TAUK’s AC Dishes on Love for Electric Forest, NY Roots, Shapeshifter and More [interview]
Electric Forest is no stranger to bringing the best of the best from both veterans and underground sounds, year after year. As a result of this, Forest fam has been lucky enough to indulge in everything, from the massive spectrum of electronic dance music to the wide range of live performances; whether it be the String Cheese Incident, who humbly hosts the festival each year, or bold bands like TAUK, who are well on their way to solidifying themselves as staples of Sherwood.
The energy experienced during the Thursday evening TAUK set was tangible. It truly set the tone for the weekend, and whether or not you were there intentionally or happened to stumble upon it, the outcome was outrageous, emphasis on the rage. Despite their busy schedule, we were lucky enough to snag keyboardist AC prior to their massive set to discuss previous history with Forest, Shapeshifter tour, TAUKing McGee and more.
You guys played Forest previously a few years ago when they announced that it would be two weekends long.
AC: That weekend was crazy. Yeah we were really pumped when we found out that they were doing two weekends a few years back, we love this place and we love the grounds, and the vibe Michigan has is really great for music. A lot of the people here are very receptive. This is our third time back.
Third time back, cumulatively..?
AC: Yes cumulatively, but technically it is our fourth time because we played twice.
When you played the two weekends, did you try and differentiate the sets as much as you can?
AC: Oh absolutely. Me personally, if I see my favorite band or band that I’m into and they come and do the same set, like people pay a lot of money to come to these things. I mean Beyonce did it at Coachella but that’s Beyonce, and even she changed her outfits.
I know that this is you responding singularly, but, as far as the Shapeshifter stuff goes…
AC: So, Shapeshifter was a two-part sequence with two-part release. What happened is that we went into the studio and ended up recording about 18 songs and realized that it was enough for two releases, and then were trying to figure out what we should do with it and how we could make it into a tour and spread it out to keep our fans happy and ourselves happy as artists and composers. And the idea was more of an AI influence taking over, our surroundings and the internet and technology and how everything is integrated. We’re a band that, even though we play synths and everything we don’t use any computers that’s midi or anything that’s locking us up to a tempo, so there’s always a question of what’s the next step. So it’s been really cool to experiment and use different sounds and textures to recreate that vibe, both recorded and live.
It’s all very organic and you can sense that the foundation of it all feels really grassroots-driven. I think the Shapeshifter content is raw and unadulterated.
AC: Yeah, and I think it speaks to what we go for as a live band. When you hear that raw sound and you see that raw energy it’s infectious in a way, whether it’s something you like or not, you respond to it. It forces a reaction, and that is something that we look to.
As far as influences go, I know you guys are all from New York, so you have a lot of predominant scenes there musically. Hip-hop and electronic music are pretty big, in addition to other scenes, so how did that influence you all as a whole?
AC: I attribute our sound to where we come from. In New York, there are so many different bands in different scenes. The four of us listen to a lot of similar music and like a lot of similar music but we also like a lot of different things. Myself, I grew up on hip-hop and R&B, reggae, classical music and gospel, so those genres were what called to me as an artist and a piano player. But I know that Matt (Jalbert) and Charlie (Dolan) like classic rock and jazz and other genres that are a little bit different, so their rock vocabulary was a lot more in-depth than mine. Mine was my hip-hop vocab and it was different than theirs. So you come together and you find the way to make a soup, something that’s not like every spice in the world, but just enough that it compliments each other.
As far as influences run for bands or DJ’s or anything, can you name any notable artists or groups that have really shaped you as an artist?
AC: Oh for sure. one person that sticks out for me and I’m sure a lot of other people, as a keyboard player is Herbie Hancock. What he was able to do as an artist to continuously morph and change, the Be-Bop stuff and also transitioning into movies and scoring and television. The Head Hunters, jazz in the 70’s and all that kind of funk, and also the 80’s stuff with the synth and midi. To be somebody that was able to keep being relevant at different times and be bad ass in every transition. He is one person that I look up to, and a band called Kneebody was a big influence, I’ve never heard someone do music like they did as far as their arrangements go. They are a big influence for TAUK. Originally, they it was a five-piece kind of jazz-prog band that does really really fantastic arrangements.
So, you’re obviously very well-versed in piano and variations of the piano. Aside from that, is there anything else you enjoy playing?
AC: I play a little drums and guitar, though I wouldn’t play publicly. The drums are fun though, and I’m really happy that we have someone like Isaac on our team who is a phenomenal drummer, but also a showman. People want to have a good time at a show. I remember seeing bands like Radiohead and looking at Thom Yorke going crazy; not only is their music very respected and notable, but their live show, their production, the whole team and what they put forward behind the scenes, everyone is just on point, and that’s something that we aspire to. That’s another one of the bands that I love an look up to as a unit, talk about people who are just pro in creativity, it’s amazing.
Let’s talk a little bit about TAUKing McGee – how did that experience play out?
AC: Oh TAUKing McGee has been great, all iterations of it. I think it started around 4 years ago when TAUK and Umphrey’s linked up, and long story short, it’s just a vibe. we’re cool, we gel.
Synchronicity wise, do you feel like you guys are on the same page when you play together?
AC: Obviously you have to be comfortable with your band mates, and everyone is capable enough where we can have a conversation, and as long as everyone is listening, its fun, its great. I think that stands for any kind of situation where you’re playing with other people, but all those guys are very capable and talented and they’re pros, its what they do. So its nice when we can play covers and original stuff, its just a different spin on things and it makes things fun for us and I think there’s definitely a crossover for our audiences. But its great for me, because my role is different, I can kind of lay back and have fun and kind of watch.
So it’s safe to say you’re a fan of Umphrey’s as well..
AC: Definitely, they’re another band who is simply pro all around.
I’m sure you guys have a lot of rehearsal and studio time, but aside from that, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
AC: Practice more, and I like to be outside and do things that are normal. But sometimes you come home and kind of just want to be a hermit, like after an 8-week run when you’re living with 8 other people, and you have to push yourself to get out there. But I like to get out and play basketball, I love to eat, going out and getting tapas or whatever it is.
Just for fun, but if you guys had to join someone on stage at Forest, who would it be?
AC: Well I know Knower is in town but they play around the same time as us, but I would love to link up with them.