Funk/Fusion Instrumental Unit TAUK Struts Its Musical Diversity on "CMF 9000" (premiere + interview)
Veteran New York City band TAUK can groove and jam with the best, as on "CMF 9000". Drummer Isaac Teel discusses how the group got where it is and where it's going.
TAUK (pronounced like "talk" but without the L) returns with its follow-up to the Shapeshifter EP issued earlier in 2018. Shapeshifter II: Outbreak (due September 28) continues the quartet's tradition of sonic exploration as it shifts from jazz, fusion, funk and the elusive but know-it-when-you-hear-it style of music known as jam band. Taking cues from sci-fi features such as Blade Runner and Ex Machina, the music is relentlessly adventurous. This time out the band stepped into the studio with longtime friend Robert Carranza, the Grammy Award-winning producer who has also worked with the Mars Volta, Ozomatli, Marilyn Manson, and Taj Mahal.
The band consists of guitarist Matt Jalbert, bassist Charlie Dolan, keyboardist Alric "A.C." Carter and drummer Isaac Teel. The diverse range of influences and experiences that shaped the individual members are evident across the new effort's tracks. Fans of earlier New York City bands such as Screaming Headless Torsos, Gutbucket, and John Zorn's Naked City will not be disappointed.
Teel spoke with PopMatters on the eve of the new single's release.
It seems like TAUK is a prolific group.
We're constantly writing. All four of us are at it on various composition programs. It's always flowing, whether it's a fully fleshed out idea or a riff, drum beat or bassline that's just lingering.
When you demo something is that the final say or does the band get to have its hands on it?
A song hasn't come together unless we've all worked on it. It's funny: You can have a song in your head, and you have a certain idea about how it should sound, but when it comes to the group it takes on a whole different thing. I think that's a great thing in this band.
How has TAUK evolved since you got together?
I was the last one to join. There was a different drummer and singer before I came along. They decided to become an instrumental group, and I'd like to think that when I came in, I had a hand in shaping where the music would go. It's in your face, hard-hitting but still groovy. Me and Charlie, the bass player, are holding down the locomotion feel.
Where did sci-fi concept with Shapeshifter come from?
When we're working on stuff together, it moves into this strange space. It's always moving, always shapeshifting. We just ran with that. I think the artwork speaks to that as well. We were trying to figure out what kind of artwork would go with that name and it became this kind of New Age Frankenstein.
Where did "CMF 9000" originate?
This one started with me. I'm a huge hip-hop fan. I grew up playing gospel music, though. My mom played the organ and taught me how to play drums. My dad was a bass player. The music's chosen for you when you're in that environment. It's Christian-based. But around 12 or 13 I started listening to hip-hop and jazz and R&B, and soul.
This track reminded me of the Fugees, but once I brought it to the band, it expanded to something beyond what I could even conceptualize. I hear everything from Led Zeppelin to Dr. Dre in it.
How did the gospel experience translate into what you're doing now?
It taught me that you really have to develop your ear. I started playing drums when I was six and didn't learn how to read music almost until the end of high school. You have to listen because it's very improvisational. A person can just jump up in the crowd and start singing a song. You've got to pick out the key that they're singing in. They're not going to tell you that they're in A flat. That taught me how to lead and shape a drive a band.
So, you started on drums but you still had that melodic sensitivity.
My whole family is super musical and we all sing. I'm constantly picking at a keyboard or figuring things out on bass. I love melody. I also love harmony. I'm aware of that even while I'm playing drums. I think a lot of drummers forget to be musical and have a conversation with the other band members.
It seems like Tauk can reach a pretty diverse group of listeners. Everything from jazz to the jam band world.
We all have different backgrounds. Charlie and Matt grew up listening to classic rock. A.C. grew up playing in more of a conventional international church. His mom and aunt taught him piano and gave him lessons pretty much every week. I think those differences create something that reaches everything from the dad crowd to teenagers who didn't know that they love instrumental rock fusion music. But they feel the vibe, and when we get on stage, we set the mood for a good time. That goes beyond your age or your musical taste.
When I was a kid I was really interested in jazz, but there were older people around me who said, "Oh, no. You can't really appreciate that until you're older." It's refreshing to see that some of that has changed.
What you're describing is unfortunate because it creates a mindset for kids who are younger who have a yearning to want more than EDM, hip-hop, other things that don't have that much to do with musicianship. I love that stuff, but it doesn't hold a lot for the musician who's in their home practicing guitar licks to a click track. So it's nice to see when younger kids attach themselves to music that's a little more complex.
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