The release of the final two Turkuaz albums, Paradiso and Apollyon, is bittersweet for co-founders Dave Brandwein and Taylor Shell. In late 2021, while on the road with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew, marking the 40-year anniversary of the Talking Heads’ classic Remain in Light album, the acclaimed powerfunk group who’d spent the previous decade gracing iconic stages from Red Rocks to Bonnaroo, suddenly splintered. However, before the departure of several members, they’d nearly completed recording what would become Paradiso and Apollyon. Brandwein and Shell worked together for months to put the finishing touches on the albums.
“These two albums celebrate that nine-piece band, and give people songs that they largely haven’t heard and can’t currently see live,” Brandwein says. “We’re focusing on the legacy we created over the past 10 years, rather than lamenting the break-up.”
Perhaps appropriately, the albums reflect upon duality and opposites. “The very big picture concept is that Heaven and Hell are two human constructs. The only place that they really exist is right here on earth, and which one you inhabit depends largely on how you conduct yourself and what you choose to believe,” explains Brandwein. “Life isn’t as simple as black or white, this or that. It’s not binary. We’re all a little bit of both… Beautiful and tragic chaos.”
Paradiso is synth-driven, digital and modern, starting mostly with beats cooked up by Brandwein and co-producer Rob O’Block, which spurred an ongoing collaboration now known as New Originals. Apollyon, on the other hand, is more organic, classic funk-influenced, the band playing together in a single room, harkening to such funk pioneers as Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly Stone and James Brown, using old-school sounds like spring reverb and tube amps, and also includes guest appearances by Harrison and Belew.
“I’m so proud of these records, and am glad we get the chance to tie a bow on this 13-year body of work,” Shell continues, “Turkuaz has been my life since Dave and I started the band in our little apartment oh-so-many years ago, and as hard as the disbanding has been, it really does give me so much joy to know that we are putting it down the same way we picked it up… with the creation and release of my favorite recordings I’ve ever been a part of.”
Wanting to continue to give back to supporters who’ve given them so much for so long, Brandwein and Shell partnered with YellowHeart (the leading environmentally-friendly NFT marketplace for ticketing and music), to create a digital fan community. By claiming a “community token,” people gain access to early and exclusive content.
“Especially not being on the road now, we wanted a new way to continually offer things to fans - from audio rarities, live shows, re-releases, to merch, memorabilia - the possibilities are really pretty endless,” Brandwein explains. “We’re aware that some people are still very confused by the idea of NFT’s/Web3 - but along with YellowHeart we’ve found a way to keep it simple, environmentally friendly and affordable.”
Brandwein came to view the challenges of the past few years as an opportunity to start fresh. Amidst a pandemic-induced shutdown, the dissolution of his marriage, and a stint in rehab, he moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Los Angeles, California, where Shell also resides.
“I was at a point in my life when I was ready for a change,” he says. “The autopilot wasn’t really working anymore, and something inside me was crying out, telling me that. I needed a reinvention.”
In addition to the aforementioned New Originals, who are currently completing their debut album, Brandwein is releasing solo music under the moniker Band For Sale. Shell, meanwhile, has joined the band Ghost Light. They also plan to collaborate together again in the future.