Folk by day, funk by night. That’s been the mantra for the Moonshiner’s Ball, which continues to hold true in year five with Friday night headliners Turkuaz, a nine-piece group out of Brooklyn known for its color-coordinated outfits, infectious beats and impeccable improvisation.
Comprised of Dave Brandwein on guitar and vocals, bassist Taylor Shell, Craig Brodhead on guitar and synths, drummer Michelangelo Carubba, saxophonists Greg Sanderson and Joshua Schwartz; trumpeter Chris Brouwers and vocalists Sammi Garrett and Shira Elias, Turkuaz represents how the sum is greater than any one part. While each player has their own style and ability to more than hold their own solo, collectively the nonet adds another dimension to their music, which is particularly intriguing in a live setting where the band feeds off the crowd’s energy to turn back time to that of a 70s-era funkified disco with multi-layered harmonies, a boisterous horn section and groove-setting guitars.
According to Brandwein, the group tried to deliberately replicate its live energy in a studio setting on early efforts, later altering their focus to a more perfected studio sound on 2015’s “Digitonium” and “Life in the City,” which came out September 28.
“In the last few years we’ve cultivated a style where we play into the medium we’re in at the time,” said Brandwein. “When we’re in the studio, we listen and react based on how that’s feeling and sounding while live we do the opposite, trying to make each section bigger, louder and more epic than before. We put in an effort to replicate some of the elements of our studio recordings live, but we also let it be its own thing and let the live experience dictate how the song should go.”
For the freshly released “Life in the City,” Turkuaz maintains many of the analog, synth-infused stylings of predecessor “Digitonium,“ although lyrically the projects vary, with the newest chapter in the band’s discography containing darker, more serious undertones relating to becoming so preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of modern life that you become blind to what’s going on underneath.
“A lot of the lyrical content on this album is pretty dark,” said Brandwein. “I feel like we’re living in some weird times right now and we’re all part of this fast-paced life where we’re over-exposed to advertising and media nonstop. It can be difficult to take a moment to breathe, be a person and remember who you are at your core.”
The group recorded “Life in the City” between upstate New York and Brandwein’s Galaxy Smith Studios in Brooklyn, even flying in Jerry Harrison of The Talking Heads and engineer ET Thorngren to work on album track “If I Ever Fall Asleep” and “On the Run,” a single released last year.
As the group’s stock has risen in the last handful of years, particularly following the release of “Digitonium,” it caught the ear of Travis Young, banjo player for Blind Corn Liquor Pickers and one of the lead music curators for the Moonshiner’s Ball. Following unsuccessful attempts to get the band to festivals past, Young’s excitement and anticipation is through the roof to unveil them this weekend at Rockcastle Riverside.
“Music is so serious these days, all unironic and heavy like the times,” Young said. “Turkuaz is the essential antidote to that; the hottest party band on the scene, combining two of music history’s most potent dance formulas: 70s funk and 80s dance music. It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s a musical joy machine!”
IF YOU GO
The Moonshiners Ball
Performing: James McMurtry, Turkuaz, Moon Hooch, The Wooks, Freekbass and others.
When: Oct. 12-14
Where: Rockcastle Riverside, 4211 Lower River Road, Mt. Vernon