by Matt Inman on June 30, 2016
Alric “A.C.” Carter is cruising through the quiet streets of northern Oyster Bay, the portion of Long Island most well-known for having produced New York’s piano-man ambassador, Billy Joel. Also the hometown of Carter and the other members of upand-coming prog-jam outfit TAUK, Oyster Bay is now the location of a home-recording studio where the band is currently deep into the sessions for their third full-length album.
The space is nestled cozily in sparse woods and has the feel of a suburban residence that happens to have a large amount of recording and musical equipment stored in it. Grammywinning producer and engineer Robert Carranza sits behind a massive soundboard that faces a window looking out onto the early-winter overcast of the bay. On the couch behind him, Carter goes over his fantasy basketball strategies and listens to Carranza give directions via an intercom to the disembodied voice of guitarist Matt Jalbert, who is in another room laying down some overdubs on one of the 16 or so songs that may make their way onto this album.
Carranza is a perfectionist, having Jalbert repeat riffs countless times before moving on, but never with any hint of micromanaging. The producer has worked with the quartet since their debut LP, 2013’s Homunculus, and there’s a palpable ease and understanding among all the musicians.
“This time around, it feels like we know how we approach things,” Jalbert says of the band’s relationship with Carranza, who has also worked with Jack Johnson and The Mars Volta, among others. “With [this] process you’re seeing, we’re going back in and redoing some of the guitar parts. I feel a looseness that this album has, compared to the other ones—we are letting things breathe a bit, rather than forcing things to happen.”
TAUK—whose lineup also includes bassist Charlie Dolan and drummer Isaac Teel— spent the previous month at the sunnier location of Carranza’s LA studio, recording the initial tracks that they are now refining on the opposite coast. The record is far from finished, but the band’s vision is beginning to take shape.
“I don’t know what I want at the end of this, but I know I want it to be something different,” Carter says. “There are dots or points, and we’re just trying to figure out how to connect them. Sometimes people get caught up in, ‘Well, it’s going to sound like what we did before or is it going to be completely different’—it will be what it will be by the end of this process, and it will be 100 percent us. Robert put it best. He wants to come in and take a snapshot of who we are at this point in time, and what we have been doing so far has been an accurate representation of who we are trying to be as a band.”
Last year, TAUK released Headroom, a collection of live recordings from various concerts that gave fans a high-quality look into the power that the quartet displays onstage, something that they are now trying to capture in the studio. “We are a live band,” Carter says. “That’s where we thrive the most, collectively creating together, so to have the studio record be something completely different—I wouldn’t call it false advertising, but that’s just not who we want to be.”
As a young band, TAUK have found Carranza’s studio invaluable, and the quartet recently had the opportunity to learn from other veterans when they toured with fellow progressive jam act Umphrey’s McGee. Jalbert met a couple of the Chicago band’s members at Lockn’, where UM bassist Ryan Stasik revealed that he played their music to his young daughter at night. Once they teamed up for some shows, the chemistry between the groups grew quickly.
“Fuck those guys! We beat them in basketball!” Carter jokes. TAUK and Umphrey’s McGee have already clocked in two tours together and have had the opportunity to form the TAUKing McGee mashup group as a fun side project. TAUK even opened Umphrey’s first-ever arena show in Asheville, N.C. “They are great, all of them, and it was a huge learning experience for us,” Carter says. “We were compatible—musically and just as people. It’s nice when you see a band being successful and looking to also help out other people and not being d-bags. I know that sounds kind of silly, but there’s a huge amount of d-bags out there, and you realize that you don’t really need to run your business that way.”
Their friendship has taught the group a lot about touring life as well, and what it takes to succeed in the right way. “It’s cool for us to see a band at that level,” Jalbert says. “They are practicing every day, and every night, they are pushing themselves to be tighter and play better.”
Things don’t always go perfectly, however. “I remember getting to the first show we played with them and thinking, ‘OK, we have to crush this,’ and I had a beer on the stage, and it spilled and got all over the place. We finished our set, and I see their crew vacuuming, and I’m like, ‘Oh, fuck, I’m an asshole. All right, no more beers on stage—lesson number one. Don’t spill on the Umphrey’s rug where they have all of their gear.’”
You can catch TAUK at High Sierra, Highberry, Merryland, Wild Woods, Camp Barefoot, Backwoods, Resonance Music & Arts and elsewhere.