A slight melancholy energy hangs about Turnip King. Tenderly twee vocals from Lucia and precious guitars from Cal add up to be a noise rock, shoe-gaze band from Sea Cliff, NY. They've have been together since high school. Now all grown up, the vegetable royalty talks about developing their sound, crazy concerts and the New York music scene.
How did Turnip King form?
Cal: It was the summer Lucia had just graduated high school and written these really sweet sounding dream pop demos that she shared with Christian who had also just graduated.She asked me through text if I would want to play guitar on some of her songs. I was going into 10th grade and was super psyched to play with them.
Lucia: We started going out to see shows at 285 Kent and Shea Stadium in 2011 and I think that seeing a handful of those bands that we listened to in our own bedrooms … seeing how they perform and how their live vibe plays out to an audience really helped us realize that the idea that we could be doing that ... So we handed out demo CDs to all these different people and eventually we got an email from The Delancey in the LES asking us if we wanted to play a show with our friends Mannequin Pussy, and then after that show we basically just accepted every show we were offered, and that's what we worked with.
How did you decide what kind of music you wanted to play?
C: We started off playing much more pop oriented songs but kind of unconsciously strayed from that and found ourselves doing a lot more heavier experimental stuff while jamming together in Christian's basement. The sound is very collaborative so the kind of music we play just kind of came out whether we stopped to decide or not.
L: I don't think we ever sat down and said like, "this is the type of music we should be writing, we have to sound like this.” ...The noise element became extremely attractive to us. I spent and still spend a lot of time at home and during practice trying to get better at understanding how to make the sounds I want to come out of an amp …Right now we fit under this noise-rock/shoegaze genre, and thats all fine and good- but I think we all write what we write now because it sounds good to us … we play what we like to hear, and we've gotten better at listening and determining what certain songs need- and a challenging new song is really gratifying to learn to be proud of.
Who are you influenced by?
C: MBV, Eric's Trip, Can, Slowdive, Kate Bush, The Microphones, Les Rallizes Denudes, Sonic Youth...we all have varied taste and too many influences to realize.
What do you think sets you a part from other garage rock/basement bands?
C: Are members of other basement bands as confused as I am? I'm not sure. We like dogs … that's not unique … we’re loud ... that's normal ... we watch a lot of Tim and Eric while we practice ... that could be something ... I feel like we definitely don't fit into any specific genre so that could actually be something ... We are frustrated? Is that normal? Yeah, probably.
What is the NY music scene like for Turnip King?
C: Manhattan has always sucked for us until we played the opening show at a DIY spot called Nola, Darling in Chelsea. 21+ bars are just bummers, Pianos and Cake Shop are very lackluster 90 percent of the time. We used to really really love what was happening for us in BK, we always made a lot of friends at places like 285 Kent and Cheap Storage. We definitely had lots of absurd experiences in lofts, basements, backyards and on rooftops that made being involved with music in Brooklyn awesome.
However it still feels like the "scene" is based more on social media and this weird sponsorship/advertising/beauty complex than it is on art or addressing cultural problems. The scene is seems way too directionless to be something that I am able to love, we are definitely trying to help that, but it's totally hard.
L: There is a lot of music and art to be made. … I think we're lucky to have known a lot of people who have given us these really great opportunities because they want to see us succeed, and they want to see smaller artists make a name for themselves too- and they want to showcase different mediums of art at the same time, like light shows or an art exhibit in a space where bands come to play- even cooking.
What is in your plan for the next year?
L: Probably to write and release more music, hopefully tour the East Coast. We recorded an entire album and Christian, our drummer, and our friend Ernie are working on mastering it and making it sound real nice. The goal with the album is to finish mixing and mastering it and then in the end, have a beautiful product. Something you can hold in your hands. I'm excited for that to come out. We'll probably be releasing more tapes until then; maybe even a split tape or record with someone who we trust and admire. If we get picked up by a label, then cool. If not, then cool.
What's the craziest concert moment you've had?
C: We played a show at Cheap Storage with Total Slacker in June 2012. Nick fed Tucker pizza as he crowd surfed during their set, that was pretty absurd.
L: My friend Heather (Sparxx) was trying to get people to crowd-surf and she really pushed me to try it, and she even told people before the start of the next song something along the lines of "Hey guys, she's gonna try to crowd-surf for the next one, so get ready." It was super nice. People were waiting for me to fall back on them- it was like that game Trust that you're supposed to play in gym or something. When I was up in the air, I saw Christian (our drummer) and his sister Jillian. Cal was looking for me because I think we were trying to get gear back to the car, but there was literally nothing I could do. When I was finally back on my two feet, I made my way towards them and Cal was like "Where were you" or something and Jillian and Christian were like, “What? You didn't see that?”
C: We've also had some really chaotic shows at Bard College. One where I stood on an amp the whole set to make space in an extremely crowded and tiny room and was almost seriously wiped out by the mosh a bunch of times, and another where there were lots of semi-naked freshmen painting each others bodies and the neck of Lucia's guitar.
What is your pre-performance ritual?
C: Tim and Eric, dat wetwet, absurd conversation...
L: We listen to some really good albums on the car ride to the venue. We usually try and squish some practice before a show too and we usually end up watching Tim and Eric before we leave. We haven't written a set list before hitting the road in a long time, maybe a year?
Favorite spot in NYC?
C: It definitely was 285 Kent just because it introduced me to a completely new lifestyle and culture I had no idea about and remained comfy, then it was Emet which also closed. I'm hoping it will be Stuart's new spot "Aviv" which we are playing the opening show at on the 21st.
L: Here's where I plug the MoMA. There is a ton of inspiration to be collected there, and I'm more of a modern art kinda gal myself. 285 Kent was p kool too.