This fall, frontrunners of today’s funk scene, The New Mastersounds and Turkuaz, will join forces for a cross country North American tour that stops in San Francisco and Berkeley on November 11 and 12.
Coming off of a hot Fourth of July weekend at this year’s High Sierra Music Festival, these bands have each been innovating and pushing their field forward for the better part of two decades.
The New Mastersounds are a modern four-piece core, plus additional horns for flavoring, and carry with them a wide influence of timeless funk. Turkuaz, on the other hand, features a massively coordinated nine-piece ensemble born out of Berklee School of Music, and their latest album, Digitonium, is intentionally futuristic.
Each of them put on some of the most high-energy funk in the genre today and are notorious for paying homage to the greats that came before them. If you like to get funky and shake all night, this is not a pair of shows to pass up. Last time Turkuaz came to SF, it was a damn party.
Read a bit about what it takes to keep a nine-piece band together, some of their favorite things about California, and the future of touring for this young funk band. Of the nine members, I was lucky enough to conduct a group interview with drummer Michelangelo Carubba, guitarist Dave Brandwein, percussionist and vocalist Sammi Garett, and vocalist Shira Elias.
The Bay Bridged: First of all, hi, how are you guys doing? I’m Josh, thanks for taking a few minutes to meet with me.
Turkuaz: Very good. Hi! Nice to meet you.
TBB: I write for The Bay Bridged.
Dave Brandwein: You guys did a great review of the Slim’s show.
TBB: Well thanks a lot man, that was me actually, that was a blast and actually my first time seeing you guys.
DB: Oh really?
TBB: I’d seen The Nth Power a couple of times before and I was excited to see what kind of combination that was going to bring.
TBB: But the funk scene coming out of New York and Berklee is unreal right now, all of these musicians have really deep ties to several different bands. Did you guys have a sense of this level of success being achieved by so many of your classmates while you were there?
Michelangelo Carubba: You mean at school? At Berklee?
MC: I think we were having fun, but the sense of community was pretty obvious even back then but we weren’t overthinking it at the time, I think certainly turning it into a career and touring and stuff has been, since after getting there, at the time it was a great sense of community and it’s just continued to extend itself in surprising ways. We’re kind of blessed to be around such a great scene in Boston and now in New York.
TBB: Yeah. Totally. When you guys aren’t touring or recording, what kind of new music are you seeking out? How do you find your new music?
DB: Ask people with a discerning ear. People I trust, that I know are on that tip all of the time that I know are actively looking.
TBB: Letting someone else do the legwork?
DB: More or less, yeah.
Sammi Garett: Well sometimes you get a pleasant surprise, you go to a bar somewhere and someone’s playing —
MC: Shazaam! You know it does happen though.
SG: And you go “Oh my God! Who’s this? This is great!” and then you’re THAT person.
Shira Elias: Or like on the road on festivals, we encounter so many bands and sometimes —
DB: Sometimes they’re killer.
TBB: So I know you guys are out here now, but after that Slim’s show, you probably don’t make it out to California too often, yeah?
DB: We come out twice a year, at least. Or at least we have for the last four or five years.
MC: It’s sort of three if you count this.
DB: We’re trying to get to going everywhere we can at least twice-ish a year for the US. Obviously that means a lot of time on the road, but that’s what we do.
TBB: You said US there, how often have you or are you planning on extending that?
MC: Not yet, but we hope to.
DB: International is coming, we just have to get all of our ducks in a row.
TBB: Europe or Japan?
DB: All of them, the whole fucking world! (laughs)
MC: I like how those are the two options. It’s a tough choice (laughs).
TBB: Well, If you’re going to go somewhere first, it can only be one place.
DB: We’re told that Asia and Australia have a really good scene for this kind of stuff. It’s funny because we get email and Facebook messages literally almost daily or multiple times a week from Europe, but all of the scene is actually firmed up in Asia and Australia.
TBB: Very cool, that would be a fun tour for sure.
DB: It’s a little farther though, but we won’t have to drive there, thank God.
TBB: How many shows would you guys say you play a year?
MC: Somewhere around there for sure.
DB: It adds up to about 210 travel days total.
TBB: You guys have nine people in your immediate band, how long did it take to figure out how to coordinate everybody’s schedule?
SG: I feel like we got that figured out pretty quickly.
MC: We kinda learned that it has to go the other way, you make the schedule around the tours and what times it makes the most sense to be in what places, we have to make sacrifices. Not just us, but any band that tours heavily.
DB: Early on when we started and we realized we should be hitting the road pretty full time, I think at first it took a little bit of “this person has that,” etc, where we just decided to clear everyone’s schedule short of the real important stuff and work backwards from that.
SE: It seems like with nine people it would be impossible but we make it work.
TBB: That’s what I was thinking, it has to get insane with all of you being out.
DB: This takes priority. It’s the only way this works.
TBB: Do you think it make sit easier to schedule important things out backwards like that?
MC: In a weird way.
DB: Yeah, it’s actually not easy at all, and shit will all land on the same days.
SG: Sometimes you just can’t be there.
DB: We’ve all missed birthdays and weddings, funerals, and that sort of shit, but it’s for the love of the game.
MCDB: Also, it helped us evolve because if that wasn’t your priority at the early stages of all this, then, you know, you’re out. It’s the way we ended up with this lineup.
TBB: Well cheers to you guys, I’m glad you do. What’s your favorite thing about California?
DB: Driving on the 1, Big Sur, all that stuff is really cool.
SG: I like being in San Diego, it’s pretty beautiful down there.
SE: The drive up here was amazing! I wanted to stop and play in the streams. Didn’t happen.
MC: We stopped in Weed on our way up.
DB: Weed, California!
MC: What’s the big mountains that are there?
MC: That was gorgeous.
DB: Any In-n-Out burger.
MC: California has a flavor for every taste, mountains, desert, woods, whatever you want. It’s one of those few states that has something for everyone.
TBB: So High Sierra, is this the beginning of or end of a tour?
DB: This is a one-off thing.
TBB: I ask because I knew the Slim’s gig was the last of that tour, I wasn’t sure if you had continued it or were starting a new one.
MC: Actually there were a few festivals on the way back form Slim’s, Summer Camp Music Festival, and …
DB: We’re in festival season right now so there’s a lot of one-offs. Festival season for us basically means we get every Monday through Wednesday off and then we run out and do a weekend festival. Summer is not a very straight, heavy-touring season for us. Fall, spring and winter are when we go out on extended tours. Just cause summertime, people want to be outside. In the summer you’ve gotta play festivals. It’s how we’ve grown, how we continue to grow.
TBB: What are some of your favorite festivals to play?
MC: This is it!
SG: Catskill Chill.
SE: This is our fourth High Sierra.
The New Mastersounds & Turkuaz
Friday Nov 11, 2016
The New Mastersounds & Turkuaz
The UC Theatre
Nov 12, 2016