One week, folks. In one week, the lovely people at Ardmore Music Hall host one of the best live acts I’ve personally seen so far in 2015. Making their second stop on the Main Line so far this year, Turkuaz is back. Friday night, October 2. Could anything in the world be better than a Turkuaz show on a Friday night in Ardmore to help kick off fall?
What’s that, you say? October 2 is also the date they release their new album, Digitonium? You don’t say!
What’s that, now? You want to read an interview with Michelangelo Carubba of Turkuaz so that you can learn more about Turkuaz and rage your damn face off in a week to some brand new funk? Okay. We can do that for you.
Earlier this month we got a chance to talk with Michael, the drummer and lead cowboy boot and hat wearer of the band. We picked his brain on everything from favorite festivals, thoughts on the rise of funk, and of course, he answers important questions from reddit like, “Do you like cheese?”
(Note: At the time the interview was conducted earlier this month, just a few days after their performance at Chicago’s North Coast Festival and leading up to their epic performance(s) at Catskill Chill last weekend.)
Ear Nuggets: Thanks for chatting with us, Mike. How was Chicago? Make it home okay?
Michelangelo Carubba: Chicago was crazy. It was an odd scene. We did really well and we got a bunch of people to come out for our set, but it was like us and every dubstep DJ in the world it seemed. We were like the only band we saw. People saw us holding guitars and shit and people were looking at us like they had no idea what was about to happen. But it was awesome.
EN: Digitonium comes out next month [Next week!!!!] and I know sometimes an artist or band will finish a project and for one business reason or another they find themselves sitting on it for a while before they can release it. Is this something you guys have been sitting it for a while or is it pretty fresh?
MC: We finished up the masters a couple weeks ago and went right into the music video shooting process and filmed two music videos. Our strategy for the release cycle itself is pretty comprehensive. We’re working with a bigger publicist and focusing a lot on college and triple-A radio. Getting premier partners for our music videos. There hasn’t been a whole lot of sitting. We finished basics and went right into mixing. We had maybe a little break listening to basics maybe in May. Then we’ve had festival season in between and all the while Dave and Taylor and Craig and I have been listening to balances and first round mixes and second mixes and it’s been an entire working process from start to finish it.
EN: I was reading a quote somewhere from someone in your band and forgive me I can’t remember where I saw it, but it referred to the new album as a concept album. Could you elaborate on that?
MC: It’s a concept album for a few reasons. There’s really a string of themes that run throughout all the songs. There are lyrics and characters and ideas that pop up in each tune that kind of created an entire microcosmic little universe in this album as a whole. Sort of a mythology that lives within the entire album and all the works. All the images – it’s really focused in one era. Not so much genre-wise, but in the themes of sort of – I don’t really know how to describe it – thematically it’s a concept album. Genre-wise it’s a concert album in that we went with a really 80’s synth funk sort of feel throughout the whole thing and that can be contributed to people like Peter Gabriel, Prince, sort of earlier 80’s funk. So there’s a couple ways it’s a concept album. In the music we wrote, we really tried to have a sort of focused sound for a lot of the tunes that flow in and out of each other really well. Also thematically it’s a concept album because once you hear it there’s a lot of common thread that laces the whole thing together and creates it’s own little Digitonium universe for it to exist in.
EN: Now you shot two music videos, can you tell us what songs and if we can expect more of those themes?
MC: I’m not sure if I can. I know that one of them is going to be released I believe in September [We’re still waiting] and then one probably on the release day. The videos are completely different thematically. That wasn’t anything visually that we were trying to tie together. We were trying to take the individual tune and had an idea of going into it what we wanted to shoot. The videos are very unique and different, and I think they reflect the individual attitude of the songs we picked to do them for. It’s one way we were kind of able to separate these songs in a sort of classification kind of way. The videos are going to help give each song their own life even though they’re thematically connected.
EN: So this is my own opinion and I could be wrong but I’d love to get your take on it. It’s seemed to me that over the last couple years funk has been making a bit of a comeback both in pop and in the festival scene – would that be fair to say do you think?
MC: Yeah definitely. Without a doubt, funk, just recently in the true mainstream, and it certainly has gotten sort of a rebranding… For the longest time, when we were touring, we’d go to some states and people would ask what kind of band you were in. We’d say we’re in a funk band. They’d ask, “What’s funk?” We’d be blown away. We’d think, we gotta come back here more often.
Without a doubt funk has made sort of a revival or rebranding. I think all music is cyclical. I think everything is going to come back in a 20 or 30 year cycle. But I also think that if you look – a lot of the bands that have not stopped playing it for the longest time and have done true funk music a real justice. Bands like Lettuce and The New Mastersounds and The Motet. Bands that I’m close with personally and looked up to my whole life. Soulive. Bands that never stopped. Even though they may not have been in a mainstream platform, their music is still getting out. That’s really important because you can’t let something die. Especially something as integral and as important to American music as funk music is. I think that obviously everyone wants to say, “Oh Bruno Mars brought back funk!”
EN: I don’t know, I don’t think that was really the start of it though whether it was a rebrand or a revival.
MC: Yeah I don’t think so either. I think he definitely put it into the mainstream American system as it is now, though. But I think no matter what the music, you have to do it justice and play with as much gumption as you can. Bands do that like Lettuce and New Mastersounds. Bands like us… we’re playing what we know and what we do best. So yeah, I think it’s important for bands to play whatever kind of music they’ve been playing and with passion and with their own ideas in mind. I think that’s what we’ve been doing with funk. And that’s what Lettuce and Soulive and The Motet have done and we’ve always looked up to them. Not that they’re done by any measure, but now it’s sort of our turn to keep doing it. We’re just happy to be part of the funk legacy in whatever fashion we are now and whatever it will be in the future. We’re just doing our part.
EN: Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I do feel like you guys have been really in the last year, year and a half, you guys have been growing your fan base and you’ve been crawling up the festival bills and gaining popularity. Is that something you guys notice, have you talked about it? How do you not let it get to your head if you do notice it?
MC: Well… We all notice in some way that it’s happening. There’s sort of a joke within all bands that you can gauge your success by the size of your font on a festival bill. We’ve noticed ours go from 10 Times New Roman to 24 or 28. You know, there are certain ways of gauging success. So we are aware of it. But nothing has changed in our approach to what we’re doing, at least philosophically. We see that we’re playing bigger rooms and we’re happy about it, but we’re not resting on our laurels. All we’ve ever done is gone out and toured as hard as we could, and play our hearts out at every single show. It’s not something we’re ever going to stop doing and it’s not something we’ve ever done any different in the past. What helps is as you become known as a band who does that and that’s your M.O., you have chances for people to invest in you and invest in better production and make things a little more comfortable on the road, or allow you to put on a better show, whether that’s a better sound production team or a bigger light rig. It helps. We notice the upswing, but we’re not letting it change what we do, because it works. We’ve been touring hard for three years. We’re seeing growth at a really fast rate and that’s great, but we’re not letting it get to our heads. We have a lot of work to do and that’s all we want to keep doing is the same kind of work, because we love what we do.
EN: Okay last thing, your show at Ardmore is your album release date. Your last show there earlier this year was incredible. Do you have any special plans for the show or are you just gonna throw down as hard as you normally do and everyone is just gonna get extra weird with it?
MC: Well I think everyone should expect that same great taste same great flavor kinda thing from us. We certainly plan on coming and playing as hard as we can. At the same time we’re taking a block of days out before this run and rehearsing the music from Digitonium very very intensely. So there are a lot of new things that people are gonna hear. It’s gonna be very indicative of the future of what we’re going to do. There’s going to be some different sounds and some different moves but it’s still 100% Turkuaz and that means an absolute sweaty rage the whole time. People can only expect it to get better. That’s all we’re trying to do and that’s what we’re trying to provide. If you liked us then you’re definitely going to like us now.
EN: Are you familiar with Reddit?
EN: Well I typically like to ask redditors if they have any questions for bands when I do interviews and… well… here we go. Lots of people were excited for Chill and we had a question as to what your favorite festivals are.
MC: Catskill Chill is definitely one of the best festivals in the country. It just makes everyone happy. The festival goers are all happy. And that’s really where it starts. It starts with them. It spreads to musicians. We’re all well taken care of and that’s important at a festival and that allows us to put on a better performance for the people and it’s a cycle that keeps on giving. It’s a giving festival and we love that.
High Sierra out in California and New Orleans Jazz Fest, too. Top three. If I had to tell anyone to go to three festivals in the country. They represent everything you could ever want to see at least in this scene. NO is its own wicked beast and it’s just the most fun. Even if you don’t go for Jazz Fest just go to NO. High Sierra is similar. It’s like the Catskill Chill of the West Coast.
EN: When you’re at a festival, what do you like to do besides see other musicians?
MC: Uhhmm… well…….. (laughs)
EN: This is up to you how you want to answer.
MC: You can just write, “Giggle in parenthesis and dot dot dot.”
EN: Someone wants to know when you’re going to do a secret set at Summer Camp.
MC: That’s a terrible question, revealing it would make it not a secret.
EN: What is the source of all that is funky in the universe?
MC: Uhhhh…. The one. Everyone has said it. George Clinton has said it, James Brown has said it “Put it on the one.” The one.
EN: Someone asked if Dave’s wrist was ever going to heal. I thought he was fine, is that not the case? Does this person know something I do not?
MC: Dave’s wrist has totally healed. He is 100% functional and fully operational.
EN: We’ll end with a heavy hitter. Do you like cheese?
MC: I am the president of the melted cheese fan club. So that should give you that answer.
Big thanks to Michelangelo for chatting with us and thanks to Calabro Music Media for coordinating the interview.
Digitonium comes out in one week and is available now for pre-order right here.
Tickets for the October 2 show at Ardmore Music Hall are still available but going fast. Get on it now!