Nine-piece Brooklyn powerfunk outfit Turkuaz has been on fire this year. Currently amidst a massive cross-country tour, they just announced a huge chunk of new Winter tour dates that they’ll pick up after their Jam Cruise appearance, including some huge March dates with Galactic on the West coast. “On the road is our normal,” Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias shared. Booking around 200 shows a year, she isn’t exaggerating.
It’s easy to see why. The Turkuaz live experience is like a traveling funk circus that comes to your town complete with an energetic, engaging dance party, coordinated outfits, nine music-loving magicians, and the rare sounds from a full horn section that will leave you feeling elated to simply be a part of it. Each band-member wears a different color of the rainbow, reflecting light onto crowds like a mobile backdrop to good times wherever they go. Oh, and their tour bus: it’s called “The Bandwagon.”
Home in Brooklyn taking a rare break after a hometown show, we caught up with the talented Turkuaz vocalists Shira Elias and Sammi Garett to get the scoop on working with Jerry Harrison and all things Turkuaz.
There are a lot of meanings out there for what you do. How do you define funk?
Shira: Funk is a pretty broad, encompassing genre. Especially for Turkuaz, since we have so many different influences. You know, since there are so many of us in the band [nine]. We’re trying to get people dancing! We want them grooving; you know, moving, happy, partying. Obviously there are more technical aspects of what funk could be defined as, but for us: it’s celebratory. And fun! You know, a funky good time.
Sammi: to build off that, it’s not just the music. It’s a groove you can get into, and we want to get people into it. It’s happy! You know, just getting people up and dancing.
Shira: Totally. And, of course, in the traditional sense; with the history of funk being James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Parliament Funkadelic, also being huge influences to us. And of course, the Talking Heads.
We love to honor the history of the whole thing. And also the future of it, where we try to put our own spin on what “funk” means to the world.
Sammi: That’s why we call ourselves “powerfunk”… to us it’s an all-encompassing, new school, meets old school thing.
What a cool origin. I love the term, how did you come up with it?
Shira: It’s truly based off the sheer power of nine people in a band. These days, that’s a huge band. It’s super powerful. It just made sense.
So in the tune of new school meeting old school, as well as the Talking Heads influence, how was it working with Jerry Harrison (keyboardist from the Talking Heads) to produce your single, “On the Run”?
Shira: It was incredible. We met up in Brooklyn with him and his sound engineer, E.T. Which stands for his initials-
Sammi: but he’s also kind of extraterrestrial! (laughing)
Shira: He’s done Cyndi Lauper’s albums and the Talking Heads. He actually did one of Bob Marley’s albums, too. He goes way back in the recording/producing world.
The process was cool, and the freedom they gave us was terrific. They both, especially Jerry, did a lot of letting us decide what we wanted to do. Like, they weren’t on top us with direction…do you agree Sammi?
Sammi: Yeah, I do. It was super collaborative, which was awesome. Just fantastic. We loved it! He had ideas, we had ideas, and together, we all had this great, open dialogue about where we wanted to go with the tune.