The Grateful Web Interview with Blue Turtle Seduction
Born out of California's Lake Tahoe area, the men of Blue Turtle Seduction know a little something about what it takes to get their music out there and spread the word. The band credits hundreds of live performances per year as the reason why they have been able to take their unique blend of rock, bluegrass, world, and pop out of the Western wilderness and across the entire United States. And they have taken quite a devoted fan base along for the ride.
The group is looking forward to another busy year of touring, all in support of their new album 13 Floors which becomes available on February 10th. According to the band, it is their most ambitious and true recording thus far; one they hope will seduce more listeners and fans.
The band is currently making their way through the Rockies, and prior to their performance at Boulder's Southern Sun Brewery the Grateful Web got the chance to catch up with BTS member Glenn Stewart (harmonica/flute/vocals) to enjoy some tasty craft brews, and to discuss the mystique surrounding a band on the rise.
GW: Tell me a little about how you hooked up with these guys and how you got started?
GS: We met right outside of Lake Tahoe in California, and we were all working at a camp conference center. It was a back country place where you all work hard, and party hard too. There was a bunch of us there who played instruments and we started getting together to play each other's original music. Out of the blue we decided to book a show. There was about ten of us in the beginning, which was quite a production. After a couple of years, in 2002, we decided to slim it down to five guys and ever since then it has been us same five guys.
GW: Do you find five is a lot more solid than ten?
GS: Absolutely! It is hard enough with just the five of us (laughing)!
GW: Where does the name Blue Turtle Seduction come from?
GS: We kind of say something different every time. But the thing about it is there has never been any other name for the band. But how it really happened was with Christian, our violin player, who was working for a time in the Caribbean on a banana boat, and it was taken over by pirates. He ended up at sea for a couple of months, and they found him later at a port in Belize. After they found him, all he could say for weeks was "blue turtle seduction.....blue turtle seduction".
GS: Sure (smiling).
GW: Nice...and how does the relationship that you guys have with each other work its way into the music?
GS: Honestly, we are five really different people. I think that really shows in the music. All of our musical influences and personal tastes are a lot different from each other. But when you have five people with such varying tastes, you can take all of that to form a very original product.
GW: That makes a lot of sense. So how do you feel your "original product" differs from a lot of the bands in today's scene?
GS: Well as far as the jam scene, I think we are a lot more composition based. Though we do some improvisation, I think we are a lot more to the point, so to speak. Plus we don't have any keys in the band, which a lot of jambands seem to center upon. We use harmonica, electric mandolin, guitar, drums, and violin to create a different sound that way. And our songwriting too.....we might use some eastern European influence, maybe mixed with African beats, to create a different sound that is more like cross-genre music.
GW: What are some other specific artists or band you enjoy that might have made its way into your sound today?
GS: The good thing is that there are five of us that listen to all sorts of different music. Stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Manu Chao, etc. Lately a lot more rock-based music has influenced our sound.
GW: Good stuff! So I read that you guys played like 250 show in 2006. What drives you guys to play so many lives show each year?
GS: Well of course, first we have to feed ourselves. But more importantly we need to get our product out there. Sometimes I do think, "Why the hell were we doing so many shows"? It is crazy, that much touring is not sustainable for very long. I think we played more shows than any other band that year! But we need to do it to get better. The only way we will know if we are going to gel as a band is if we play almost every night. That is the real motivation and the drive behind touring so much.
GW: Speaking of "driving", you guys tour in your own bio-diesel fueled van.
GS: We do. But unfortunately we don't have it with this on this part of the tour. We blew our engine in Carson City. Our equipment is there too so we are using some borrowed stuff at the time. Sucks, but it works. But when the van is running it's great because we have a system that runs on converted vegetable oil, and we have taken that thing coast to coast across the country.
GW: Do you find that no only ecologically responsible, but financially feasible to travel by those fuel means?
GS: Oh yeah! Especially last summer when gasoline was $4-$5 a gallon...we were getting recycled oil for zero. It just makes a lot of sense.
GW: Well you guys will be traveling to a lot of the major festivals this year. I have noticed a lot of those lineups and locations have started to take shape. What has been one of your favorite festivals to play thus far?
GS: That's a loaded question (smiling). It would definitely be High Sierra in California. Not sure if we will play there this year or not, but we have the last four in a row. We consider ourselves a "High Sierra band", since we are from that area. That one will always be closest to our heart; it is like our hometown festival.
GW: What have been some of your favorite artists that you have had the opportunity to play with or tour?
GS: We once had George Porter, Jr. from the Meters sit in with us, and that was one of the biggest highs. But the list is pretty long. Another great one was Brett Dennan. Its guys like that which can make it exciting.
GW: How about venues, are there any that you are just dying to play someday?
GS: Oh easy, Red Rocks.
GW: It's the pinnacle, isn't it?
GS: Absolutely. I would also like to play the Fillmore out here (Denver). We have gotten the chance to play the Fillmore in San Francisco a few times, but never the one in Colorado.
GW: Yeah, the Fillmore in Denver is great. I just saw two moe. shows there a few days ago.
GS: I heard it was a good run. We actually did a kick ass after-show that last night at Owsley's. Packed the house too, it was great!
GW: Let's talk a little bit about your new studio album, 13 Floors. How do you feel this one differs from your previous two releases?
GS: I feel like we have finally begun to understand how to best record ourselves; what we sound like. And that is the consensus among the rest of the guys in the band. We finally started to reach a recording confidence. We are experienced enough now where we can really capture the sounds that are more true to a live show.
GW: Do you feel like you excel more in the live setting versus the studio?
GS: Yeah, pretty much. Since that is what we mostly do, is tour. But we really feel like we have progressed a lot in the studio. So we are super excited about 13 Floors. It is the first time we have walked away from the studio and felt like we perfectly captured our sound. Honestly, I can't wait to record the next one!
GW: So do you enjoy the process of recording in the studio?
GS: Oh yeah...if we can do it, it is great. If we had more time and money, we would be in the studio more often.
GW: Along with Geronimo?
GS: Oh you mean our miniature bus llama? Yes, we have a llama that we take on tour with us.
GW: You do?
GS: No, not really. We have an on-going campaign of misinformation. It helps keep us mysterious. Plus it's better reading (laughing).
GW: I love it! Take care of yourself and good luck with the rest of the tour.
GS: Thanks, it was my pleasure!