about their influences, the challenges that come with living and writing with nine musicians, and the message behind Life In The City, out now. Read the full interview and listen to the album now below!
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
Can you tell us a little bit about Turkuaz for any readers who might be hearing you for the first time?
We're a 9 piece touring band based out of New York City. The word "powerfunk" has often been used to describe us, but we're certainly a mix of many styles of music, all of which tend to be upbeat and high energy. It's also been said that our music is a blend of Sly and the Family Stone and Talking Heads. On each album we make though, we try to push boundaries for ourselves. Our new album Life in the City has opened up some fun new directions for the band while staying dance and funk oriented at its core.
Your sound is an incredible melting pot of different genres like R&B, funk and rock. When you guys first started writing together, was this blend of sound something you wanted to accomplish, or was it something that simply happened when you combined all of your personalities?
It was never stated out loud or anything. But with a large band of great musicians comes a deep and eclectic pool of influences. Many of us grew up listening to different types of music, and for that matter, we still have varying tastes throughout the band. There is a commonality in what we all love which makes our collaboration work so well, but the differences between us are what keep it interesting and give us our own sound.
I think the most intentional choice that plays into that is not to rule something out if it's something new or different. We try to remain willing to try new things and go with our instincts on a song by song basis with a faith that in the end, it all sounds like us because it is us.
A band of four or five people is bound to have quite a few different influences and ideas, so I’m sure with nine of you, the possibilities are endless! What are some of the most impactful lessons you’ve learned from one another?
As mentioned, we actually all collaborate really well together. We know that at the end of the day we have the same goal, and even if there are differences of opinion, we find a way through it by aiming to do what's best for the music. So I suppose trust is the biggest thing we learn and practice with each other in the writing and arrangement process. Beyond that I think the musical part of working with each other is more intuitive, and hard to quantify with words. Most of what we teach other is in life outside of music. We basically all live together most of the year, and you learn a lot when you live with that many people. Mostly just how to get over things quickly and try to move onward and upward at all times. Life has challenges and difficulties which are inevitable. The way you react and the ability to move past things is what makes or breaks you.
You guys just celebrated the release of your new album, Life In The City in September! What are you excited for fans to hear on this release?
I think we laid out a wide spectrum of what we do as a band all on one concise record. Our last album, Digitonium was more specifically stylized to one aspect of our style, leaning heavily on synth-driven 80's type sounds and grooves. Though this album has some of that, it covers more ground in a lot less time, and still takes plenty of risks and explores lots of themes. I hope people appreciate that.
Was there anything you wanted to accomplish with this album that you haven’t had the chance to do in the past?
Aside from making it shorter and representing more of what we do as a band, it was also a chance to write some more reality-based, personal lyrics, but keep it set over fun and energetic music. That's not something I hear a whole lot and I think is under-explored in general. That said, I don't know if it was intentional choice from the get-go. It's just kind of what came out this time around. The next album could have absolutely none of that, but I'm glad it happened this time.
How do you feel you’ve grown as musicians and songwriters with the writing and recording of Life In The City?
I think the selection process was a big part of it this time. We recorded over 20 songs in the couple years leading up to this release, and rather than keep everything like we've done in the past, we boiled it down to what we thought made the tightest and most cohesive album. We'll release the rest of the material at some point, but making an "album" as a concept is still important to us. Sometimes I think it's good to try and be aware of not only each song for its' own merits, but how the collection of music is presented as a "work".
Additionally there was a little more collaboration between myself and some of the other band members on this album, most notably our latest single "If I Ever Fall Asleep" is a co-write between Josh and myself. That same song was also Co-produced by Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads. Another Co-producer (friend of the band and Nashville musician Rob O'Block) worked on two of the songs (Life in the City, Fight the Fire). Collaborating outside the band was a new and welcome process for us that opened up some new perspective on what we do and how we approach it.
You recently released the music video for the album’s title track, too! What inspired this song?
I feel like we're living in dark times and every day is a struggle to remain positive in the midst of a world full of confusion and negativity -- not to mention constant overstimulation to technology, advertising and a never-ending stream of unnecessary fodder. The music video for our single last year ("On the Run") shows the main character being awakened to this dark and scary world and running away from his fears. This video is the continuation, where he enters an alternate universe in which he can deal with the issues head on, and he becomes reborn and ready to fight. It's about taking control of the situation and powering through all of the negativity at the end of the day. Acknowledging the darkness is important in moving past it.
What would you like listeners to take away from Life In The City?
Throughout the album, dark themes continue to be explored but the underlying music is still fun and energetic. It gives a hopeful feeling even though there are struggles present throughout. I think that's the biggest thing to take away. Even when what's going on around is alarming and disturbing, the underlying "music" in our lives needs to remain hopeful and optimistic. It's the only way forward. Otherwise you just give up. So even though it's a more sobering and grimmer album in some ways, I hope that people still come away from it with a positive feeling.
With the album out soon, do you have any other big plans in the works? Any shows or tour dates coming up?
Yes we have a huge tour coming up with plenty more dates being announced soon for next year. We tour most of October and November in the eastern half of the country, New Years weekend in Cleveland, Rochester and Worcester, and then a ton more dates next year!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just check out the new album Life in the City and the animated video that goes with the title single. We've also released an in-studio performance video of "If I Ever Fall Asleep", which is also out as a single. And thank you!