OneEDM sat down with members of the instrumental jam fusion band TAUK for an exclusive interview during our stay at Camp Bisco this year. The quartet has garnered much praise ever since their first album release in 2012 with their influential mix of jazz fusion and funk music. Keyboardist Alric “A.C.” Carter and Bassist Charlie Dolan were on site to answer questions about everything including sushi, favorite artists, inspiration, and their new album Shapeshifter II: Outbreak set to release September 28th this year. Despite a severe rainstorm on the final night of Camp Bisco which prevented TAUK from performing on the Above The Waves stage, you can still check out the full interview from that weekend below!
OneEDM: What is your preference in comparing live sets vs. working in the studio? Does either or influence one another and do you prefer one over the other?
CD: I don’t think I have a preference, but they definitely influence each other in that when you’re in the studio you’re really putting everything under a microscope. If one little part or a transition doesn’t feel right, you want to do it again and again to get it right.
Whereas live, you get one chance and so you gotta put in all your energy and if something goes wrong, you just keep moving forward and make sure that you don’t screw up the next part. But there is a certain spontaneity to the live, an energy that’s hard to capture in the studio, almost impossible really, especially the setting that you’re in. You have a huge PA. We’re all together on stage. In the studio, you’re fitting it inside this box that’s supposed to go into your headphones or your speakers, so it’s a completely different thing. The shaping is a completely different approach.
AC: I feel like every time we settle down to go to the studio we get better as a band. You’re forced to focus in and hone in, but that also affects our live shows in a sense that we want to come out of the studio tighter, a new energy which has a different vibe than what we’re doing. You don’t want to come back to the same show. For me, one needs the other. To be able to come out and do a good live show you need to do your homework and do your studio work, and that definitely helps.
CD: Also, sometimes especially us, we like to come to the studio with stuff that we’ve played on the road, but also stuff that is completely fresh. I like doing it that way. It already feels like home, you know what to do, but at the same time maybe you build up some habits that you need to break that you’ve been doing. But then with something new it’s like, “oh this is fresh let’s see where it goes” but then once we get on the road it becomes a completely different song too, so, it’s just the nature of the beast.
AC: To me, a record should be an appetizer to the live show.
OneEDM: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to on your own time?
AC: Right now, I’m into BIGYUKI. I just listened to his new record which is dope, you should check that out. I love Robert Glasper. Things that aren’t necessarily in the scene, so to speak. But I love hip-hop and R&B.
OneEDM: Do you try to stay away from jam music to prevent it from influencing you or do you use it as an influence?
AC: I think I try to bring out whatever music that I like that I enjoy, that inspires me, I try to bring out those elements into our music, without copying verbatim, kind of pay homage to it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of great history in this scene whether it’d be the EDM scene or the jam scene but there’s a sh*t ton of other music out there and there’s so much to draw from to make and help your identity. It’s like reading books. I may not like mysteries but you know what, I just read more to be able to have a little better conversation.
CD: I just saw Radiohead the other night, they’re one of my favorite bands, at the Garden, that was awesome! The Ghost-Note record that they kind of recently put out, I really dug that. We have Nate Werth who’s the percussionist from there is on the new record. Plus, Childish Gambino, his record is great. Even as to people in the jam scene, if a lot of our peers are putting out a record, I’ll definitely check some of their stuff out just to see what’s going on. Those are our friends really when it comes down to it, so we see what they’re doing.
OneEDM: Have any of the artists playing this weekend inspired you before? Is there anybody you’re looking forward to seeing?
CD: I’m definitely gonna walk around, see what’s playing and hopefully either if I know them, or hopefully find someone I haven’t heard of and I like them.
AC: Much love to the biscuits, those guys have been in our corner for a bit now, and like Charlie was saying, it’s good to see your friends have fun. It makes it a lot more conducive to a hang when you know that your friends are out there playing music and doing their thing.
OneEDM: On a random day when not creating music, what are some of your hobbies? What might someone find you doing?
CD: Yeah, mostly sushi, walking my dog, and playing basketball.
OneEDM: Have you ever rolled your own sushi?
AC: No, I’d like too but it’s always better when someone does it for me.
CD: It’s probably more cost-effective that way, although I don’t know, maybe I’m just ignorant but I don’t trust myself to pick out the right fish. I go to the establishments that I trust, you know like that discount sushi, you just don’t mess with it.
OneEDM: What are some of your favorite festy food experiences?
AC: Goatocado! Dude, they have this Mountain Tropp that’s really good. It’s like quinoa, fuji apples, a little bit of Colby-Jack or something like that, and baby kale or baby spinach. But then, Goatocado is usually right next to the Gouda Brothers, right, so then you just go around to the Gouda Brothers, get like three strips of bacon and then you’re healthy and you got your unhealthy and you combine it and it’s great!
OneEDM: Are there any specific goals or inspiration you have in mind when you’re producing an album, are there any sort of goals you want to reach as you produce a new song? Or do you kind of just let the inspiration flow?
CD: I think we want to do just the best we can and the best versions of ourselves at that moment. Part of why I enjoy the studio is seeing things come together and not necessarily expecting or trying to be like, “oh this needs to be that”. The way we all write, when I bring in a song maybe I have a certain idea of what it’s going to be or what it should be, but once it gets to the band it’s not going to be that. You pretty much resign that it’s going to be something completely different, it’s probably going to be better. That’s what’s exciting to me about going into the studio, just listening back. You’re like “oh that’s really cool” and you feel really fresh and you’re like “oh that’s us”.
OneEDM: One place you wish you could perform versus one of the places you have performed at before?
AC: I’d say the Gorge, I’d love to perform there. It just looks so surreal. Then there are some caves in I think the Shenandoah Valley.
CD: Yeah! The Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee. Lettuce just played there. I’ve seen some pictures from there, it just looks like another surreal place, you’re literally in a cave playing to an audience. We probably both agree that Red Rocks is our favorite place that we’ve ever played. We’ll be back there with Sound Tribe in September.
OneEDM: Do you pay Jam On to play your songs?
CD: [Laughs] Haha, no they pay us, and pretty well comparing it to Spotify or anything like that.
AC: It’s a huge difference, man. It’s pretty insane.
CD: We really appreciate those guys supporting us. They were really what helped us expand our audience. They picked up one of our songs from Homunculus and that’s really what allowed us to expand our boundaries of where we could play and who was willing to let us play. That pretty much came out of nowhere, we didn’t even know they were playing it.
AC: I think it was on the radio for four months and we had no idea. We saw a direct effect from being nationally on Jam On with our ticket sales at the shows, and that’s the best. We can’t really ask for anything more than that. Nah, we don’t pay, B, c’mon man! [Laughs]
OneEDM: Was there an intention in not using lyrics in your songs? Would you ever consider it in the future?
AC: We started off in our high school band, we’ve been homies for a really long time and decided to keep the band going. It kind of felt natural to just do what we do and focus on melody and have that speak instrumentally versus having someone sing lyrics. We’ve had vocalists come in and you kind of live or die by your vocalists to a certain extent.
Maybe not so much in this scene, but a lot of people see you for the first time and automatically are drawn to human voice. A lot of times they will judge you based on that, so we decided to keep it going. But we’re open. We’re open to words, different instrumentalists, DJ’s, MC’s, saxophone, whatever. I think the goal for us was to establish TAUK as an instrumental entity, and then everything else that we can add on to is just the icing on the cake.
CD: Like he said, we actually had the intention of having vocals at one point and we were trying out singers. We found out that you really have to mold the identity and the sound of the band around an individual that we don’t really know. We’ve been around each other for so long that it just feels comfortable to us. In that, if we’re writing for singers we still have to practice and play together and we’re still writing songs, so we’d be like one of you guys take the melody and we’d be like “oh this sounds as good as songs, let’s do some gigs” and that’s really where it started.
Like A.C. said, we’ve built, and the goal was to build an identity as TAUK as an instrumental band, and now we can maintain that identity and still work with a singer, work with other instrumentalists, work with someone else. We’re open to collaborations at any point.
AC: It opens up the door for remixes and all that kind of stuff. You put a foot in a different world and it helps you to keep relevant. We want to stay up to date in music, just like everyone else.
CD: We want to be like a Swiss Army knife but in the band form.
OneEDM: Have you played at Camp Bisco before?
CD: Yeah, we have. Twice.
OneEDM: How do you like the cross between EDM and jam bands?
AC: I don’t know how I feel about the rage sticks [laughs]. No, all jokes aside, I think it’s cool. I think it’s fun. You see bands who kind of fit really well into both scenes. Bands like Big G or something like that, they definitely can live in two different worlds. I think it’s great.
CD: We’re always looking to expand our audience and if we can dip into a world that isn’t necessarily familiar with us, we’re all about it. It’s like “oh I don’t want those fans”, no I’ll take them. If you’re going to be a fan of our band, you’re welcome.
OneEDM: What are some of your personal biggest inspirations? Are there any particular instrumentalists that you look up to?
AC: Let’s talk about a couple people. I really love what Cory Henry’s doing these days. I’m a big fan of John Scofield. I love gospel music, it varies from anywhere like Donnie McClurkin… I love the old school R&B like Donny Hathaway, even back to The Temptations, The Manhattans. There’s a vibe from all those musicians that I try to take as much as I can. As of now, for keyboard players, I’m loving Herbie, I’m loving Cory Henry, and I’m loving Robert Glasper.
CD: For me, anywhere from James Jamerson to Jaco (Pastorius) to Derrick Hodge, Oteil Burbridge. Living and not living, there are so many great bass players out there. Even electronic music, where there’s not even a bass player, there’s some cool ideas in there.
AC: Someone like Squarepusher.
CD: Yeah, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin. All that stuff, we’re down with.
OneEDM: What idea inspired your Beatles set at Resonance?
CD: I think the Beatles music is so melodic and harmonic. I think it really suites us well to cover their music. It’s tough for us to find covers because there really needs to be a melodic element to attach onto where they recognize that we’re doing a cover. That’s really also how we show people how we approach our own writing style. We try to focus on melody and harmony a whole lot. Maybe some people are more used to instrumental bands being more groove-oriented which we definitely do. But melody and harmony are really what is the driving force of writing. The Beatles, there’s no better example than that and the range that The Beatles have in their writing over their career is unmatched.
OneEDM: If you could perform with any artist dead or alive who would it be?
AC: I’m going to say Miles Davis, right now. That’s just how I feel today. I’ve been reading the Herbie book, and Miles just seems to be one of those dudes who understood the cultural gratifications of what it means to be a player in that scene at that time. He knew the vernacular, he knew he had the talent. He was also a visionary enough where he was able to pick out John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams. All these artists that they individually and collectively were great in their own unique sound that was being stapled for so many people, as far as when it comes to jazz and just music in general. So Miles in terms of how he approached and how he saw. I would love to play and open up with him.
CD: Since I just saw Radiohead this weekend, I’ll go with Thom Yorke. That would be cool.
OneEDM: How long did you work on your new album Shapeshifter II: Outbreak? Do you think it will be your strongest release to date?
AC: Well, we started working on it in December. It’s the first time we came into the studio with about 20 songs. We decided at some point to split it up, so we did Shapeshifter I and II. We’ve actually had the songs finished around earlier March. We had to decide to sit on and figure out how do we approach releasing in 2018. I feel very confident. I think it is some of the best work we’ve done.
We’ve been friends for a long time but what’s challenging is trying to figure out how to evolve with everyone. I know how I write in a certain way but how do I accentuate what Charlie’s gonna do and his writing style, and how I bring him out. We have that attitude for everyone. I think this is the most cohesive band as far as our compositions and our directions. I’m really excited to get out and release it and play it.
CD: Performance wise, I think this is the best we’ve performed in the studio as a unit. I never felt like we were really chasing a certain sound. It all felt very natural and loose. I do think even now that it’s been a few months since we’ve finished, this will be our best record coming out.
AC: No pressure!
OneEDM: Any hints about your performance tonight, or any last thoughts about your new album and upcoming tour?
AC: We’re touring the whole country. We’re going all the way out to Seattle and L.A. and all the way down to the south in Texas. It’s nice to do a whole loop and we normally at least try to do that once a year, so we set aside six weeks for that. It’ll be a good trip.
CD: We’re gonna play some new sh*t! Released and unreleased.
Check out TAUK’s latest single “CMF9000” which will be featured on Shapeshifter II: Outbreak.
OneEDM would like to thank TAUK for taking the time out during their day at Camp Bisco for this interview. Check out TAUK’s full tour below and get ready for Shapeshifter II: Outbreak out next month! To preorder the new album, click here! To see TAUK in concert, purchase tickets to the upcoming ‘Outbreak Tour’ here.
In addition, TAUK released this statement about their 2018 nationwide fall tour:
Shapeshifter II: Outbreak will be out September 28 as the follow up to our latest EP Shapeshifter I: Construct. There is a bunch of brand new music on it and we are extremely excited to be able to share it with you and to play it live. Fall tour will kick off in Rochester, NY and take us all the way out to the west coast again so be sure to check the dates and see when we will be near you. We’re excited to have Funk You and Exmag out supporting us on select shows. Can’t wait to see you all out there!