Shadefest Music Festival is entering its fourth year, with the festival moving to a beautiful new location at Pegasus Farm in Elkins, West Virginia, from August 9th through 11th. (Purchase tickets to Shadefest here). Pegasus Farm is no stranger to the festival scene, as it has hosted events such as Camp Barefoot and Highland Jam, among others, over the years. Shadefest is everything most festival attendees look for in an event: independent, intimate, and built on a grassroots movement.
Its jam-friendly lineup features headliner TAUK, a band that has steadily made their way up the “must-see” chart over the past decade, along with Consider The Source (performing intimate hybrid acoustic set), The Southern Belles, CBDB, The Mantras (Beastie Boys tribute set), Erin and the Wildfire, Of Tomorrow, Kendall Street Company, Goose, and more. Underlying its lineup is the festival’s dedication to build things organically and keep true to its core audience—a rather refreshing concept in this current era of festivals.
With the forthcoming release of Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, the follow-up to their Shapeshifter I: Construct EP, on September 28th, Live For Live Music’s Chris Meyer caught up with TAUK guitarist Matt Jalbert to discuss this year’s releases, his musical influences, science fiction, and the band’s upcoming headlining slot at Shadefest. Alongside brothers-in-arms Alric “A.C.” Carter (keys), Charles Dolan (bass), and Isaac Teel (drums), Jalbert is as focused as ever to take the band’s music to the next level. Here’s what he had to say.
Chris Meyer: How is your summer going so far?
Matt Jalbert: It’s been a pretty relaxing summer to take a step back from the spring and fall tours and that heavy schedule and just doing the weekend festival gigs, allowing more of a chance to breathe. It’s tough to do a full tour in the summer; people aren’t going to the club shows and heading more to festivals, so it’s nice to play the weekend festivals during this time.
CM: Was there a conscious decision to split Shapeshifter into two separate parts? Is there a third part of the series on its way?
MJ: It kind of happened naturally. We were just going into the studio to record a full album. All of that just took shape as the process unfolded. We came out with a ton of material and discussed which tracks were gonna make it. Finally, we stumbled upon the idea of “What if we just split it up?” and put out an EP—an appetizer if you will—and come out with a full-length later. We liked the idea of toying with different ways of releasing the music. The industry is changing every day. As it stands right now, there is no plan for part three, but the door is always open for it.
CM: It’s interesting that you say that about how bands are releasing music. A lot of bands are opting for these various ways of releasing music, whether it’s a single, a series of EP’s, or what have you. It’s more content regularly, as opposed to waiting on a full album once every two or three years.
MJ: Right. And that’s what was interesting to us: the thought of releasing a part one and part two and being able to tell a little bit more of a story with it. For us, it was a fun idea to play around with in releasing. There aren’t any lyrics, but there are definitely themes to follow along to.
Chris Meyer: This leads me to my next question. From an instrumental point of view, how difficult is it to convey that story without the lyrics? How do you tell that story?
Matt Jalbert: For us, it’s always been music first. The music itself tells the story. The tricky part, or even the fun part, is identifying what the story is. For me personally, when writing a song, I’m not necessarily thinking of a narrative or concept that I’m trying to convey; it’s allowing the music to speak for itself and take you there. With Shapeshifter, it kind of puts you in a mindset, and for each listener, they can allow the music to take them where the music takes them. It’s not a story with a beginning and an end or even a plot, it’s more about your own personal journey with the music.
CM: And the overall concept of Shapeshifter is the rise of artificial intelligence. You guys must be big Sci-Fi fans.
MJ: Oh yeah, we definitely nerd out when we’re in the studio. We’re always talking about weird stuff, even just gear we’re using, and we’re constantly using new gear. Though, some of our interests definitely lie within that realm. When someone brought up the idea of “Shapeshifter,” it made complete sense.
CM: What are some of your favorite Sci-Fi movies?
MJ: I love all the old stuff like Alien. Really anything with aliens is cool, in general. Blade Runner, some of the newer ones I like—Ex Machina. All the stuff with artificial intelligence with the concept of “The machine’s are getting smarter, what’s that going to lead to? Is that going to help us, or are they getting too smart?” Just those questions, in general.
CM: With the new album you recorded with producer/engineer Robert Carranza (The Mars Volta, Ozomatli, Jack Johnson) and opted to record in an old house on the north shore of Long Island.
MJ: I don’t know how old the house was, but it felt old and hadn’t been lived in for 30 years. We just brought a bunch of gear into this old house. It was pretty bare bones—no running water—but it was interesting to hunker down and see what was going to happen. The vibe and the sound was great.
CM: No Amityville Horror House stories, I hope. Anybody feel any spirits or weird energy in the house?
MJ: When it got dark, you didn’t want to walk too far by yourself. I will say there were a couple of times when I was in the studio and everybody had left and thought to myself, “I really need to get out here. Time to go!”
CM: How did you find Raul Urias to do the artwork for the album?
MJ: I scoured social media, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, and came across his work and loved it. So, I sent him an email, sent the music, and he was down with the concept to have the artwork flow throughout the entirety of everything. We are really happy with how the art came out.
CM: How are things different from when you began? How has it all evolved?
MJ: Looking back on where we started, we were booking our own shows, taking every gig that we could get, traveling so far for one show, and waking up on random people’s floors thinking to myself, “Where am I? What are we doing?” Luckily, we are able to look back and see the progress that was made, going through those growing pains, and finding ourselves in a place where things make more sense. We book better shows and are seeing that growth. We’re growing both musically and personally as a group and constantly challenging ourselves to be a cohesive unit.
CM: And keeping that chemistry alive and well.
MJ: It’s so important because we are all such good friends. We want to be on the same page and are able to make decisions that allow us to be on the road and do what we have to do, but we also have time to do what we need to do outside of the music, on a personal level, to live our lives.
“Flashback” featuring Nate Werth
Chris Meyer: The music industry is definitely tough with that, whether you are in a band or a manager, agent, sound person, production person, etc. On the outside, it’s all fun, but it still is work, and you need to find that personal time to pursue the other parts of life that make you happy and complete. Balance is definitely the keyword.
Matt Jalbert: You don’t think of what you’re going to be dealing with when you start a band. We certainly didn’t have the conversations we are having now, as far as routing a tour, releasing an album, what is the next move?—the list goes on and on. We take it very seriously. It is our lives, so we better put everything we have into it, but you have to keep that spirit and passion alive of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
CM: How does creating a live set differ from what is put out on the album?
MJ: As we add on more material, it becomes more exciting, because we simply have more options to choose from. When we’re on the road, we are very aware of what we are playing, where we are playing it, and what we played last time we were in a certain city. It’s also fun to come up with new ways and different transitions with certain songs to keep it interesting. In the studio, being able to listen back to yourselves and fine tune what you’re doing in that area, it allows you to open up more when you hit the road.
CM: What is the difference between playing a festival set or your own club gig? Are there certain advantages from one to the other?
MJ: Definitely! With festival gigs, it’s sort of exploring the unknown. You can’t always tell what’s going to happen from the point you get there to the moment you step on stage. You might have some time to settle in or have only 15 minutes to set up and get right out there. It’s fun to see a lot of our friends or bands we look up to in that setting. It always creates great energy, especially for the fans.
That being said, when you are on tour playing club gigs five nights a week, you can really get into a zone with one another right from the first song and just take off. Being in that mindset can be very fun to get into.
CM: TAUK is headlining Shadefest this year along with Consider The Source, The Mantras, Kendall Street Company, and more. You guys have played with a couple of the bands on the bill. That must be fun for you?
MJ: We’ve played a bunch of shows with Consider The Source. They are mind-blowing and can be very intimidating to go up on stage afterward. I don’t know too many bands that do what they do. They are all just ridiculous musicians, and it’s great seeing bands like that—putting everything into it and just laying it all out on the line. And The Mantras we’ve played some shows with; it will be good to link back up with them. We are looking forward to Shadefest, seeing our friends, and tearing it up.
CM: Festival gigs can be quick in-and-outs for bands, but has there been any experiences where you got to hang and see some acts that wouldn’t necessarily be on your radar?
MJ: We got to play Boston Calling this year and saw some bands that would be normally outside the realm like Jack White and Queens of the Stone Age. Summer Camp is always a blast to play and hang at with the Umphrey’s McGee guys and some of the other bands that we’ve crossed paths with.
CM: Shadefest is definitely heavy on the jam, funk, electronica, and overall improvisation-based acts. What acts shaped TAUK?
MJ: The four of us have very different tastes, which allow us to draw from so many influences and genres. Myself, I grew up on Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin, then got into Phish, which led to Zappa. Later on, I found the John Scofields and now Snarky Puppies of the world. There is always more out there—so much to listen to and draw from. You just have to keep your ears open.
CM: When you have a chance to kick back and put the headphones on, who are you listening to right now?
MJ: Right now, I’m listening to Knower; they’re a really cool group. Louis Cole [of Knower] creates some super weird and interesting chord changes. I’m always listening to some Aphex Twin. Always. Recently, I’ve had a lot of Robert Glasper on as well.
CM: Anything we can convey to the Shadefest family on behalf of TAUK?
MJ: Be ready! Just be ready, because we’ll be. We’re psyched to play and be headlining, especially at such a nice location. We’ve heard a lot about Pegasus Farm and how beautiful of a spot it is. It’s a cool lineup, and fun to see our name crawl up these bills and amps us up to play the best show we can each and every night.
CM: One more question: what are your favorite things to do outside of music?
MJ: Eat food and watch sports. Lots of basketball. A troubled Knicks fan, but there’s always hope… and next season.
CM: I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a strong return from KP (Kristaps Porzingis) as well. Thanks for your time, Matt! Always a pleasure to catch up with you. Best of luck this summer.
MJ: You too, dude. See you out there!
Shadefest will return for its fourth year from August 9th through 11th, heading to a new venue at the picturesque and fan-favorite Pegasus Farm in Elkins, West Virginia. Tickets to Shadefest are currently available and can be purchased here. For additional information and event updates, join the Facebook Event page or head to the festival’s website here.