No words needed: Prog rockers in TAUK communicate in soundscapes

An article from The Daily Times
by Steve Wildsmith August 20, 2014

The guys in TAUK communicate wordlessly.

They four-piece prog-rock outfit, which performs a free show at The Concourse in Knoxville next Thursday, Aug. 28, has mastered the art of silent communication in much the same way that romantic soulmates do, those couples that can say volumes with an upturned eyebrow or a crooked smile or a slow-lidded wink.

With guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, they weave masterful individual compositions back and forth, around one another’s separate parts to create a complex and complete piece of music as fine as Oriental silk stitched together by Ming Dynasty craftsmen. It works so well and sounds so flawless that some fans are halfway through a TAUK performance before they realize the band is an instrumental one, according to guitarist Matt Jalbert.

“When we first started to do it, we got a lot more reactions and comments like, ‘Have you thought about putting a vocalist in?’” Jalbert told The Daily Times this week. “At the time, we were still trying to find our sound, so we kept saying, ‘Maybe,’ but these days, we’ve had a lot more people come up to us after the show and say, ‘I got halfway through the show before I realized you didn’t have any words,’ or, ‘I didn’t think an instrumental band could keep my focus and take me there.’

“To us, those are the biggest compliments. We still want what we play to be a song that takes you from point A to point B to point C and still have cohesion and keep your interest, and the more we do it, the more we know kind of what works and what devices you can use to do that.”

Much of the band’s seamless fluidity can be traced back to the childhood friendships between Jalbert, bassist Charlie Dolan and keyboard player Alric “A.C.” Carter. The three boys started playing music together in middle school, and that sort of longevity lends itself to an almost telepathic sense of timing and communication on stage, he said.

“You can go and play music with other people, and it can be a great experience because it’s a language a lot of people speak, but there’s something to be said for playing with somebody for years and years and knowing what they’re going to say or do before they do it,” he said. “You become a unit. With this band, it was never about one person more than the other. We’re all trying to make a sound happen, and we all fit in and have our own part that fits into the greater goal, which is the idea of the band.”

The group continued while the guys were in college, even though each went to a different school. They all three continued to play music, however, and after getting out, they tried working with a vocalist. It didn’t work out, but the three friends kept playing together while they searched for another singer.

“We still got together to rehearse and write music and play, and then we realized that the material was standing on its own, so we decided to set up a couple of gigs and see how it went,” Jalbert said. “People seemed to respond to the songs. They didn’t seem lost, and it seemed like we were able to say or convey something without a vocalist, so we decided to just go with it, and that led us down this very organic, figuring-it-out-as-we-go-along path.”

Drummer Isaac Teel joined in 2012, completing the lineup, and last month TAUK released its second full-length album, “Collisions.” It’s a mind-bending work of hypnotic rhythms, crushing grooves and soundscapes that rise and swirl and descend like the brush strokes of painter. And as the members — and their fans — have gotten used to making music without a vocalist to anchor a song, they’ve discovered a newfound sense of freedom in the creative process, Jalbert said.

“We’ll start playing something that’s not supposed to be anything specific; it’s more about a feeling or a texture or trying to mimic what we’ve heard before,” he said. “It really is open-ended, and that’s really cool, because it leaves it up to the listener. There’s no right or wrong, and new doors open when you’re not relying on a single voice to carry the band. It opens the door to the keyboard being able to use a weird effect, or the guitar taking a melody, or whatever. It’s about using different sounds to create a song.”