For singer-songwriter and saxophonist Josh Schwartz, a former member of Turkuaz and present player in The Horn Section and Cool Cool Cool, the process of releasing his first-ever batch of solo material under his new JOSCH moniker has been a mix of freeing reinvention and somber reflection: While his forthcoming debut album, Ethereality, clears a new path for his career, the long in-the-works project was shaped in large part by Turkuaz bandleader Dave Brandwein, with whom Schwartz has not spoken since he and six other bandmates left the group en masse in 2021.

As JOSCH continues to build a future with a third single, “Fantasies Don’t Cry”, out now on streaming services, that emotional duality has been prompting Josh to reflect on the weight of his past. We spoke separately to Schwartz and Brandwein about their experience collaborating on the album.

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“Is it weird to be releasing music I made with the leader of the band I walked away from abruptly and haven’t spoken to since? Yes, this has added an extra bit of spiritual weight to the already complex/scary/exhilarating process of releasing your own music for the first time,” Schwartz told Live For Live Music. “It was because of that complexity that I’ve avoided publicly discussing Dave’s involvement in this album until now. … But I’m ready to open this can of worms now.”

“I might not have an album today if Dave hadn’t helped me put it together during the pandemic,” Schwartz continued. “In 2020 the world was shut down and life, not to mention touring life, had ceased to exist as we knew it. The future of live music was in jeopardy … I hadn’t realized how much a part of my self-identity performing was until it was snatched away. So in April 2020 when Dave told me he was down to help me put together and produce my debut album from the various songs and demos I’d told him I had working, I was ecstatic.”

With the help of Brandwein and producer/guitarist Rob O’Block, he could finally shape that pile into something complete. “I jumped at the opportunity he presented. I sent him a heap of songs in various stages of completion and genres, which he helped me begin to whittle down to the handful of songs that had the most potential,” Schwartz added.

JOSCH – “Fantasies Don’t Cry” – Single Art
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As Dave Brandwein recalled to Live For Live Music, “He first brought in like 25 songs or so, and we agreed a lot of them had sections that were better than others (many had been written a long time ago). I remember being a proponent of us trying to think outside the box and look for things that could get Frankensteined together instead of tossing them out. Through that process we got down to 12 or 13.”

The new JOSCH single, “Fantasies Don’t Cry“, was one such song. “I’d written it on acoustic guitar right around 2007–2008,” Schwartz said. “I was a white, upper-middle-class kid from the suburbs, so the song naturally had sort of a Dave Matthews kind of vibe. The lyrics were great and there was something there, but when I played Dave the demo, he wasn’t convinced. He loved the choruses, which were more R&B/soul, but the verses, strummed and sung in that amateur playing-a-DMB-song-to-impress-a-girl-in-college sort of way, fell flat and were kind of cheesy, especially compared to the other songs of mine we were gathering. I reluctantly had to agree with him.

“But I knew in my gut there was a seed of something really cool in the song,” Schwartz continued, “So he and I got together and I don’t recall exactly how we came to this idea but somehow we realized that if we tweaked the chord progression to make it slightly less cheery, had me double my verse vocal line but an octave higher in my head voice, and changed the slightly-swung, acoustic vibe to a more electric, driving backbeat, we had a potentially great song on our hands. I was absolutely elated. It was one of those moments in songwriting/production where simple problem-solving helps create art. I love those moments.”

“In this particular case,” Brandwein added, “I know Josh really wanted to keep this song so my job was just to try and help present it as well as possible.”

The finished track is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most Turkuaz-like JOSCH single so far, a plodding, soul-rock thump featuring vintage Clavinet tones courtesy of Swatkins (Allen Stone, Scary Pockets, The Positive Agenda) and funky fills from The Horn Section, the plug-and-play brass trio comprised of Schwartz and his two fellow former Turkuaz horn-players, Chris Brouwers and Greg Sanderson. All the while, JOSCH’s doubled vocal howl embodies a heartbroken and confused protagonist who wavers between deep hurt, bitter resentment, and a begrudging acceptance of the fact that “romance, to me, can die.”

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“My relationship with Dave is a complicated one,” Josh reflected. “Everyone who used to be in Turkuaz has a unique and complex relationship with him and with the idea of the band in general. … The process of making my album with him, and also all the writing I’d done with him for Turkuaz in the latter years of the band, makes my relationship to him a bit unique. There were absolutely valid reasons the 7 of us left the band, and I’m in a better place mentally and spiritually for it. But I’ll always appreciate Dave for helping me create something from nothing that was mine for the first time in my life. It’s one of the scariest and [most] vulnerable things you can do, and I have more respect for anyone who does it now that I’ve released my own music.”

“Was it always perfect working with him throughout the process? No, it wasn’t,” he added. “But standing where I’m at today, I’d rather take an imperfect process that created something I’m truly proud of than take no process that creates nothing I can call my own.”

In the aftermath of the Turkuaz breakup, Brandwein completed and released the two albums the band had been recording, Apollyon and Paradiso. In a 2022 interview with Live For Live Music, he expressed regret that his former bandmates seemed to disavow the finished products: “The whole point of [finishing the final Turkuaz albums] was for our fans and in some ways ourselves to a little more gracefully try to put this thing down that we’d worked so hard on collectively,” he said. “Unfortunately, they weren’t there to be a part of that. And I wish that they had been, or I wish they had wanted to be.”

Today, Brandwein sits at the opposite side of a similar situation as the debut JOSCH album rolls out from a distance, but he’s content to turn the page. “I don’t wish for anything other than what’s happened at this point,” Dave said. “Especially after finishing the Turkuaz albums I’ve been looking forward and building new things, and haven’t been too aware of much outside my world here. I don’t go on social media and I’m in a creation phase, not a promotional one, and it’s been very nice. For that reason I’m glad not to be involved with any releasing of old material right now. That said, I’m happy for Josh that he’s finally releasing it and I wish him luck.”

“I really do wish Dave well,” Schwartz added, “I’ve had my own struggles with partying and depression, struggles that I’ve only recently started to get a handle on. I learned so much from Turkuaz, including from how it ended, that will allow me to make better decisions for my health and happiness for the rest of my life.”

Listen to “Fantasies Don’t Cry”, the latest single from JOSCH, via the Spotify player below.

JOSCH – “Fantasies Don’t Cry”