Revving up The Turbine:
Songs with IFS!!!
Turbine, an up and coming NYC based jamband, released its fourth full length recording, Shakin’ Off The Shock, in June. Shortly there after, the band launched a month long tour that included weekly residencies in Boston and Bridgeport, CT. Now the band returns to Boston on Thursday, (9/10) for a Secret Sessions performance at Church, and then in Oct., the band begins another month long residency at BRYAC in Bridgeport, CT.
<Listen to Shakin’ Off The Shock while you read.
Here’s where and when you can catch a Turbine performance:
THU — Sep 10, 2015 9:00 PM
Church -Secret Sessions Boston
THU — Oct 01, 2015 9:00 PM
THU — Oct 08, 2015 9:00 PM
THU — Oct 15, 2015 9:00 pm
FRI — Oct 23, 2015 8pm
SAT — Oct 24, 2015 9:00 pm
THU — Oct 29, 2015 9:00 pm
FRI — Oct 30, 2015 9:00 p.m.
The band’s founders — Jeremy Hilliard — vocals, guitar; Ryan Rightmire — vocals, guitar French horn, harmonica — chatted with The Live Beat via Google Hangouts, about the band history, the new album, Rightmire’s eclectic harp playing and lastly, “….the two biggest reasons to come to a show…”
The Live Beat — The band began with the two of you (Ryan & Jeremy) as a duo. Can you give us some more details about how and where the band began and got it’s roots?
Jeremy Hilliard — Well we were neighbors in Manhattan on the east side, and Ryan was playing a lot of acoustic guitar and harmonica at the same time and I had just written nine or ten songs and I’d play my electric guitar and he played the two instruments and we both sang, so we were able to flush out the songs a lot with just the two of us. We were even able to improvise in that setting so we just started playing shows in that format, all the musical elements were there, the song, the rhythm, the jams, the interplay, etc. It was an interesting thing to do but i knew it was only temporary, as the goal was always to play with a full band, which we did shortly thereafter. But it an interesting building up from such a basic, self-contained format.”
The Live Beat — And How did the band come up with its name?
Jeremy Hilliard — “I think, like a lot things we do and a lot of things other bands do, we thought it would be quite funny for any band to have that name. The truth is that as time went by and we realized what a Turbine actually is- an energy converter- it became apparent that there was a great metaphor there, especially for improvised music.”
The Live Beat — You describe your band as a songwriting jamband. Can you explain to our readers what you mean by that? How is Turbine different from a typical jamband? Do you put more of an emphasis on lyrical content rather than musical improv?
Jeremy Hilliard — “So the answer to the last part first. We definitely do not put more emphasis on lyrical content then improv- in our minds a good “jamband” for lack of a better term is one that improvises in the true sense of the word: that you take risks as in going places where you have never been before on a nightly basis, and improvising collectively (basically not just long solos). So that is a top priority for us whenever we go play; that is one of the main things we want to hear when we make music. The lyric part, the songwriting has a lot to do with the structured part of the music. A lot of improvising bands write instrumental music; a lot of post Phish jambands tended to try to emulate the whimsical “words for the sake of words” approach that works for phish, but not for everyone. We simply have always been attracted to just a plain old good song for the song’s sake- Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Robert Hunter, Van Morrison. Artists who for the most part began [Ed-a song] with a lyrical idea.
There’s a poetry and a romance to that music that we don’t see all that often anymore in our scene, and that’s a gap we seek to fill.”
Ryan Rightmire — It’s not that there’s more emphasis, but they’re equal. With my favorite bands, when they hit the improvisational part of the song I usually feel they’ve earned that moment; the song wasn’t just an excuse to get there, and the lyrics and melody then give you a starting point and even the framework for that improv.”
The Live Beat — How long have you been playing harmonica? When did you start? Was there any particular harmonica player that was an influence on you and your playing? And when and how did you begin to experiment with effects on the harmonica? Are you aware of any other players using the instrument in the same manner?
Ryan Rightmire — “I’ve been playing the harmonica for 20 years now. The harp players that inspired me early on were Stevie Wonder, Robert Plant, John Popper, and Junior Wells to name a few. I was a French horn player initially, so I brought a horn player’s approach to the harp and guys like Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, and John Zorn were big influences. What’s interesting to me is that because the harmonica is so small and affordable, it’s the most popular instrument in the world.
It was even the first Instrument brought into outer space, so it’s really been around. I feel that my task is to use technology to bring it into uncharted waters and continue to push its boundaries, and it’s that idea that relates to my influences with each note I play. If I make the harp sound like an organ, I’m now thinking about my favorite organ players like Jimmy Smith. If I’m scratching like it’s a turntable, I’m thinking about Roc Raida, or maybe it sounds like an ambulance siren and now I’m imitating the Doppler Effect.
I recently linked a touch screen to the harp that’s opened up a new world when I tap it as I play. Now I’m thinking about everyone from Eddie Van Halen to entire bands like Radiohead.”
The Live Beat — And I understand Ryan that you designed a custom harmonica and printed it out on a 3D printer? For those of us who don’t know the first thing about 3D printing, what can you tell us about that instrument? Is it made of paper?
Ryan Rightmire — “No it’s not paper! A 3D printer is a machine that takes a digital model of something and forms it as a 3 dimensional solid object, usually in plastic. It almost works like a soft serve ice cream machine, if the ice cream then hardened immediately. I listed so many influences earlier, but Bob Dylan may be my biggest one. I play the harmonica and guitar at the same time like he does, but I’ve had to develop this plastic microphone that goes around my neck. It can harness the harmonica’s sound and send it to my effects, still keeping my hands free. This microphone has been fine-tuned for over 10 years now, and the best part is that as technology improves, it keeps evolving.”
The Live Beat — I understand that someone in the band suffered an injury that set you guys back a bit? What can you tell us about that? And how did the downtime effect your songwriting for the new album, Shakin’ Off The Shock? Is the title a reference to this period?
Jeremy Hilliard — “Well that was me. About two years ago I had an accident where a window fell on my head and I ended up with a concussion that took me 4–6 months to fully recover from. I was totally fine after, thank god. But yeah, it came at a time we were changing band members, booking agents, and due to make a new album, so having to put all those things on ice for half a year is not easy for an up and coming band. But the thing was that after about three months I was able to write songs a little here and there as part of the healing process. And because we were off the road and I had to have a pretty calm and quiet environment, the songs were really coming from an interesting place. Some of the songs during that period that made it on the album were “Mystic Wanderer,” “Golden City In The Sky,” and “Stereo.” I would have to be lying there resting, not watching TV or anything and I would hear the whole song in my head before it forced me to get up and sing it into a tape recorder or something; go back to bed and demo it when I was feeling better. It’s hard to recreate that environment once life got hectic again!
As far as the title being a reference to that, it now seems obvious that it should be, but I”ll tell you the real story; It was at a sound check in Springfield, MA a couple of years ago, I was checking the mIc and got zapped by an electrical current, which happens from time to time and always sucks; especially when you are getting ready to perform, it’s the last thing you need.
Anyway, I was sitting down between soundcheck and the first set and the drummer asked my if I was ready to play and I said I needed a minute, I’m still shakin’ off the shock.
I then laughed and wrote the phrase down. It wasn’t until two years later, a month before we recorded the album, that I wrote the song. We had been telling everyone how funky the new album was gonna be and I thought maybe I should try and write one more good funk tune, just in case. Good thing I had that title in my back pocket.”
The Live Beat — Several songs on the new album have a whole new vibe, a sort of groovy, electo-funk vibe. “Stero” for instance, has a bit of a dub feel, while the title track comes across as a progressive jazz cut with soaring guitars, and “Man To Machine” has a real futuristic tone to go with the songs conceptual lyrical theme. What lead you guys down this road as far as songwriting goes?
Jeremy Hilliard — “Well another good question. In a full retraction of my last statement . . . ha, no, but seriously, there is a flip side to what I said before. In this scene, people want to dance, so as lofty as your improvising and songwriting goals may be, you have to consider that when going out to play a show.
We love all music and being eclectic in songwriting, but there was a concerted effort in the period between the last album and this new one to write more songs that I would say have IFS, or Instant Funk Satisfaction.
The songwriting process began more with the writing of bassline then ever before , and letting the words come out of that. A lot of this album is based around repeated bass figures, which is a basic principle of funk music. A song like “Man to Machine” actually was something I improvised fully in one take during the writing process (usually there is a bit more editing) but that one came out complete. And it’s based on a three note bass line, which Adam on the record plays great, three notes for four minutes that never get old!”
The Live Beat — Did you write on the bass and play bass on this album?
Jeremy Hilliard — “ Yes i did; come to think of it, the three song you mentioned all came out of bass lines I wrote.”
The Live Beat — What else would you guys like fans in New England to know about Turbine? For live music fans that are not familiar with the band, what would you say to influence their decision to come out to a show?
Jeremy Hilliard — “I would say come down, you won’t regret it. You’re gonna hear some good songs, you’re gonna get your face melted, it’s gonna be interesting, and it’s gonna be superfunky. don’t miss it! Last thing i’ll add, we’re excited to be working on a live album, it’s gonna be unlike anything we’ve ever put out as in it will just be focussed on the jamming side of things, and will present a clearer picture of the live show than we’ve ever had before, so look out for that.”
Ryan Rightmire — “I think the two biggest reasons to come to a show, are to hear memorable songs, and to know that if we aren’t taking chances and risks during those songs, than we owe you a slice of pizza.”