Written by Andrew Howie
One the most innovative and remarkable groups playing music right now is TAUK, the instrumental jazz-metal-space-fusion foursome from Oyster Bay, NY. Having built a sterling reputation on years of touring and high quality studio output, TAUK is on a meteoric rise to the top. Guitarist Matt Jalbert was kind enough to have a few words with me about the band, and illuminated some of the aspects of their music.
The musical roots of TAUK go back far beyond album releases or playing festivals alongside rock and roll greats, says Jalbert: “I grew up with A.C. (Carter, keyboards) and Charlie (Dolan, bass) and we’ve been playing music together for a long time. This goes back to talent shows, my bar mitzvah, jamming in our basements, all of that. Charlie met Isaac (Teel, drums) while going to college in New York City and he joined the group about five years ago now.” In that time period, TAUK has released three well-received albums, the most recent being Sir Nebula.
As TAUK’s career has grown, so too has their stylistic vision. While they have never been the sort of group that produces simple music, their tunes have grown notably more bombastic and complex, with lots of room left for improvisation. As Jalbert explains: “There’s a lot more writing that we do as a band now than there used to be. We’ve gotten more comfortable with each other’s styles and kind of figured out what the sound of the band is and that’s helped us when we get together and somebody brings an idea in. We all still write on our own and bring things in but now there’s been a bunch of songs that have come together as a result of just being in the same room and bouncing ideas off of each other.”
That confidence has bred some great tunes that snake through layered melodies and turn inward on themselves before exploding into blinding solos. “In a live situation the solos are always improvised and that mainly goes for the albums as well. Usually we’ll just take a few takes and pick our favorite. Sometimes the first one is the best,” says Jalbert. These solos often dance over sweeping keyboard washes and pounding bass and drums, all building toward a thunderous conclusion, leaving the crowd breathless.
Another important aspect of maintaining a successful musical career is finding the right producer. Ideally, it’s someone who doesn’t stifle the whole point of the songs. TAUK has hit the nail on the head with Robert Carranza, a Grammy-award-winner who has produced for acts such as Jack Johnson, The Mars Volta, Taj Mahal, and Marilyn Manson. Jalbert extols his virtues: “Robert definitely feels like a member of the band at this point. We sent out some music to a bunch of people years ago looking for somebody to work with and it made its way to Robert. He heard something in there that caught his ear and we’ve been working together ever since. He’s worked with so many different kinds of people over the years, so he has a huge view of what music is. It still blows me away how he is able to take what we do and help us find the best way to get the message across. A lot of times we have a lot of layers and things can get pretty dense but he knows how to put the puzzle together and fit everything in the right place and find the perfect balance.”
Groups like TAUK often find themselves looking outside the traditional environs of music into other media to get their message across. When speaking about how TAUK would like to branch out into different methods of performing their music, Jalbert indicated they might be looking into scoring films at some point. He elaborates: “It’s still something we see ourselves doing in the future, but hasn’t become an actual focus quite yet. We all hear our music as being cinematic in nature, and it’s a world we absolutely want to explore when the time comes.”
TAUK’s stock in the music community is definitely on the rise; they are playing major festivals such as Summer Camp and Electric Forest, and they have been touring all over the country with a consistent stream of music for fans to feast their ears on. Jalbert describes the band’s mindset at the moment: “Right now we are just really focused on improving on what we’ve built so far. Mainly that just means writing more and more music and finding ways to make the shows better. Every show and every tour has been a really big learning experience for us and we always come away with a better understanding of what can make for a better show next time around.”
TAUK will be performing at Summer Camp Music Festival on Friday, May 26, at 7:00 p.m. on the Starshine Stage. For tickets and more information, please visit the website at http://summercampfestival.com/