Over the past few years, one of the most consistent names in the New Yorkfunk revival scene has been Turkuaz, the Brooklyn based ensemble that has been lighting up dance floors throughout the East Coast. With memorable stops at last year’s Bear Creek Music Festival and a high-profile residency at the famed Brooklyn Bowl, Turkuaz is poised to take the country by storm on their upcoming tour.  Once again, the band will stop at the upcoming Equifunk Music Festival (Aug. 17th-19th), and L4LM asked Turkuaz’s co-founder and guitarist Dave Brandwein to familiarize our fans with the band before they rock out in two weeks. Check out Dave’s history of the band, straight from the artist’s mouth (or, hands).

Well let’s see…Taylor and I met at Berklee College of Music in Boston around 2005 or so. We had some mutual friends and began jamming together. It was the norm in our group of friends to revert to funk and dance music when we’d improvise for some reason. I guess it just felt like the most fun (and still does). 

Though Taylor and I had different influences, we definitely were finding a middle ground in the music we played together. He liked things ranging from Minor Threat and Red Light Sting all the way to Phish and Grateful Dead. I was way into Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Radiohead…lots of different stuff. But we linked up most on Beatles, Zeppelin, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Talking Heads…though, truth be told, Taylor really initiated me into more of the funk stuff. 

A couple of years later we found ourselves living together and I’d built a home studio. We called it Galaxy Smith. This was the early incarnation of what is now Galaxy Smith Studios in Brooklyn; but back then it was just a home studio where we could work on our projects. We had four musicians living in the house and many more in the neighborhood. We were playing together in a different band at the time, and as far as recording at home, our goal was mainly just to have fun. After some time went by Taylor and I both sort of realized that although funk and dance music was what we played most often in our spare time, we didn’t really have a project that reflected that. 

We decided to start playing around with some ideas. I sequenced a drum beat, and Taylor recorded some bass over it. Then we added a guitar…then another guitar…then a vocal… and so on. At the time I think we were calling it our “disco project”, which is pretty funny looking back now at what it’s become. I think the song we were doing ended up being “Back to Normal”. Then we did more songs.

On breaks during long recording sessions, we’d venture across the street to a Turkish market that sold Camel cigarettes and our favorite European soft drink – Fanta – with what we believed to be a sweetener in it that’s illegal in the United States. This excited us very much and we quite enjoyed the taste (I’ve actually learned since then that American Fanta is what contains the sweetener which is illegal in many other countries, not the other way around.  Hmmm…). The market was called….Turkuaz! 

Our recordings, or “demos”, started to circulate amongst our friends, and before we knew it, Berklee’s Heavy Rotation Records had gotten a hold of it and asked us to join their annual compilation and showcase for 2008. We were pretty happy to accept, the only issue being that we didn’t have a band!

Luckily, with the type of community we’d developed up there, the instrumentation we had in mind was no more than a few phone calls away. We basically pictured “Stop Making Sense” by Talking Heads meets Sly and the Family Stone for our live show. With this in mind, we called up various friends and acquaintances and formed the band that would play our first show at the Berklee Performance Center for about 1,000 people. The show went quite well and got us on our way.  After the showcase for Berklee, our only real goal was to play in Boston once each month or so and keep the party going. We didn’t really have much of a plan at all. I think we couldn’t really imagine what else we needed to be doing. I don’t remember who it was, but eventually someone suggested we go and do a show in Brooklyn a few months later. By September of 2008 the entire band relocated to New York City. 

Of course with so many members, there are always going to be a few personnel changes here and there, and that has certainly been the case a number of times over the past few years. But the interesting thing about Turkuaz is that for such a large band, we are not a small core group of members with extra hired musicians for each gig. We are a living, breathing “BAND” in the true sense of the word. We are all close friends with one another, and invest ourselves fully in the music and in the group dynamic. I believe this is what gives the band its unique sound. This also speaks to the way we arrange the songs. 

Though I write the original songs (often with help from Taylor or someone else, and sometimes alone), the entire band often becomes part of the arranging process. I think that letting people do their own thing with a song is often easier, and potentially cooler, than trying to tell everyone what to do. Usually, I’ll start with a demo and send it out to everyone, and then we can either decide to stay true to that demo, or do something completely different. As far as improv, we encourage it at shows and it often will lead to new ideas for the arrangement of a song as well. Since everyone tends to be pretty tasteful, often they’ll do something on the fly and over time it’ll get worked into the song more regularly. That’s part of the fun. 

After moving to New York we definitely spent a good amount of time “incubating” as I like to call it… Writing new songs, getting tighter, and overall I suppose just getting more experience under our belts. I think this time was really key for the bands development, and looking back, our sound evolved so much for the better in that period. Though we’d play out of town from time to time, we didn’t really leave NYC much or go out on a limb, until we went to California along with our good friends Zongo Junction in December of 2010. This was the beginning of a period of time for where we started to expand our horizons a bit. 

Upon returning from California that year we secured some key festival spots for the upcoming season ranging from Equifunk in Pennsylvania, all the way to the illustrious Bear Creek Festival down in Florida with some of our favorite musicians around. This was really a thrill for us; I think we began tapping into a scene that felt right for us. Though we’re not necessarily a “jamband”, I think we fit well in that world. Of course we always keep our Brooklyn indie side alive as well (ha-ha), but we enjoy feeling at home in many different environments. Having a couple residencies at Brooklyn Bowl has also been a thrill and an honor for us over the past year or so. We’ve had two monthly residencies there, and that is yet another place we feel very at home. I think it’s safe to say it’s our favorite Brooklyn venue at this point. 

Last October we were thrilled to release our second studio album Zerbert with a sold out release party at Mercury Lounge. We got to a place by the end of that album that we were really happy with. Zerbert definitely shows the progression of us finding our way in the album making process. Capturing the sound of a 10-piece band is not easy. But I believe we achieved a stimulating and playful approach to it on that album. In 2012, we also released a live album from a Brooklyn performance at the now closed venue Southpaw, back in 2010. We offer that one for free on our Facebook page. We’re now set to start recording our next studio album in June at Galaxy Smith Studios in Brooklyn and we are very excited to get started.

This summer into the fall will likely end up proving to be our busiest time yet, and we’re more excited than ever. We’re always improving, writing new songs, adding new merchandise (now with shirts featuring many of the band members goofy faces right on the front!) and continuously striving to bring a new and exciting energy to the stage. We’re thrilled to be joined most recently by a new keyboard player and singers, and our guitarist also joined about a year ago. As mentioned earlier, we are no strangers to the lineup changes being a 10-piece. We’re just so thrilled that we seem to be continuously blessed with such new and exciting talent, and that everyone always seems to get along so damn well! It really is such a rarity, and overall as a band, we just have an amazing time together. So on we go, new and old members alike. We kicked the summer off with two great festivals (Strangecreek in Massachusetts, and Mountain Jam in upstate NY) and we cannot wait to see what the rest of 2012 and beyond has in store for us.

-Dave Brandwein

L4LM can’t wait either. Turkuaz is a band that steps on stage and delivers a high-energy show from start to finish. This is a 10-piece band that is tight, cohesive, and just plain has a blast on stage together.  We caught them at Cameo in Brooklyn this past weekend, and it was two sets of pure, unadulterated funk. If you haven’t had a chance to see them yet, be sure to make it out to one of their performances the first chance you get; we promise you will not be disappointed.

Turkuaz kicked off their latest tour August 2nd in Washington D.C., and will be touring the Northeast through October, with a possibility of more dates to be announced.  Check out the bands full tour dates below, and be sure not to miss Equifunk! Tickets are still available here: http://equifunk2012.ticketleap.com/equifunk-2012-music-festival-l4lm/ (use discount code L4LM for $25 off!).

Upcoming Shows

Aug 9, 2012: Soundlab – Buffalo, NY
Aug 10, 2012: Black Oak Tavern – Oneonta, NY
Aug 11, 2012: The Club at Water Street Music Hall – Rochester, NY
Aug 18, 2012: Equifunk Festival – Equinunk, PA (Use promo code L4LM for $25 off each ticket!)
Aug 18, 2012: Olive’s – Nyack, NY
Aug 21, 2012: The Blockley (w/ Stooges Brass Band) – Philadelphia, PA
Sep 6, 2012: Nectar’s – Burlington, VT
Sep 7, 2012: Ocean Mist – South Kingstown, RI
Sep 8, 2012: Sully’s Pub – Hartford, CT
Sep 15, 2012: Wormtown Music Festival – Greenfield, MA
Oct 5, 2012: Ocean Mist – South Kingstown, RI
Oct 18, 2012: Iron Horse Music Hall – Northampton, MA