NYC-based rock/jazz/funk/prog/fusion/everything band, Tauk, is in the midst of a big year. They’ve garnered about as much acclaim as a young, sophisticated instrumental quartet can possibly garner in our scene with a standout EP (free download here), performances at Bonnaroo & Hangout Fest and opening gigs for Robert Randolph, TLG, 311 and Perpetual Groove.
Tauk caught our Editor in Chief’s ear this past weekend in their supporting slot for Perpetual Groove, and meanwhile we had this interview in the works completely independent of that endorsement. It’s hardly a coincidence though. When a band takes risks, challenges popular music conventions by making a show entirely based on instrumentation, and composes with creativity; it’s music to our ears.
We caught up with Tauk’s bassist Charlie Dolan to learn a bit more about this up-and-coming band on the improvisational music scene.
Hidden Track: I read the story how some of you guys met back in middle school and bonded over a love of music. What were some of those very early influences that you connected over back in those days?
Charlie Dolan: Our first show was in 7th grade at the middle school talent show. We played mostly Hendrix, The Who and Cream songs. I guess I would have to say those were our influences starting off. Matt sang all of them too.
HT: We always give bands a lot of credit who play instrumental music. Obviously, there are plenty of people out there who understand and love instrumental music, but you’re also probably going to lose some people who don‘t have the attention span. When you guys play in front of a new audience in say opening slot or at a festival, what’s the reception like? Do most people seem to get it?
CD: The reception has been really great actually! I find that even if the crowd starts out colder than we would like, after the first song or two we’ve been able to win most of them over – and by the end of the set they are cheering us on. People might not get it at first, but once they get to see the whole picture by the end of the set, things make more sense.
HT: This might be a confusing question, but having a number of members with music degrees and formal training, how much of the writing is based on structures and conventions that you learned in school as opposed to pieces of music you wrote a long time ago while learning to play your instruments?
CD: We never have structure or convention that we follow every time. Although we did go to school to learn that stuff, it’s really about understanding those things and then either discarding them or bending them to your will. I would say our writing is less of a product of what we learned about composition in school, and more of a development from listening and playing different music over the years and developing ourselves to understand and be inspired by that music.
Obviously when we were younger there was more of a formula to it but the same approach was still in place.
HT: You’ve had some major developments in the past year with big festival appearances, quality opening slots, and coverage from various media outlets. What’s been the most exciting band achievement to date?
CD: That’s a tough one, we have had so many great opportunities to open for some of the best acts in the business. Just being acknowledged by groups like Perpetual Groove or people like Robert Randolph is an achievement, and we get to go on tour with them! I guess it would still have to be playing Bonnaroo though. Just being at that festival for a few days before we played, being able to see so many great bands, and then FINALLY getting on stage to show what we’re all about was a very unique and exciting experience. The energy was just amazing, from both us and the crowd.
HT: Do you have any plans for a full length album in the works?
CD: YES! We are very very excited to get back into the studio with our good friend and amazing record producer/engineer Robert Carranza. This will be the first recording we put out with our newest member Isaac Teel on the drums. We feel this is our opportunity to show what we’re about and truly capable of right now.
HT: You’ve been playing on bills with a lot of jambands lately, including Perpetual Groove at the Bowl most recently. Are you guys jamband fans? How many Phish shows would you guess the band has seen in aggregate?
CD: We definitely like jambands! Although I feel like term “jamband” almost defines the scene that comes along with music rather than the music itself sometimes. I know I have seen around 40 Phish shows in the past 10 years, Matt has seen a few more than I have. AC has been to about 10 give or take a few, and Isaac saw his first Phish show at Bonnaroo this year. Phish has definitely been an influence on us, especially in our high school years during the genesis of Tauk.
HT: Finally, how would you characterize the overall personality of the band? Would you say you’re a pretty serious group on the road or more easy going jokesters?
CD: Were all 100% Jokesters, but I would say we are 95% Easy going and 5% “I am hungry and I have been in this van for far too long, get out of my way before I eat your head.”