Interviewed by Fatima Hasan and Cory Callahan; Written by Fatima Hasan; Photography by Fatima Hasan and Cory Callahan at Sonic Bloom 2017
TAUK’s Matt Jalbert and Charlie Dolan were gracious enough to sit down with us at Camp Bisco to talk about the festival, their newest EP announcement, and much more. I really respect TAUK because of the band’s versatility. They are so much more than a “jam band”, as they are incredible at fusing different types of sounds that incorporate rock, jazz, pop, and electronic through their own style. A continuation of Shapeshifter I: Construct, their newest EP, Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, is set to come out September 28. In this work, the New York band offers an ominous and breathtaking perspective on artificial intelligence and its potential to overturn our world. TAUK’s all-instrumental blend of progressive rock, hip-hop, and jazz gives way to an EP that’s both energetic and captivating. Unfortunately, after we interviewed TAUK, we were unable to catch their set at Camp Bisco due to weather complications. 🙁
Sorry we were not able to play our set tonight. The storm knocked out the generator on our stage + there wasn't enough time to get us our set. We spoke w/ the Bisco team about any workable options to get onstage as a band but there weren’t any viable solutions. We will be back.
— TAUK (@TAUKband) July 15, 2018
We’re so excited to experience your set at Camp Bisco! You guys are no strangers to the festival, what do you think about the event?
Matt: “yeah, we’ve been here before! It’s a fun place for a festival. We’ve been to this site actually for other events too…this is where Peach Festival is held. It’s definitely a unique venue, you’re playing music on stage while at the same time watching people float around on a lazy river, go around on all these water slides, all while being on a ski mountain. Camp Bisco is great because it attracts a different crowd too, there’s definitely more electronic stuff here. We love that, we definitely have certain stuff that will throw into our set that we’ll think kind of fits this situation a little bit more. But yeah, it’s cool to get in front of a different kind of crowd!”
Do you think you’ll have any time to check out music at Bisco?
Charlie: “To be honest, we haven’t had time to check out the lineup yet! But, like most festivals, we’ll definitely walk around and see what’s going on while we’re here. Hopefully I’ll stumble upon something that I’ve never heard before… or something I’ve heard before and I really liked!”
Do you usually like to stick around at festivals that you go to?
Charlie: “It’s all situational! Like tonight we’re going to drive to New York. It’s not a long drive, so we’ll hang for a bit. We made the trek up here, might as well see what’s going on.”
You guys are from New York, correct?
Charlie: “Yeah we’re all like from Long Island and Brooklyn areas.”
Nice, so are you guys going home for a little bit?
Charlie: “Yeah, it’s the summer. So we’ll do some festivals on the weekends and then go home, hang out, see the family and friends. It’s a nice way of life.”
How did the band get started and how did the stage name of TAUK come to be?
Matt: “Well, myself, Charlie, and AC all grew up together. So we’ve known each other forever, and you know, just growing up we always loved playing music together. After a while, it was just something we always did. Whether it was with friends at school, or whatever else, it just kind of grew and grew. We all went off to college separately and after we got out we started really putting together a touring band. While Charlie was in school at New York, he met Isaac, our drummer. Once we got the four of us together, that was when things really started. The name itself, ‘TAUK’, comes from Montauk– from the end of Long Island. We literally just saw someone wearing a t-shirt and were like ‘oop! That sounds cool!’
Charlie: “…and there were no substances involved at all!”
That’s awesome! So let’s talk a little bit about your work, your EP Shapeshifter I was released back in early April. How did you guys approach this EP differently than some of your other releases?
Charlie: “This one was cool because we pretty much did all of the recording, writing, and production around it in like just this one space. It was in a home that had not been lived in for 30 or 40 years…and it really looked like it. But, we had enough power to set up a little studio in there. We spent the better part of two to three months working on material in there, it was really cool to have no restrictions time-wise and to just be in one place. It felt like you’re stepping away from it, but still keeping the moment fresh. So, I feel like it’s the most authentic in that way: it’s like capturing that particular moment of time. In past records, maybe we would work on some material and then move to a different place. Or we would take some time off then get back to working. But this time it was really just one solid effort.”
So would you guys say that you prefer recording in that home studio setting?
Matt: “For sure, you know, to me this is like our most complete and solid effort. Over time we’ve gotten better in the studio, writing, developing our skills…but there was something about the way we did this that was really nice and liberating. We didn’t have to worry about a time restriction or any of that stuff, and it was just kind of a cool environment to be in.”
You guys also just announced Shapeshifter II: Outbreak. You already released the first single off the EP, ‘Convoy’, and you plan to release the entire project on September 28th. How does this EP relate to the first Shapeshifter? Did you guys start working on this EP immediately after the first one?
Matt: “Actually, we went into the studio with the original plan of writing some songs and putting something out. We kind of ended up with more material than we thought we would, so we were looking for ways to release all of it. We wanted to try something different, so we thought it would be a cool little experiment and concept just to release some stuff a little bit earlier… kind of like a teaser. So that’s Shapeshifter I. All of this stuff was recorded in the same session and it all really flows together. To us, it really feels like it’s one cohesive album. We used the same artist for both covers, you know, we wanted it to feel like it was all part of the same thing. But they are still two distinct releases at the same time as well.”
How did the title of Shapeshifter come to be? Do you think the title is a representation of TAUK’s abilities to produce diverse sounds?
Matt: “Yeah! Whenever we name stuff it’s for the fans to take it however they’d like, so, if it applies to the music then that’s definitely appropriate for us. When we’re thinking about naming things, everyone brings in ideas and we kind of let it simmer. You see what works and what doesn’t. I think we like the name Shapeshifter because it can evoke different images in your mind and with the music. It’s kind of open-ended, and we like our stuff to be like that. We don’t have lyrics, our songs aren’t necessarily about something specific, so something like Shapeshifter can be taken in many different ways by many different people. All the individual tracks can relate to that kind of concept in their own way too.
Charlie: “Yeah, you may listen to one song and it feels more organic and then another one feels more electronic… but it still always sounds like us. It takes different shapes and forms, but it’s still a singular entity.”
Tell me a little bit about working with Robert Carranza. The band has worked with him previously too, so I was wondering what he brings to the table and how he influences your music?
Matt: “I think first and foremost what he brings to the table is his experience. He’s done so much amazing stuff in his past. The development of his ear still blows me away. We’ve been working with him for so long at this point, and he definitely feels like he’s part of the band. That’s another great thing, we get him to work on an album and there’s no awkward getting to know each other phase. You just kind of go right into the real thing, you know what to expect and that also definitely leads to a little bit more honesty working with each other. Robert definitely shares his opinions, as we all do amongst each other. You know, it’s good to have a little bit of an outside ear too, just to come in and help us shape our stuff. So, he brings a lot to the table by just helping us hone things in a little bit when we’re experimenting with different sounds and different textures. He has an ability to take something that might sound totally out of left field that we want to add to a song and help us figure out a way that it’s going to mesh with everything. Every time we get to work with Robert, the creative process is always something different and it’s always exciting. It feels like we’re all in it together, so it’s always awesome.”
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Matt: “When I first started playing guitar while I was growing up, it was always like classic rock. Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Zeppelin, all that stuff, you know. It definitely sucked me in right away. Just growing up in my house, like my Dad loved everything and anything from Bob Marley to Elvis Costello to you name it. I’m always searching for new stuff, me and Charlie went to go see Radiohead this week. They’re definitely a big influence, then you know, Aphex Twin, other jazzier stuff… I could keep going!”
Charlie: “I think one of the things that’s cool about this band is that we’re able to influence each other. Showing each other different music, playing something in the van, or just regularly playing with each other and listening to each other. I think we are able to influence each other in that way and without ego, and I think that’s why we’re able to develop the diverse sound that we have”
If you guys could go to any festival as attendees, which would it be and why?
Matt: “Once you go as an artist, it’s hard to go back to the other side! I probably want to go somewhere that I’ve never been before… I feel like I’ve been to enough festivals in the US, I kind of know what they’re all about. I’d like to go anywhere else in the world that’s big… and I don’t even have to know the music!”
Any up-and-coming / rising new talent that we should keep an eye out for?
Matt: “Yeah, definitely! Actually on the album we have some horns from our buddies in Naughty Professor. I saw them here [at Bisco] on Thursday! They’re awesome, really cool. So definitely those guys.”
Charlie: “This band PHO, like the soup, they’re a really good band. They played with us in Minneapolis this past tour and they were great, their horn player came on stage with us for a little. I was very impressed with them!”
TAUK just announced their fall tour for Shapeshifter II: Outbreak. The band has some big things coming as they gear up to support STS9 at Red Rocks in September and perform at iconic festivals/venues around the country. Special guests Funk You and Exmag will be joining TAUK at some select shows too!
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