The categorization of an artist is often of greater concern to them than their output, caring more about being able to submit to other people’s descriptions of them than their actual output. But not Turnip King, whose inimitable brand steps in and out of genre, incorporates a flute into their lineup, and never subscribes to one particular mold. Their song, “The Ho_Se” (named after the Brooklyn house venue), off their debut LP, Laika, is a smoothly disjointed opus, alternating from darkly jazzy to overwhelmingly astral, and everywhere in between. Beautifully reverberated chords open the track, giving way to an ominously funky guitar riff, and an impossibly steady drumbeat pushing everything forward. The word “groovy” comes to mind.
Lush synth sounds are ever present behind the guitar work, making the leap into the stellar maelstrom of the chorus not so jarring. It’s pretty, and then it’s offbeat, and then it’s otherworldly, and then back again, and to call it ‘shoegaze’ or anything else, really, would be a mistake. It’s all over the place. But it makes sense, and flows in a way that makes you feel everything. Lucia Arias’ vocals softly penetrate through the mix, becoming their own instrument, and guiding you through the planetary excursion. A final cymbal crash hits home and all that’s left droning reverb to close the final minute and a half; a reflecting period.
Laika is out August 19 on Fire Talk Records.
We caught up with Turnip King for a little, little Q&A:
How did Turnip King form?
1.) Rock and roll children of suburban America enrolled in the same high school always sniff each other out.
Lucia wrote a bunch of pop songs in her bedroom and that’s when we all kind of formed. Later, Nick got the bean call and we met Ken Winfield.
What do you think of the term “shoegaze revival?” Does Turnip King fit into this? If so, where?
2.) Cal: It sounds like a media conspiracy. It seems like the idea of shoegaze was elevated and destroyed by UK media outlets in the 90s and now contemporary media outlets are trying to fetishize people stepping on expensive little boxes.
[Guitar Center was an inside job.]
Lucia: I think it’s easy to put us into that category of music because of similar motifs. People are really excited about older shoegaze bands getting back together, and it’s cool that younger people can get introduced to older bands by listening to us. I feel like calling us a shoegaze revival band is sort of a cop-out. It doesn’t necessarily make sense when describing our sound because our sound fluctuates and never complies to a singular genre.
Ken: I think the term shoegaze revival is mad funny, most of what I hear is just washed out reverbs and fuzzy wuzzys. I love Slowdive and MBV, but a lot of the “shoegaze revival” bands I have heard sound like they are trying to copy that sound and end up being uninteresting.
What are some of your musical backgrounds, individually? Would you say you have any influences as a whole?
3.) Cal: I have sheet music wallpaper in my bathroom. My dad would always have Nirvana or Phish playing in my house when I was a child. 60s protest music. Kablam. Action League Now. David Leib Heart. Frog and Toad.
*idk tell them we all like Sonic Youth or something.*
Ken: Sun Ra. I’ve always loved improvisation. Sun Ra introduced me to concepts of precision and discipline in improvised music. I love the Meters. Ornette Coleman. My dad showed me Led Zeppelin, Massive Attack, Return to Forever, Guru.
Christian: I’ve always been a good dancer. iRobot with Will Smith. Warped Tour 2008. We met in the marriage barn at Warped Tour. #1 musical influence – The Rafi Carleton Ensemble.
Lucia: Hot Topic as a concept. Avril Lavigne. Kim Deal. Kaki King’s nails.
Ken: Kool A.D. Is my fav rapper. Palm is great. Moonvibes!
Are there contemporary artists you take inspiration from?
4.) Cal: CE Schnieder Topical and Zack Phillips do some really creative stuff with good ideals while still doing justice to the pop song format which is really inspiring.
Christian: I don’t understand the question. The Rafi Carleton Experiment. Palm. Red Sea.
Lucia: Kaki King owns it and lives it and I’m here for her and for this. Jordan Michael is my favorite contemporary artist. His ability to cultivate shows and make music more accessible to a younger audience is inspiring and commendable 100%.
Ken: Hall and Oates…
What are some of your favorite bands you’ve played with?
5.) Here are some of our favorite bands we played with on tour. 3 Brain Robot, Breathers, and Microsoft Saint at Mammal Gallery in Atlanta. Neolibz and Bad Canoes in Philly. Brainfreeze at Aviv. Stardaddy Dixie in Athens, OH. The Internet Does Not Exist in Louisville. Re-Counts in New Orleans. PTLX and Mouthing in Houston. SMLH in Raleigh NC.
Certain songs include a flute. Could you talk about the inclusion of what’s considered to be a “classical” instrument into your music? How’d it come about?
6.) Christian: It’s part of the classical music revival.
Cal: flute is a very sweet sounding and portable instrument. It’s wave form is the closest to a sine tone to any craft instrument. Guitars became extremely boring to me and I just have a lot of fun making flute loops.
Ken: I hear a lot of flute in Sun Ra’s music. Hubert Laws is a really good jazz flute player. I love how portable it is! I started learning some flute parts from Cal on tour and now I want one for myself.
What does the remainder of the year look like?
7.) Christian: getting drunk.
Cal: we have a Disney channel original movie coming out called Too Drunk To Die.
Lucia: We’re doing overdubs on the new album, I’m finishing school, and we’re continuing to play shows in NY and around the east coast. We all have solo projects that are getting released before the end of the year.
Ken: I’m working on my hip-hop album which hopefully I’ll be done with by December. Otherwise working … going to school … getting P.
Christian: I’m still working on my robot armpit. Toiling away.