Working with their musical hero, Turkuaz pumps up its jams



There’s nothing like a band working with its musical superheroes to soup up their sound.

And that’s the case for Turkuaz with its high energy single “On the Run” and the accompanying dancer-ific video.

Turkuaz has long had a reputation of danceable slices of modern funk.

But the beat volume was amped up when the group got to work with former Talking Heads’ guitarist and keyboardist Jerry Harrison.

Turkuaz comes to College Street Music Hall in New Haven on Dec. 30.

As the band’s singer and guitarist Dave Brandwein explained it in a phone interview, the Talking Heads had long been a big influence on the nine-member group. And, Brandwein said, the Talking Heads’ live album, “Stop Making Sense,” with that roup’s deep exploration of funk music, was a particular favorite of Turkuaz.

The group—which also includes Chris Brouwers (trumpet, keyboards), Greg Sanderson (tenor sax), Craig Bridhead (guitar, keyboards), Joss Schwartz (baritone sax, vocals), Taylor Shell (bass), Sammi Garett (vocals), Shira Elias (vocals), and Michelangelo Carubba (drums)— had been producing their records themselves, said Brandwein. But when the time came to think about their next album, Brandwein said they wanted to bring in some outside producers to offer a fresh take on the Turkuaz power funk sound.

When they were tossing out names for producers, Brandwein said Harrison was one of the suggestions.

Brandwein said the group knew Harrison had produced other acts such as String Cheese Incident, No Doubt, and Violent Femmes. So Turkuaz reached out to Harrison about producing. Harrison heard some tracks from Turkuaz and took an interest in producing a couple of tracks. The band then flew out to meet Harrison in his hometown of San Francisco. “We hit it off,” said Brandwein.

Brandwein said the band then scheduled a time for Harrison and his engineer Eric E.T. Thorngren to fly out to New York City to begin recording. In all, Turkuaz cut two tracks with Harrison.

One of those tracks was “On the Run.”

Brandwein said Harrison had a considerable impact on the final result of “On the Run.”

“The song was really bare bones,” said Brandwein of the original composition. “He had great ideas.” Brandwein said Harrison offered input on improving the melody. He worked on the keyboard and horn arrangements, which were pretty complex, inserting a good deal of “ear candy.” He also guided Brandwein on his vocals, improving his enunciation, and subsequently boosting the prominence of a single vocal on the track.

The track exudes a good deal of energy and excitement. Brandwein attributes that feel to the new influences brought in by Harrison and the other people working around him.

The second track recorded with Harrison, which may be the next single, has an even deeper affinity to the “Stop Making Sense”-era Talking Heads, said Brandwein.

Brandwein said Turkuaz took away a few lessons after working with Harrison. But they should not expect “On the Run” ad infinitum on the efforts.

Instead, Brandwein said fans will find the new album to be quite eclectic. “It has a more organic feel,” said Brandwein. It’s more reflective of the myriad of styles that shape Turkuaz’s live show, said.

“We’re such a large band, our show covers a wide range of influences,” said Brandwein.

Although Talking Heads is a big influence on Turkuaz, it’s not the only one.

Sly and the Family Stone is a definite secondary influence, said Brandwein, as are Parliament-Funkadelic. Brandwein’s personal influences also include British classic rock such as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd. And with a nine person band, Turkuaz draws influences from everything from jazz to hip hop to metal.

On stage, Brandwein said, fans will see Turkuaz at its best.

“It’s a big party on stage,” said Brandwein of the live show. “It’s upbeat and energetic.”

“People come to our shows to put their troubles behind them,” said Brandwein. “It’s a great time and a great time for letting go… It’s an opportunity to celebrate life.”

Since the New Haven show is on the eve of New Year’s Eve, Brandwein said Turkuaz is hoping to make it something special for fans, especially since New Haven is one of the cornerstones of Turkuaz country.

“It’s always a special occasion (in New Haven),” said Brandwein. “But (that close to the New Year) we want to make it more special.”

Turkuaz comes to the College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven with Pimps of Joytime on Saturday, Dec. 30. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m. It’s general admission standing room on the floor.

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Turkuaz comes to New Haven on Saturday.