The release of the final two Turkuaz albums – Paradiso and Apollyon, both slated for September 9, 2022 -- is “bittersweet” for co-founders Dave Brandwein and Taylor Shell, who are torn between two extremes – whether this marks a posthumous homage or a rebirth of the fabled group. 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, Turkuaz suddenly splintered and went their separate ways. The new single, “Strange People (Strange Times),” out now, was written a few years ago, but suddenly seems more appropriate than ever.
“It’s hard to believe at this point that this song was originally written not only before things unfolded with the breakup of the band, but even before the pandemic ever started,” Brandwein states. “I guess it just goes to show what a long stretch of strange times it’s really been.”
Amidst a pandemic-induced shutdown, the dissolution of his marriage, and a stint in rehab, Brandwein moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Los Angeles, California, to pick up the pieces. He seized the opportunity to assess his past accomplishments with Turkuaz and the uncertain future that lay ahead, a chance to clean out his closet and start fresh.
“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.”
Keeping up with the dual aspects of the releases, Paradiso is more synth-driven, digital and modern, starting mostly with beats cooked up by Brandwein and co-producer Rob O’Block, with the rest of Turkuaz’s most recent line-up adding to that, an album that’s both influenced by and goes beyond Talking Heads’ blend of new wave and funk. Apollyon, on the other hand, is more organic, more classic funk-driven, 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.
“We’re trying to focus on the legacy we created over the past 10 years, rather than lamenting the break-up,” says Brandwein. “These two albums celebrate that nine-piece band, which was built fan by fan, show by show, festival by festival.”
“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.”
Highlights of the two albums include the appearance of Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew on Apollyon’s “Ophidiophobia,” literally a fear of snakes, with a reptilian Belew guitar solo providing the slither, as well as the only cover song ever recorded for a Turkuaz album in Paradiso’s “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song),” from David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead.
Recorded before any of the past two years’ madness, both Paradiso and Apollyon reflect Brandwein’s love of opposites, but also the overlapping of the two, capturing the space between the binary numbers.
“That duality in Turkuaz makes sense,” he explains. “My goal is for people to see the breadth of what I can do as a musician, to acknowledge where I come from, but I’m also excited about where I’m going. I feel good about this body of work representing what I’ve done so far.”
Brandwein and Shell plan to continue putting out music collaboratively as well as individually. Paradiso and Apollyon will be released on September 9, 2022. “Strange People (Strange Times)” and the B-side, “Feel No Pain,” both from Paradiso, are out now.