Q&A: Turkuaz Drummer Michael Carubba Talks to Knockdown Alley

Posted on Thursday September 24th in

Taking cues from bands like Parliament, Sly and the Family Stone, and Talking Heads, Brooklyn nine-piece funk orchestra Turkuaz (below, performing “Chatte Lunatique” for Jam in the Van) mix funk, R&B, and Motown with world-music flourishes. A new LP, the Zapp & Roger–influenced Digitonium, filled with the psychedelic funk and brassy soul that’s become one of the funk army’s calling cards, arrives on October 2nd. The band celebrates its release with a pair of hometown shows at Brooklyn Bowl next Tuesday, alongside Polyrhythmics and Pitchblak Brass Band, and next Wednesday, with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and Pitchblak Brass Band. But before they get here, Turkuaz drummer Michael Carubba answered some questions for Knockdown Alley.

What music or song always makes you dance? “Dancing Machine” by Jackson 5 will always make me dance.

Do you notice if your music is received any differently at home than it is in other parts of the country? And does playing Brooklyn Bowl — at home in Brooklyn — have any significance for you? As long as the crowd wants to have fun, the music is received pretty universally. Obviously if we did a show for Westboro Baptist Church they might not be as down, but in general, show-going people trust you with providing them a good time. Playing in Brooklyn feels like home for us. That will never change.

Growing up, which funk bands inspired you to get into the funk business yourself? And are there any current funk bands you find yourself listening to or wanting to check out? Being from Buffalo, N.Y., and my family having a personal connection to Rick James, he was a huge part of how I feel funk. Also the Evans brothers from Soulive had a huge impact on me. The new Soulive joint produced by Pretty Lights is something I have my eye on now. Adam Deitch and Eric Bloom just recently showed me a few cuts from their upcoming album, and those cats have done something really fresh and cool, too, so there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening to funk this fall.

Do you have any new music in the pipeline? And do you ever road-test new music live before recording it? The two-night run at Brooklyn Bowl next Tuesday and Wednesday are release shows for our newest LP, Digitonium. That’s our newest and most progressive content coming out. Most albums in the past have been pretty well road-tested, but for Digitonium, a large part of the album was written in the studio, so the live translation will be an exciting challenge for us in the next year.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song — are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? I think a band needs to know what works for them writing wise. Awareness of the band’s voice, and trust in the musicians’ capabilities and potential are all a part of writing good original music. I don’t really think we have any crutches. There are mostly just clichés that we try to avoid in order to maintain the standards we hold ourselves to.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you? If you’re writing those kinds of songs, which we normally don’t, I think it may help to be in the headspace of the aesthetic you’re trying to create, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There’s a lot of great songs that have lyrics where, if the content had in fact happened, the writer would be in jail and not singing anything for anyone. So I guess my answer is no.

At your after-party there’s an endless jukebox, and we give you a buck. Which three songs are you playing? “Dancing Machine,” by Jackson 5 to get people movin’, “Next Episode,” off Chronic 2001, because everyone loves to yell, “Smoke weed every day” even if they don’t. And “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar ’cause that shit is hot.

It’s 4 a.m. and last call has come and gone. What’s your next move? The after-after-party. Or fall asleep in an Uber and wake up to the driver screaming to get out.


View all blog posts>

Just Added

More Shows

See All Shows>

Search Shows

Join the Mailing List