With the Sixth Annual Disc Jam Music Festival just around the corner, we’re providing some special coverage called “The Road to Disc Jam” interview series. With this extended special, we’re sitting down with a handful of insanely talented musicians on this year’s lineup to talk about their plans for Disc Jam, their individual musical backgrounds, and plans for the future. Last week, we interviewed Chuck and Scotty of Dopapod (check it out here), and this week we interviewed Charlie Dolan, bassist and founding member of TAUK.
For this week’s installment of “The Road to Disc Jam,” we’re trying something new. During our adventures across the country covering and writing about shows, bands, and festivals, we’ve met some awesome people. Within this community of amazing people, we’ve met some amazing artists. For this piece about TAUK, we’re riddling the article with original paintings and photos from “artist-friends” we’ve met along the way. Without further adieu, meet Masha Supernova (above painting), Scott Harris (Cap TAUK photos), and Sean Schechter (his photos were the inspiration for Masha’s original piece). You’ll be seeing more original art and photos from our friends in upcoming articles, so stay tuned for more, and enjoy the interview!
Sound Fix: Hey Charlie, thanks for taking some time here to answer a few questions. Appreciate the time.
Charlie Dolan: No problem!
Sound Fix: So you’re originally from Oyster Bay?
Charlie Dolan: Yessir, in Long Island, New York.
SF: Cool, I’m from Brooklyn myself. Part of the reason for this interview is because we’re covering both Disc Jam and Catskill Chill this upcoming festival season, and TAUK’s on both lineups. To start things off here, let’s talk about Disc Jam. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this will be your first time performing at the festival?
CD: Yep, this is our first time.
SF: Nice. So tell us anything and everything you can about Disc Jam.
CD: I’ve never been to Disc Jam, but I’ve heard so much about it. I know Dopapod’s played a number of times over the past few years, and they’re good buddies of ours. They’ve told us only good things about the festival. It’s definitely at this point one of “the homies” festivals, where a ton of our friends perform, and we’ve been told it has a great community each year, and a growing following. I love those kinds of festival that have a relaxed atmosphere. That laid back, homey vibe allows you to feel comfortable in your situation as a musician to try new, random things musically.
SF: Good to hear – so will you stick around the whole weekend?
CD: Probably not. We’ll likely stay there for the day and see as much music as we possibly can and then head back home to Long Island.
SF: What other bands are you looking forward to seeing at Disc Jam when TAUK’s not on stage?
CD: Dopapod, for sure. I love seeing those guys perform, and we haven’t ran into them in a while. They’re all just such great musicians and are a fantastic band. I always love seeing the new things they bring to the table at each performance. Electron’s also another one. I remember seeing those guys way, way back in the day, and I haven’t seen them since, so I’m stoked to check them out again.
SF: So veering away from Disc Jam, with my interviews I like to build a storyline delineating the individual musician’s background and how he or she became a professional musician. This said, tell us where it all began for you.
CD: I started playing bass in 6th or 7th grade and met Matt and AC (guitarist and keyboardist for TAUK) through school. During lunch we would go down to the band room and mess around with our High School’s band instruments. I actually originally wanted to play the drums, but no one was playing the bass, so I decided to pick it up, and kind of just stuck with it. I really enjoyed it, so I went on to play in jazz bands during high school, but would mostly just play outside school with Matt and AC. We’d also play with whoever else was around at school, but it was really just the three of us, and we’d switch between instruments. So from there we started a few bands in High School, and then we split up for a bit and went off to college. I went to college to study Jazz music and recording, so I met a lot of musicians during my time at school. But really, the whole time during college I always had TAUK in the background, and I was always writing for the band. I went to school with the intention of working on TAUK and expanding what the band was doing, and what I could also do personally. So it’s always came and always comes back to TAUK, even when we were not TAUK.
SF: What college did you go to?
CD: I went to NYU.
SF: Awesome, which school at NYU?
CD: I went to the Steinhardt School. Steinhardt does music technology and it also has a Jazz program.
SF: So before that, you, Matt and AC met in High School, and you had ongoing High School bands?
CD: Yeah, we were doing pit band for the orchestra together, and we were playing in the jazz band. We had our own band as well, where we covered Phish and Dave Matthews songs. And eventually we started doing fusion music like Herbie Hancock. We were playing so many different kinds of music together, whether it was in an academic setting, or just messing around as friends.
SF: So in high school, what were the other names of your bands before you arrived at TAUK?
CD: **laughs*** We came up with a bunch of names, but TAUK was eventually the one that stuck. Man, there were some really bad ones.
SF: Let’s hear them. **laughs**
CD: Well, there was Space Coyote. At one point AC was the only black guy in the band, so we called ourselves AC and the White Brigade but that wasn’t too PC, people frowned upon it, so we changed that one. It was a good inside joke, but not safe for the public. **laughs** We had some others, like Juice Box. TAUK was hard for us to come up with, in fact, I think the hardest thing about starting a band is probably coming up with the name, because you have to live with it forever. It’s easy enough to come up with song names because you can always write a new song, but you can’t come up with a new band name.
SF: So what does TAUK mean? And why do I have to capitalize it in this article?
CD: **laughs** We try to make it caps because it stands out. You know, if you’re on a festival bill, the capitalization is just for look’s purposes. The name TAUK itself comes from the name of a town at the end of Long Island, where we’re all originally from, called Montauk.
SF: That’s right, makes sense now.
CD: I grew up there pretty much my entire life, and my Mom has a house out there, and it came to us just being stupid one day when we saw a t-shirt. But in the present, we like to come up with different names for it. For example, people will tell us we don’t have any lyrics, and we’re named “TAUK,” so it’s kind of ironic. I think it works in that way. We weren’t always an instrumental band, but now that we are, it adds that particular iron meaning to it.
SF: You mentioned you’re at Montauk all the time. Are you a surfer?
CD: I tried surfing at one time and I wasn’t good at it, but I was really into skateboarding. Skateboarding was life for me at one time, and there was skatepark at Montauk that I would go to every day.
SF: So let’s steer towards the origins of TAUK. In high school you, AC and Matt always had a group, and you three stuck together throughout and after college. When was the turning point where you decided to go all in with this group called TAUK?
CD: Well you know, we were always friends and have always played together. We went to different colleges, and even when we weren’t playing with each other at school, we were still writing music for each other to play. We started writing in this music notation program where we could literally write out every part of the song down to the drum beat and send it to each other. So before we came back on breaks, we’d tell each other to learn a few new songs, then we’d try to play them at a a few gigs in the city. That was pretty much what we did during the four years of college. That said, the plan was always to go all in and strive for it together after college. And we did. We had a back singer then, and a different drummer.
SF: That’s right, were they members during college?
CD: Yeah they were, and after college we went for it as TAUK with the previous two members and it didn’t work. We failed. We tried and we fell flat on our face. But we learned some valuable lessons from failing. After that experience, our singer left the band, and then our previous drummer also left. Matt, AC and I kept playing together, and we started to bring different people on after that. We were even looking for a new singer at one point, but then we realized the music we were writing carried itself without a singer. I knew Isaac, our current drummer, throughout college, and when our drummer left Isaac tried out. We had known each other for so long, so there was already a natural camaraderie there, and he knew Matt and AC for years already through me, so we were all friends off the batt, and that’s really what the core of the band is, you know? TAUK is just us being friends playing music together, and the musical chemistry that natural transcends from that. And like I said, we learned a lot of lessons from trying and failing the first time, and that lead us to a much clearer path of what we’re currently doing with this instrumental project, and so far it’s working out pretty well!
SF: If you don’t mind me asking, and apologies if it’s a sensitive topic, but when you say you tried and “fell flat on your face,” what do you mean by that? Can you elaborate on those tribulations a bit more?
CD: Yeah sure. I mean, you have bands that think “I need a manager or booking agent,” and if you’re a band that’s not really well known, you can try to get on a big tour or festival, and we toured with some bigger bands and it went over all right but in the end, we weren’t putting out something worth while to people. We realized after that there were some things that were working, and some things that weren’t, so we kind of went back to to the drawing board. We shut it all down temporarily to see what else we could come up with. We did some soul searching and put some deep thought into what we wanted, and we learned so much from that experience. At one moment as a musician you think it’s one way, but then it’s a completely different way. You have to learn to adapt from that sort of realization, and that’s exactly what we did. We got a taste for what it was like to be on the road, to be in different places all the time, and to be a full time musician, and that part of the ride was awesome. But having that feeling almost taken away, and then fighting back for it was an amazing experience. I remember when we came back as TAUK and traveled to a familiar venue from our previous tour, and it felt amazing and so perfect to be back at it, trying to make the dream happen. It’s a long and winding road!
SF: Remind me, how long has Isaac been in the band now?
CD: I think it’s been about four and a half years now. He joined in 2012, and our first show with him was on January 2nd in 2012.
SF: So you released “Headroom” last year, and “Collisions” in 2014. Looking forward, what new music do you have in the works?
CD: Well right now we have full album in the chamber with bonus tracks. We’re kind of sitting on it until the Fall, and after we release it we’re going to tour on it really hard. We’re really excited about it. The next step is just to get it mastered, but we have a complete album fully recorded. We’ve been slowly bringing songs from the album into the rotation, and we’ll obviously play every track in concert when the album comes out, but in the meantime we’ll play a bunch of new material at live performances.
SF: Where did you record it?
CD: Like the last two records, we recorded half at a solar powered studio in Los Angeles, and the other half we recorded at my house in Long Island.
SF: Have you thought of a name for it?
CD: **laughs** That part I have to keep secret.
CD: It was awesome, and I’m so happy for those guys. It was an incredibly special show. We could really feel the energy in that venue, and it was just sick. I mean, those guys selling out The Cap for the first time, good for them! That’s just amazing.
SF: Tell me about your performance and your experience at The Cap. We heard about “In Bloom” and some great moments for TAUK.
CD: It was just refreshing. We did a full national tour for three and a half months at the beginning of this year with Umphrey’s McGee, and then we took two weeks off to rest up. But after two weeks we just had this itch to get back on stage, and what a better stage to get on than at a sold out Cap Theatre? And the energy their, wow! We just fed off the crowd, what an awesome group of fans. They all came out for us even though we had an early slot. We’ve been touring with Umphrey’s McGee, so we were used to that hour-long slot – we’ve pretty much mastered it at this point. Sometimes it takes one show to get comfortable again, but that show was just like wow, alright, sold out Cap Theatre! We felt comfortable right away. Except for my bass breaking in the first two songs. That part kind of sucked!
SF: Wow, the string, or the whole damn thing?
CD: No **laughs** my battery died, and thank god Gubb from Twiddle was side stage. As soon as it happened, I immediately ran off stage in the middle of our song, and was like “dude, give me your bass, just give it to me!” He asked what’s wrong with mine and I told him my battery died, and almost immediately he was like, “I got you!” The thing about Gubb, is he’s a whole foot taller than me, so his bass was basically hitting my knees, but it was all good. It was one of those times when almost mess up the show, but you don’t, and it makes the whole thing that much better. That was how we started off the set. It was a good ice breaker. **laughs**
SF: So we heard you covered “In Bloom” at the Cap. Using that to break into some song-specific questions, what is your favorite song to cover?
CD: You know, man, I like all the covers we do! For us, the hardest thing is coming up with a cover that really translates well into an instrumental song. So, to me, I love playing that song, and we also played a cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” I’m ready to bring on some new covers with TAUK. That two week period off I told you about, part of the reason of that was for us to arrange some new covers for the festival season. Without the vocals, we could conceivably just play the song as is. But we like to arrange the covers differently in a way that’s unique to what the song is, you know? If you pick a song that has a recognizable melody, people in the crowd can sing that, you know? You play “In Bloom” and people are singing the chorus to that, and it sounds amazing to have a mob of people synchronized to what you’re performing on stage. It makes for an incredible live moment, and I love every minute of it. Covers are also special for us because it helps people sometimes understand what we’re going for in our originals. Most of our songs are very melodically-based compositions, so we try to incorporate a hook into the melodies, and that’s what songs like “In Bloom” and “Eleanor Rigby” are like. You remember those melodies and you can sing them in your head, and that’s what we’re striving for in our own songs, just without the lyrics.
SF: I know this is inherently a tougher question, but do you have a favorite TAUK song to perform?
CD: It changes all the time. Right now, one of my favorite songs to play is going to be off our new album and it’s called “Flashback.” So look out for that one. I’m sure we’ll play that one at either Disc Jam or Chill!
SF: Awesome. Just a couple more here, Charlie. I’ve heard a couple different terms to describe the TAUK sound. I’ve heard Dirty Funk, I’ve heard Instrumental Rock Fusion. We’ve talked about the instrumentation aspect of TAUK during this conversation, but maybe to a newcomer, how would describe or even coin the TAUK sound?
CD: The “Instrumental Rock Fusion” term I think is probably the most simple and accurate one, because we are an instrumental band, and we’ve pretty much always rocked when it comes down to it, and we constantly fuse a ton of different sounds into our music. The “Dirty Funk” thing, I don’t really like that one. Our music’s definitely dirty, and we can get funky, but it’s not the whole picture. I’ve heard “Cinematic Rock Fusion” and “Math Rock that Swings,” I like both of those.
SF: So the last question here isn’t even a question at all. I like to end with an open forum. Anything you’d like to personally share that we didn’t cover in this interview?
CD: We appreciate the amount of support and the growing support we’ve received over the past couple years. Our listeners and supporters have motivated us to keep pushing harder and do things like come up with new covers, make a new album every year, and really expand our jamming horizons. When we first started out we kept it a little more safe, but as time goes on and people keep coming out to support us, we really want to give people something new each time. This year in particular we’ve really tried to do that, and each time it’s breathed new life into us and our music. And even when we played with the Umphrey’s guys, he would just jump into the fire and not rehearse for those shows, but instead we just came up with ideas for what was going to happen on the spot, and it was mostly jamming. I’m really excited for us to develop that part of our sound, and you’ll start to see that more and more over the next upcoming performances.
Cover Photo: Masha Supernova Art & Photography