Interview: TAUK

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 brought about yet another unforgettable night of music at The Pour House in Charleston, SC.  TAUK and Dopapod began their run through the South with a sold out show in Charleston.  TAUK, a New York-born heavy funk quartet, holds an amazing balance in talent, with four of the most dynamic young performers in the jam scene.  TAUK has only scratched the surface, and considering their resume in just over two years, the sky is the limit for the band moving forward.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Matt Jalbert (guitar), Charlie Dolan (bass), and Isaac Teel (drums) before the show to discuss musical strategy, Collisions, and highlights from a groundbreaking year of success before a recent show with Dopapod at the Charleston Pour House.
-All Photos taken by Live & Listen on 2/14/15 in Raleigh, NC-


It's my understanding that three of you guys have been playing together for over 10 years.  How did TAUK ultimately come about in 2012?

Matt: Well I met Charlie, and A.C. (Alric Carter) around sixth or seventh grade. Before all of this, we shared a similar interest in wanting to play music. So the three of us started hanging out more, playing music, and it just started to grow. We started putting different bands together when we were super young and started playing the typical classic rock songs. We kept doing it throughout high school and started to get more serious about it. We all went off and did our own things for college, but we all knew that we wanted to keep it going. Once we got out of college, we really started hitting the road and playing some shows together. That was when we started to figure out what we wanted to do as a group, and that’s what led us to where we are now with the instrumental thing.

Charlie had met Isaac while he was in college in New York City. So we had known Isaac for a while, and we knew we were looking for someone to play drums in the band. He came in and played some music with us, and we just hit it off instantly. So that was two and a half, three years ago? That was really the beginning of this band, to make a long story short.

(Matt Jalbert and Charlie Dolan)

You've managed to put together an EP and two dynamic studio albums.  It's often difficult for a band that improvises so much to convert that energy in the studio.  Do you have a particular strategy?

Charlie: For the new record, Collisions, we definitely wanted to do exactly that and bring the live energy to the record. So we spent most of January of this year working on new material and really honing in on it. Then we went on the road for about a month and a half, and went straight to the studio from the road. We really wanted to harness the energy that we felt playing those songs, and I think it worked out. The previous album, Homunculus, was definitely very composition based, and we really solidified what we built with the EP (Pull Factors). With Collisions, it’s definitely more about the live show and the live energy. I think we accomplished that, which is definitely a tough thing to do.

How was your approach toward the Collisions different than Homunculus?

Matt: Well there were definitely some similarities and differences in how we approached the recordings. Obviously what Charlie just mentioned, going straight from the road into the studio so we could ride that energy going into it. I think there was a lot more composition that happened as a band for Collisions. Where as Homunculus, a lot of that material was written beforehand, by one person or another. With the new material, we wanted to have more of a groove. So that kind of requires everyone in the band to be there together, and work to capture that dynamic. We still focused a lot on compositions, but we wanted each member of the band to have their voices come through. In order to do that, there was a little more improvisation and a little more spontaneous writing in the studio. 

Charlie: It was interesting because the songs on the new album had to carry themselves live. Whereas the last album had some material that wasn’t even finished when we got to the studio. So we had to go into the studio, get a basis, build on top of it, and work it out in the studio that way. After we were done recording, we had to decide how we wanted to play those songs live, and have them still sound as full. It was kind of like working in the opposite direction. We like to try as many different things as we can.  

It’s an entirely different creative energy. Both things help each other. The live performances help the studio work, but going into the studio definitely helps you with your live performances too. You’re basically putting yourself under a microscope and every nuance of it. You try to make sure it’s correct, and that it feels right. It’s like you’re naked. When you’re performing live, if you make a mistake, you just have to keep going.

Matt: Sometimes that leads you to not being able to be able to fix those things that happen live. They happen to everyone though, and they go by so fast. When you put it under the microscope, sometimes you realize that maybe a particular section doesn’t really work as well as you originally thought. The studio gives you a much better idea of how well the various sounds mesh. You hear things differently when you’re playing it. In the studio, you have the luxury of playing, then sitting back and listening. You might want to go back and play something a little differently. Playing live, you want to take risks, but you want to make sure you know your part. We might decide we want to play an organ section on a piano, or on a totally different instrument. It’s nice to have that option of looking back and changing things.

Charlie: That’s the cool thing about the studio. You can expand the sounds that you’re using almost infinitely. With a live performance, you have your set sound, and you’re working within a certain range. That room to expand allows for exploration. Sometimes one little sound can change the entire song.

Matt: A lot of the help we would get would come from our producer, Robert Carranza. He has such a great ear for knowing what sounds mesh well together; how to make something more powerful, or steer it in a certain direction just by the timbre of the instrument. He was a huge factor on both albums just helping us get away from what we were comfortable with, and try something else. He’s been doing it long enough where he knows how to make certain effects happen. Sometimes it’s not an obvious way of going about things, and then once you get to the other side, it seems obvious. He was just such a huge help. The records would not sound the way they do if he wasn’t involved.

Isaac Teel (drums): He’s also not closed minded to other ideas. He’s always open to experimenting, and that’s one thing I really appreciate. He has been in the industry for a while and knows a lot about how things should sound. He’s always open to suggestions and always open for us to experiment, which is great.

Matt: And when something doesn’t sound so good, and you think it’s great, he’ll tell you. At this point, we have worked together long enough that everyone trusts each other. We really trust his opinion. And just like the Isaac was saying, we trust that he’s going to take what we have to say into consideration. He totally does. It’s more of a team effort, not opposing views or anything like that. And even within the band, a little disagreement here and there is a good thing, you know? If everyone’s happy with everything all of the time, then nothing is going to go in a certain direction. It just takes one person to say, “No, that’s not good enough”. You can always use a little disagreement to bring you somewhere else that you didn’t think you would have gotten to. Shake things up a little bit, you know?

The band has seen rapid growth and national recognition in the past two years.  Can you share a few highlights from particular shows / festivals?

Charlie: This year, LOCKN’ Festival was a really big thing for us. That was definitely the biggest crowd and stage we have ever played in front of.

Isaac: LOCKN’ was really big. Floyd Fest was great. The Hudson Project was also huge for us, because we don’t do as much as you would think in the Northeast. For us to hit a major festival like that, with people coming out from all over the Northeast, that was huge for us as well. Mad Tea Party was great as well. Catskill Chill and Camp Barefoot were really special too. There have been so many.

Matt: This year we’ve been seeing ourselves in a lot of different situations too, which has been a really cool learning experience. We’ve had these festival sets, and those are always different than your club sets. We’ve had a lot of good headlining shows, where it’s actually our show.   Then we’ve had a bunch of really good opening spots, like these Dopapod shows. We’ve been finding really different ways to approach our sets. Whether it’s an opening spot or a festival slot, there are always different highlights from each one. Each one has a different approach, so you get different payoffs, in a way. We just did a couple shows with Papadosio. Those were great. They weren’t as long or anything, but even playing in front of a crowd that is there for a different band, you get different people there. There are different energies going. Those are great for new exposure.

(Isaac Teel (drums), Jalbert, and Dolan)

You've had the opportunity to share the stage with a number of great young bands, such as Dopapod tonight.  Who are a few of your favorites? 

Matt: Definitely Papadosio. Those shows we just did with them were really fun.

Isaac: Just running into all the different bands at music festivals; like The Nth Power, Lettuce, and all those other great bands. That’s one great thing about the music festivals for musicians who are touring. You get to see other great acts that you admire, and you enjoy watching. That’s one thing I really enjoy about the festival scene.

Matt: Who else have we played with? The Fritz was really fun down in Florida. We did a bunch of shows with them. Damn, who else? The shows with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe were really great. Then that branched off, and we did a show with his guitar player, DJ Williams, in Richmond, where he’s from.   It’s been a really awesome year getting to meet so many other bands. Just a few weeks ago at Bear Creek, Skerik ended up playing with us. We had never met him before, and he just ended up hopping on stage and played a song with us. The festivals are really cool in that aspect. You end up crossing paths with so many great musicians.

Charlie: I got to meet and talk to Bernard Purdie this year. That’s definitely a bucket list scratch off for me; something I’ll never forget.

(Jalbert and Dolan)

The world of modern music is far different today than it was when we were growing up.  Being at the core of it, what would your advice be to other young artists pursuing their dream of playing music?

Isaac: Be true to yourself and stay true to the music. Don’t compromise your music for whatever scene or for whatever people say. There are going to be claims out there. Everyone has their description of what they think a band is. Stay humble. Be professional.

Matt: I think what Isaac said applies to us for sure. With us, it was tough at the beginning. Almost every show, someone would ask, “So, are you going to have a singer? Is someone going to sing eventually?” And eventually they ask you enough, and you might start to have doubts about what you’re doing. If you believe in it, stick to it, because now people don’t ask us that question much anymore.

Charlie: The idea is that we have, and we are still developing an identity for ourselves. We can have a singer come sit in, and still the freedom to do whatever we want musically. It’s awesome. You don’t feel constrained by anything. Bringing in other instrumentalists or singers; we’re totally up for that and trying to see what comes of it. But this is the identity of the band, and it’s going to stay that way.

Matt: That’s the most important thing. You don’t ever want to lose that identity. A lot of times you throw a vocalist in there, and that’s the first thing people listen to. That would really work against the identity of this band. You’ve got to make sure it’s the right fit for you.

Fans in the Southeast can catch TAUK this Wednesday (Roanoke, VA), Thursday (Atlanta, GA), and Friday (New Orleans, LA).  They will also be a performing Saturday and Sunday at AURA Music Festival in Live Oak, FL. 
-For a full list of TAUK tour dates, click here.-