For such a young band, Tauk is making friends in all the right places. The jammy/fusion-y/funky/call-them-what-you-will instrumental quartet already has worked with Dave Natale (Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones) and Robert Carranza (Jack Johnson, Mars Volta) in the recording studio, and they’ve already played marquee festivals like Hangout, FloydFest and Bonnaroo.
But most importantly, perhaps, Robert Randolph has taken the band under his wing. Randolph first invited them to open for him a few years ago after seeing them play at the West Village’s famous Bitter End, and the two bands have continued to share bills ever since. Just last week at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club, Randolph even invited guitarist Matt Jalbert onstage with to play along with his own Family Band.
But while Tauk is relatively new to the music scene (their first full-length disc, Homonculus, was just released in April), they’re not exactly new to music. Or to each other. Three of the band members have been playing together for 13 years, since attending middle school together on Long Island. “We still practice in the same spot we did in 7th grade,” says Jalbert. That spot: bassist Charlie Dolan‘s basement.
At least, that is, when they weren’t sneaking into the band room to get some extra practice in during lunch (with the blessing of a sympathetic music teacher), or helping to found their high school’s first music-theory program. (Oh, the band’s name: it’s a nod to Montauk, the town at the end of Long Island, near where they grew up.)
So suffice it to say, these aren’t young garage-band punks, bashing out I-IV-V power chords for three minutes at a time. Far from it. You’ll hear plenty of passages in 11/8 or 13/4 time, delayed guitar lines that would be at home in any prog band, and flights of melodic and harmonic fancy that leaves one wondering how much of it is written out versus improvised. “We do switch in and out of odd meters, but it’s still got to mean something,” says keyboardist A.C. Carter.
Indeed, what often undergirds the band’s originals, no matter the meter, is a strong sense of groove, the kind that would be at home in any funk or soul song. For that, they rely largely on drummer Isaac Teel, the band’s newest member, who steeped himself in everything from R&B to hip-hop before joining Tauk. On stage, Teel’s showmanship also helps to compensate for the band’s lack of a frontman. Last week at 9:30 Club, his drum kit was pushed to the forefront as he pounded out frenetic beats, occasionally balancing a tambourine on top of his crash cymbal, or temporarily resting a drum stick between his teeth.
Speaking about their genre-bending style and wealth of influences, Carter says, “You never know what preconceived notions people have.” Especially, it needs to be said, in a band comprised of two black and two white members. Nowhere do they blow up those notions better than in their cover of The Beatles‘ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” a song that dates to when they still had a singer in the band. Now it’s a genre-smashing version that blends blues, jazz, soul and some of the song’s existing proto-sludge elements. No wonder that they’re closing some of their sets with it, to a rousing reception.