Last week I had the opportunity to chat with Matt Jalbert, guitarist for TAUK, in anticipation of their upcoming show at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater with Consider the Source and The New Daze – the prog rock jam band that is double stepping up the ladder of the jam band scene. They were an opening act in the recent past, but have been experiencing a quick boost in popularity due to some of the bigger bands that have embraced them, some regular rotation on Sirius’ Jam On station, as well as the recent release of their amazing new album, Sir Nebula.
George DiFabio for UMF: We’ll start with your new album Sir Nebula. I see often that you say that the difference between that and your previous works is the fact that you figured out how to let the music breathe. Can you elaborate on that?
Matt Jalbert: I think when you talk about “letting the music breathe,” for us, it comes down to growing as a band and becoming more comfortable playing music together and just letting things happen and not try to force them. Over time we’ve had the opportunity to discover more and more of what it is that we’re doing and really hone in on that. I think going into the studio this time around, things started to happen a little more naturally. This time it felt like more of a smooth process.
UMF: You said that another thing that was different and this time you went into the studio and hunkered down for time it took to do the full album, rather than recording in bits and pieces with sessions?
Matt: Yeah, that was one thing that was important to us this time around. The previous albums – the process was kind of broken up a little bit, where we’d record some and then have to go back out on the road and play a few shows, and then go back to the studio. So it kind of felt like it was hard to find a groove and keep it going because you’re just jumping back and forth. So going in and just doing it all at once – it takes a little while to just get into the vibe of things. You get to stay there and live there and really focus on THAT only. That was important for us this time around.
UMF: Do you find it more fun to be headlining your own tour, or opening up for a bigger band like Umphrey’s?
Matt: The way we look at it is – doing those opening shows is a cool and amazing experience. It was a learning experience just watching those guys do what they did. Taking notes, you know, just seeing it from a band that’s been doing it a while and is at a certain level. You definitely learn A LOT just seeing what they do day in and day out, and what they bring to the table. Of course it was just a great opportunity for us to get in front of some new faces and play some new cities that we hadn’t been to. We tried to make the most of that opportunity. Obviously it’s different because we’re doing those opening slots – the set time is usually around an hour. So the approach to a set that’s an hour versus when we’re doing our own headline show. If we’re doing one set we’re playing for a couple hours. Sometimes we’ll break it up into two sets depending on the night. It’s just a different approach. You can take different tactics going into it. I think that this far in on this tour; we’re six or seven weeks in at this point, but we’re definitely finding ways to utilize hat extra time. I think it’s definitely something that’s helping us grow as a band and find new territory, musically speaking. Having two sets, or just time to breathe, allows you to develop some of the songs in a different way.
Matt: We had done some opening shows with some other groups, but nothing to the extent as with Umphrey’s. I mean, those guys really pushed us It was incredible that they gave us that opportunity. I don’t think it’s something that happens all the time. We did a shorter run with them and that went off really well and they asked us to come back and do a longer run with them. For us, it was definitely an honor to be asked from a band like that to go out and do some many shows, and for them to have the trust in us to be on tour with them for that long and to make it work. It was just really cool for them to invite us out to do that. Definitely no other band, to THAT extent, gave us that big of an opportunity. And it’s been immediately paying off. We’ve were able to go out and do our own headline tour, all the way to the west coast earlier on this tour. That was the first time that we’ve really been able to do that. And that was really because they brought us out there and kind of introduced us to that side of the country. So without that, it would still be like – I feel it helped us skip a couple steps.
UMF: The two bands are like kindred spirits, musically. I can see why they would ask you back. You guys fit together so perfectly!
Matt: Yeah, definitely. And I think that we fed off of what they were doing, musically speaking. It was just a really cool opportunity to be able to be watching those guys play every night. They’re such a tight band and they’re really good musicians and that’s definitely something we feed off of. You’re watching them do it every night and it keeps you driven. You’re like, “Shit, we gotta get it together.” It just kind of pushes you.
Matt: I think their focus and their consistency is definitely something I take away from watching them. And it’s not even just the band. It’s the whole team. It’s the whole crew. Yeah, going on the road and being in a band is so fun, but they don’t get consumed by it. They’re driven. Even at the level that they’re at. They’re driven. Every single day. They don’t mess around. It’s like, they get to the venue, the crew knows exactly how to set up and be efficient with that, and make sure everything is where it needs to be. And the band – every single day they’re setting out time during the day to rehearse and work on new material. It just seems like every single day they are making the most of the opportunity and not just being like, “Oh cool, we made it. This is fun. Let’s have fun on tour.” It’s like, “No. We made it to a certain level, but let’s get better every single day.”
UMF: Is there any bands that you would love to take under your wing and pay it forward to?
Matt: Yeah, I think eventually to get to the point that they’re at . . . That’s one of the cool things about what they were doing, from our perspective, is to be aware that there are still so many bands out there who are hungry and are busting their ass and trying to make it. To give back the way they did to us, we kind of wanna keep that going. I think every year is getting better and we’re growing and we’re growing. If we get to the level that they’re at and have the opportunity to pass that along, then that’s definitely something that’s important to us because we know how big a deal it was for us to have that opportunity. There’s a lot of bands out there and we’re all just kind of like warriors fighting for survival, so any help that bands give each other, I think, is the way it should be.
UMF: Any names you wanna drop right now of a band you would pay it forward to?
Matt: I think it’s early to talk about because I don’t think we’re THERE yet. There’s obviously bands out there who we’ve played a bunch of shows with, but at this point we’re kind of all at similar levels. I’m trying to think of anything like undiscovered. It’s hard to think of anything that pops up immediately in my head because a lot of the bands that I listen to and respect are all in the same area. At this point it’s a thing where we just help each other out. You might go play in a town where they’re doing well and then open for them, or vice versa. There’s a lot of bands out, especially in this scene, that are kind of helping each other push each other forward.
UMF: You have a show coming up in Syracuse at The Westcott Theater December 7th. You’re headlining that show with Consider the Source and the New Daze. Are you familiar with the New Daze and have you played with Consider the Source a lot in the past?
Matt: I haven’t seen too much of them (The New Daze). We’ve done a few shows with Consider the Source at this point. Those guys are incredible. They blow your mind. We did our first show with them a couple years ago. I remember meeting them and just chatting with them before the show. There all warming up and just having a conversation as natural as we’re having right now, but at the same time warming up on their instruments and playing ten times faster than I could even think of playing. They’re incredible players. Kind of blows my mind.
UMF: Your shows this tour, are you focusing on Sir Nebula, or are you just taking what you feel that day and it could be anything?
Matt: I think all of the shows on this tour specifically, we’re trying to keep a healthy amount of Sir Nebula songs on there but we mix it up. We bring out some old stuff. We already have some new songs that we’re fitting into the rotation beyond Sir Nebula that we’ve written since the album came out so we’re keeping some brand new stuff popping up into the rotation and some new covers, that sort of stuff. So, we’re always changing it up but we definitely have been playing a lot of those songs during the shows.
UMF: Thank you for taking this time to chat. I can’t wait to see what comes next for TAUK and how you grow your product and implement all this knowledge that has been bestowed upon you.
Matt: It’s always a learning experience.
Interviewer: George DiFabio
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