Written by Charles “Bones” Frank

On this beautiful but humid Fall day in Greensboro, I find myself sitting at my kitchen table where my day is to be illuminated with color, but not just the colors of Fall. As I begin to plan my coverage of the eclectic and electric Hulaween festival at the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park, so many thoughts are coming through. The Spanish moss that runs through the park and wraps the trees helps set a backdrop rich with mystery, intrigue, and history. As a festival connoisseur or a first time attendee, one will not find a better curated festival than Hulaween. As I contemplate these things, a rainbow shoots in on my cell phone, it is none other than Turkuaz’s lead guitar and vocals master, Dave Brandwein! Turkuaz is one of Hulaween’s most anticipated first time artists, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The nine-piece funk fleet from Brooklyn, NY is hot off of releasing their brand new album titled Life In The City, and Dave and I chatted about all things Hulaween, the new record, the creative process and even talked a little tennis.

Bones: Hey buddy how are you?

Dave: Hey how’s it going?

B: It’s going well man thanks so much, and thanks for taking a second for me man I appreciate it so much.

D: No problem at all.

B: Firstly, I am a big fan, and I actually work with Big Something sometimes so I’ve enjoyed seeing you guys down here and following you through the years so it’s a treat for me.

D: That’s awesome dude yeah.

B: So bear with me, I have a couple basic questions that I want to get your take on, and then I’ve thrown a couple curveballs in there.

D: No worries!

B: The first one I have is of course in regards to Turkuaz’s color scheme, and it’s such a great tool. At first, it’s this kind of attractive gimmick, and then you get to know the music and it works so well. I wanted to know who came up with it, and do you guys choose your own colors or do you mandate them when someone joins the band?

D: (laughs) Ah, well, we like to say, “the colors chose us,” which more or less over time it did kind of happen that way. Way back, very early on for the band the horn players used to wear jumpsuits sometimes and it was this fun kind of crazy vibe that everybody enjoyed. When going through kind of at the beginning of our heavy touring days trying to figure out some uniform stuff that wasn’t your run of the mill ideas that people have seen a million times; one of the many phases we went through was trying out the jumpsuit thing for everybody and my wife, Dani Brandwein who is the creative director for the band, she went through and found different colored jumpsuits for each member. That was kind of the beginning of the color thing and we found it worked really well, with nine such distinct personalities in the band and nine musicians who really do make up this sonic rainbow if you will. It made this visually stimulating show and it also even helped people really zero in on each person and appreciate exactly what they do. It’s very representative of how we are musically, each person has their own vibe, and their own really cool sort of energy about them, but together obviously we like to think the sum is greater than the total of its’ parts.

B: It really is, and it works great. Especially for the random passerby’s at places like festivals, with a band has so many members, it makes it easy for a listener to hone in on one or two people and remember them without specifically going back and doing a lot of research and digging. They can latch on to the band and to the music so well.

D: Yea man, I think each person really deserves their own area of the stage, moments to shine, I think throughout our show we really try to do a good job of passing it around and letting each person highlight what they’re good at. I think the colors are a really good representation of that, each person really does exist in their own right, as well as being part of this greater thing that when you zoom out is even cooler.

B: Absolutely, next question I’ve got is about the new album, Life in The City, which of course just came out and I know everyone is excited about. I’ve listened to it front to back and it sounds great. I just want to know how the process of creating this one may be the same or different than the last two. Obviously the last one was the live one, but the last two studio cuts. And of course I know you guys worked with Jerry Harrison (the famed producer, known for his work with the Talking Heads) on one and that’s just incredible and I just want to know how that was with him.

D: Yeah this one was different overall. You know we kind of did some experimenting this time around and recorded a lot of material and then went through and kind of shaved it down to what we thought just fit on a more concise record. You know the last album, Digitonium, was very, very cool and it was all done kind of in this one chunk of time which gave it a strong vibe. But it was a lot you know. It was a ton of material and I think at times even a lot for someone to sit and take in in a single sitting. You know it was 24 tracks and it was super, super fun to do that but I think we wanted rather than try to recreate that process since it was so unique and so special we wanted to just switch it up and do something different this time so this was more of like go into the studio on a few different occasions and putting down every single idea we had, and then kind of chiseling it down to this leaner thing in the end, just nine tracks which I think some people obviously are like “oh man I wish there were more songs on it” but we actually, we’re gonna trickle out some of the other stuff we’ve worked on as well over time. We recorded like 20+ songs. But I’m really proud of the fact that it was little more of a {piece meal operation, but I think in turn it sort of displays some more of the different sides and types of songs we do as a band all on this one short record. So I’m really happy with it for that reason. I think it’s a little more diverse whereas the last one was heavily stylized in one direction. This one I think we’re kind exploring a little more doing different types of songs and also keeping it all concise.

B: Absolutely. And it really runs like an album, it runs like before the days of being able to press a button to track. It runs top to bottom so well as apiece.

D: That’s important to us. I feel like people tell me all the time that albums are a little bit of a dying art form and it’s less about how you release. you know. It’s more about how much music you release now and how often rather than the increments you do it in. it’s like oh just do a single or an EP and that stuffs all great and I think there’s times when that’s appropriate, but I think approaching an album as an art form is still really important and I just don’t buy the fact that music fans don’t think about that anymore. I mean sure some people don’t but I think there’s still a huge community of people out there that care about the album as an art form and we try to preserve that.

B: Sure, and it’s great. And then, working with Jerry Harrison, what was that like?

D: Yeah it was great man. It was kind of surreal because we started the band, Taylor and I, largely with Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense as a huge part of influence you know one moment of it among many obviously but a huge, huge influence and one of the main sort of inspirations of starting the band. So getting to work with him was really, really awesome and kind of surreal you know and picking his brain about stuff and hearing a different approach. I’ve done most of the production for our music always and me having someone else to shoot ideas off of and work with, especially someone who’s work I respect so much was just like really, really special experience. Yeah, it was awesome.

 B: Yeah man, just congrats on that. Moving onto Hulaween, which is just gonna be so great; Hulaween is a different kind of beast if you will. And of course lots of events happen on that land down there but Hulaween is really special and the energy is something fierce. So I’m just wondering if you could comment a little about what it means for you guys to be a part of Hulaween and especially right after Life in the City comes out.

D: Yeah, yeah I mean we are really stoked. It’s cool too that it’s a festival that happens kind of at the end, as festival season winds down and there aren’t as many of them going on. It’s cool to revisit that vibe one more time in the fall amidst our other tour takes. Really looking forward to that. That place, like you said, Suwanee is just really, really cool. We’ve actually never been to Hulaween before. We’ve done many, many of the other festivals down there on those grounds, but we’ve been really looking forward. We hear Hulaween is crazy.

B: Yeah man I knew it was y’alls first time down there. And looking at the schedule, I know y’alls set is going to be on Sunday and it’s just gonna be a really special time. I’m hoping it’s on the amphitheater or by the lake. You guys got any surprises planned down there?

D: Haha yeah I gotta find that out but yeah we have a great history there too. I mean that’s really like the first festival Bear Creek, in about 2011 before we even started touring that was like our first festival that we every played and it was such a trip man. Just the grounds and the vibe at that place is something really special. So we’re always really stoked to go back there. And for this Hulaween it’s really gonna be something really, really cool.

B: Of course. No comment on the surprises planned or are you keeping that lock and key for the set. (Laughter)

D: I’ll keep it lock and key. You know we’re still making some plans and we’re excited to play the new material. Our material evolves a lot because these last two records I think the commonality between them is really going for it in the studio and not worrying as much about the live arrangement and then figuring out cool new ways to approach it live, rather than trying to make them necessarily to mirror themselves. I think that’s a losing battle for us. We have the most fun we can in both environments, and so what happens over the course of the tour with a new record is like we’re kind of stretching and expanding these songs as a process that you can see unfold. Like if you come at the beginning of the tour versus the end I think you’d see some songs really evolve and arrangements evolve so that’s like the biggest focus for us I think, is approaching the new material and revisiting some of the old stuff, reinventing it a little I think that’s what we’re always trying to do.

 B: Cool man, looking forward to it. With your home studio and living in New York, I know you’re around other tremendous just creative minds and artists there. And I wanted to know who are some of the other artists on the bill at Hulaween that you’re either excited to see or simply just share the bill with.

D: Oh man. Um I mean Jamiroquai obviously I’ve been listening to for a very long time. Love those guys. And then Medeski Martin & Wood. Absolutely love MMW. That’s you know like. I think their album with Scofield I’ve listened to, I can’t even tell you how many times growing up and just amazing band. Of course we love the guys from Lettuce. And actually I like Dr. Dog too.

B: Ah yeah man that’s gonna be great man, that’s gonna be great. Do you have any advice for new and upcoming bands, or people in the industry, maybe describing a big break moment or do they just kind of reoccur beautifully or any advice for new comers.

D: I mean I guess it’s really just kind of like getting out there and playing, you know, just to get the experience under your belt. I think there’s nothing like the experience of getting shows under your belt to really develop your craft live. And then you know just to like think about what your goals are and set goals for yourself and try to work towards them rather than just. I mean I think on the one hand just going out and playing is the right way to get the jobs and the experience you need to play the shows. But the idea is to also go along with you know, some kind of awareness of what you want out of a career in music and I mean man, I still work towards it every day, and the second something I wanted a few years ago happens, I’m very much onto the next thing. Always looking forward, always looking to the future. But I think that’s a healthy part of the process you know, to have a plan. Doesn’t always mean things are going to go the way that you planned, and you gotta be ready to roll with the punches and accept different types of things happening but I think that it’s a healthy balance of having a plan, but don’t let that stop you from getting out there and getting your hands dirty.

B: Cool. Absolutely. Is there a special name for Turkuaz fans? Have they been dubbed yet?

D: Um, you know they’re often.. Hahaha..Sometimes called themselves Turkeys, so much so that our Facebook fan page is called “the Rafter” which is technically a group of turkeys. I don’t know if that’s the official name for Turkuaz fans. I think the universe is still open to some other suggestions, but I know that one is floating around out there.

B: I dig Turkeys. Speaking of digging, I dug around just a little bit. I know you may not tweet much anymore but I just did a little bit of digging and I of course, besides playing MSG, home of the now ever struggling Knicks, I also saw that you may be a tennis fan and I was wondering who your favorite player is now or do you have any.

 D: Rafael Nadal for life man.

B: Cool man, I’m from Greensboro, which is where John Isner is from.

D: Oh nice, he’s clearly amazing as well. I was actually fortunate enough to go to the US open um a few weeks ago when it was happening here and uh I am a fan of tennis. I don’t know what it is, I think the mental aspect of the game and the fact that it’s two people out there just duking it out, it’s just an amazing era of the game right now, that we’re getting to witness and the intensity of the game is just amazing. I am not by any means like an expert, I don’t know all that much bout it or anything, but I do appreciate watching it. I absolutely love it.

B: It’s such a cool game, specifically in that regard and just one person versus one person, and also just kind of the duality of one person versus themselves out there too.

D: Yeah that’s the thing that I see manifest itself so clearly in the game. You know it’s all mental, and it’s so crazy to see. You know everyone out there has the ability I think the mental part of it is what puts the best guys at the top, guys and girls.

B: Cool. I know obviously you guys have a show Friday before your set at Hula on Sunday and of course in between then will be a travel day, but I just hope you’ll get a chance to get down there and hang out and take in all of the cool stuff and the surreality that the production creates and I just want to wish you well and wish you good luck with everything and say it’s been a pleasure. That’s all I got my friend. I’ll enjoy writing this up and I appreciate it so much. I look forward to hanging out at Hulaween and I’ll be there to catch the set and I anticipate it eagerly. And maybe hopefully catch up on the 14th in Greensboro here as well.

D: Sure man that’d be great.

B: No problem man I’ll talk to you later brother.

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Catch Turkuaz on Sunday, 10/28 in the serene swampland at Hulaween, along with a lineup that features The String Cheese Incident, Jamiroquai, Odeza, STS9, Lettuce, JRAD, The Wood Brothers, and so many more. Also, you can find Turkuaz’s new album Life In The City online for purchase and on streaming platforms everywhere! I hope to see everyone down in Suwanee, where I’ll be on hand all weekend with the inconceivably talented photographer August Heisler at my side.