“What day is it?” jokes Charlie Dolan on a Friday afternoon. Understandably, the TAUK bassist is taking it easy at home, resting up for the quartet’s remaining festival dates, upcoming Fall tour, and the release of Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, their first proper LP since 2016’s Sir Nebula.
Alongside four-time Grammy winning producer Robert Carranza, Dolan and his bandmates (guitarist Matt Jalbert, keyboardist Alric “A.C.” Carter and drummer Isaac Teel) hunkered down in an abandoned house in Oyster Bay, NY to create the new album. Dolan says their spooky surroundings created “a vibe for us to be as creative as possible,” and enabled the cinematic energy of their preceding EP Shapeshifer I to be carried over into this full-length offering. With guest appearances by Juan Alderete (The Mars Volta), Nate Worth (Snarky Puppy) and the Naughty Professor Horns, Shapeshifter II: Outbreak – out Sept. 28 – is primed to be the band’s most conceptual release to date.
Below Dolan discusses the new record, Red Rocks and more.
Are you excited to get back on the road?
Yeah, for sure. It’s been a cool summer just doing the festivals on the weekends and practicing during the week and just getting ready for tour.
Your upcoming record Shapeshifter II: Outbreak is influenced by sci-fi movies. Did you grow up loving science fiction?
For sure. My dad was always watching those terrible SyFy channel shows where it’s like Attack of the Swamp Monster, or whatever, so I grew up watching all the kind of stuff.
Could you point to any specific films or TV shows that influenced the record itself?
Sure. I think Ex Machina is a more recent one. Stranger Things is definitely another one. Some of the sequencers we’re using can definitely evoke that kind of sound, and just the vibe of it in general works for what we’re going for. We just did a video that’s kind of Stranger Things-esque, without saying too much.
Where did you guys record?
We recorded the whole record in this house that had been pretty much abandoned for 40 years. We had an opportunity to get in there before it was renovated, and it had a very haunted house vibe to it. We got the creepiness straight from where we were. We were in there pretty much for two months straight just bangin’ it out.
It was definitely DIY. There were windows that were broken open that we had to put cardboard over. We had to make it our own. We definitely put stuff in there like couches, sound baffling, anything that we thought could make it sound good.
Any appearances of ghosts or spectres in the attic?
No, but we did go in the basement, and found some animal skeletons. Those were creepy enough for us.
I know you worked with Robert Carranza on this record. He’s been your go-to producer for some time. How did you guys link up?
We’ve known Robert for so long. Robert worked with us on a previous project and we always kept in touch. At this point, Robert feels like another member of the band. Even outside of recording, we’re always bouncing ideas off of him. He has definitely invested with us and we’re gonna invest in him.
Robert worked with The Mars Volta in the past. Do you think there’s a sonic overlap between TAUK and The Mars Volta?
Oh, for sure. Actually on one of the tracks on the album, Juan Alderete from The Mars Volta did a few sound effects and bass effects for us. So we definitely have a little collaboration there on “Checkmate.” We haven’t released the track yet, but it’s definitely one of those trippier, more sci-fi sounding songs that we have.
Can you recall of any “lightbulb moments” on this record where Robert said something that made a big impact?
What’s really cool for this record is we came in overly prepared. We probably had 20 songs in different forms of completion. What’s cool with Robert is we just play the stuff, and he’s got perspective. When you’re in the writing process it’s good to have someone from the outside. So he allows us to work at our most efficient way possible rather than us getting heady and not moving the composition forwards. Robert definitely helps in that process.
This album is called Shapeshifter II and you had a previous EP called Shapeshifter I. Was it always the plan to make an EP as a precursor to a full LP?
Like I said, we came in with so much material that we wanted to get as much of it down as possible. Both the EP and the full album were done in the same recording session. We focused on the five songs on the EP and got them done first and then finished the rest of the album after that.
Looking ahead to your fall tour, are you guys feeling the grind or are you excited about hitting all these cities?
I’m super excited. This is a pretty long tour, a full national tour, which we only do once a year. I’m excited to get out to the West coast, and see the whole country again. We’ve been friends for forever and we still enjoy the hell out of it. I think this album is a testament to how much we still enjoy this space and we’re still pushing our boundaries and keeping it fresh. It’s important to play inspired music and keep it going.
Speaking of your dates out West, you guys are opening for STS9 at Red Rocks on September 8th.
We played Red Rocks once with Umphrey’s and Papadosio for the first time and we also played with String Cheese one other time, and we’re so stoked to be back. It’s definitely our favorite place to play, not really a competition.
I remember the first time we went out to Colorado and we were playing a small bar and we we just went to Red Rocks and took it in. We just needed to see it. It’s always been a goal for us and our dream to play there.
Going back to the album, are there any new tunes you’re excited to stretch out and see where they go live?
Yeah. We’ve been practicing and playing a little less than half of the songs already. We are rearranging the other half even from what’s on the album and finding sections where we can open things up. Some of them showcase different things about the band that haven’t been seen before. We’re really excited to play them live and see what people think.