Q&A: THE CORE MEMBERS OF TALKPECK SOUNDSYSTEM ON THEIR ORIGINS
Article by Miles Hurley
Photo Credit: Andrew Scott Blackstein
Recently, The Poke Around sat down with the dynamic musical project known as Talkpeck Soundsytem: a supergroup act that intertwines the music of Talking Heads, Vulfpeck, and LCD Soundsytem into one cohesive, live show. But TPSS is really more than just another tribute deal. With every next performance featuring not just different setlists but different lineups altogether (early gigs saw the participation of very cool musical guests like members of The Disco Biscuits, Lotus, Deep Banana Blackout, and more), it’s more like an artistic concept, one that is ever-evolving and ever-inclusive across multiple music scenes.
Last month, Talkpeck Soundsystem performed their biggest show to date: a set at The Wall St Theatre in Norwalk, CT opening for the now nationally popular jamband Goose at their sixth annual Goosemas event. Talkpeck kicked off the night to an audience of over 1100 people, helped out by special guests members for the night like Rob Compa of Dopapod and Sammi Garret of Turkuaz.
Before the big gig, The Poke Around talked with the core members of the band at a rehearshal: guitarist and project founder Matt McNulty, vocalist Avery Acevedo, keyboardist Jeff Engborg, bassist Miles Livolsi and drummer Rob Madore. With these five being longtime contemporaries on stage across various musical groups, the interview hit a few questions but transpired more like a group of friends recanting the foundations of Talkpeck Soundsystem.
Avery Acevedo: “When (Matt and I) had just started dating, we were trying to do something at The Acoustic, and not any Grateful Dead or any of the normal shit. We started talking about our favorite bands that nobody around here was doing covers of, but that people were going to love to hear. So, Talking Heads, that was a no brainer.
Matt McNulty: “Yeah, I went with the Talking Heads thing because I wanted to draw from all ages. I feel like they are just so accessible to everyone. Then Vulfpeck can get your nerdy sort of music people in there, and then LCD Soundsystem brings in a punk dance party sort of vibe. And LCD and Talking Heads have a ton of similarities, and James Murphy really puts from David Byrne’s style. So I thought that those two would be perfect together, if you did a night like that. And I think that knowing Miles was the thing for Vulfpeck, haha. I thought, what bass player can kind of imitate anything that Joe Dart does? I was on a bit of a kick at the time, but knowing Miles could do it made it happen.
Avery: That’s the thing, there’s lots of bands you would love to play but it’s impossible to get people to commit to rehearsing them.
Matt: So, our first show, it was Sammy, Jen…
Rob Madore: And it was Jules and Scotty. And Johnny Durkin.
Avery: Right, it was before Scotty was with Ghost Light, when he was just gigging.
Matt: Oh man, Johnny Durkin was there, that’s right. So, the reason that I can get all of these different musicians to come and do this, as I get that question a lot—I owe it a lot to my best friend growing up, this kid Derek Haviland. He’s Allen Aucoin’s manager, he also does Orchard Lounge and Tweed, CIA, Let’s Danza—a bunch of Philadelphia electronic based music. He was my neighbor growing up, and we always had a music thing. He started Full Circle Music Productions, I think eight years ago maybe, and he came to me and said, “Hey, I want to start doing something, and I have this roster of music people that I always know what their schedule is.” And he told me that he felt confident enough to bring me in with this class of people, and that he wanted me to find people that I felt comfortable bringing in with his people. And it could’ve been anything, but it just kind of came together that it was TalkPeckS SoundSystem.
Avery: I feel like doing the first show went so crazy well. It was super packed, it was super fun. We immediately realized “Oh shit, this is a thing!”
Miles Livolsi: I was pleasantly surprised the first show. And we had the white idea…
Matt: We did, that’s right. The white outfits. But I don’t think I remembered to tell everyone about it, haha.
Avery: We randomly picked up a five pack of large white T-shirts from CVS…
Matt: So I think what honestly brought this whole thing together was the fact that, when we first got together with Ian and Scotty on the first ones, we had so much fun. The attitudes and the people just meshed together so well. I feel like everyone in this thing was just such a goofball.
Avery: And we channeled that goofball energy into a bit of a schtick.
Matt: Right, exactly. So we’ve had some returning people. We’ve had Mike Greenfield from Lotus play a couple of times, and he is just awesome. Matt: He kind of came together because Jeff’s brother got married. Was that before or after?
Avery: No the wedding was before, it was the test run. But yeah, Mike’s literally one of the nicest guys in the world.
Jeff Engborg: Yeah, turns out’s he’s a pretty cool guy. And he’s an older guy, so we wanted to be on our best behavior. Whenever I play with him, I always wear this old Lotus shirt that I got when I was sixteen. And I always tell him that I got it when I was sixteen, and he always says he just feels old.
Avery: See, Jeff has this way of making weird, funny moments with anybody. Like with Scotty at the first show, Jeff was on the talk box, saying “Scotty, I love you!”
Jeff: Scotty’s got a good sense of humor, he’s like a little kid.
Matt: So that’s kind of how it all really worked out. It was this thing we were maybe going to do just once, and then we had gotten so many people to come out, we were like, “Well shit, let’s do it again.” Then we did it again, and there were even more people, so we said let’s keep this rolling. And we’ve had so many people, like Allen Aucoin, Danny Mayer from Star Kitchen, Jeremy from Catalys, Ian and Scotty, and now having Sammi Garrett and Rob Compa come in. I think they’re going to git in so well at Goosemas, that’s going to be awesome. But so the end game of this project, in my vision, is to get us on to some festival bills where the people who have already played in the band, so people from Kung Fu, Turkuaz, Dopapod. Those are pretty big names to pick from and do late night sets with. A super jam, but what separates it from the super jam thing is our sort schtick we have going, we the three bands. And the all white factor, haha.Talkpeck Soundsytem Perform at Toads Place in New Haven. CT
Avery: And we have a core, band, that is actually a thing. There’s us, the local people, who come and host other people.And it does matter to have this core band, because we’ve done these songs, and we can kind of guide those that aren’t as familiar.
Avery: I’m super into LCD SoundSystem, I’ve loved for a long time now. I never really envisioned myself being in an LCD cover band, but it’s something I’ve always been all about.
Matt: Yeah, I have always loved LCD Soundsystem too. Their live show is what I try to emulate with this show. Like, the stage setup will be exactly the same. I’ll be standing next to the drummer on stage, and the way the two synthesizers are facing each other. I’ve seen them live many times, but every time I see them, I’m dancing but I’m thinking, “How the hell do they make this sound so great?” And I remember that there’s nine people on stage, and every single person is either pushing one button or playing one line. And I thought, there must be a way to do that. I do think that this show gets better every time we do it. Like, what you just saw us do here for rehearsal. We can go and do that at any freaking bar around here. But there’s a certain thing about dong the music justice, and I think that the only time I’ve ever do LCD Soundsystem tunes justice would be in this setting, in this outfit. Ask Jeff, this synth stuff is just so much work.
Jeff: We have a really strong rhythm section, so there’s a lot of confidence there. And everyone’s doing really stuff, so we can rely on them to hold it down and hit those notes. Some of the synths parts are really weird. Like, on their own, they’ed be in the wrong key or sound weird. There’s this one part that’s the sound of someone hitting a glass with a little mallet. So one person’s dedicated part in this band would be that glass mallet sound
Avery: But it’s so important, that sound. That’s the thing about LCD when you see them live, its perfectly produced sound from an actual live, huge band. It’s so precise.
Matt: So LCD was a huge inspiration for how we wanted to do this band, for sure. And also the fact that James Murphy is a fat drunk who gets up there and screams into the microphone—that was really relatable for me at the time.
Miles: I’d never even heard of LCD Soundsystem, and I knew Talking Heads but not well, so that was kind of cool.
Matt: All of us are also like Miles’ ten years senior. He’s the baby but we keep him around. But, all that being said aboutLCD, there’s a looseness we try to keep as well. We’ll take some LCD songs and stretch them out a little bit, and give them a good jam. So, a good example would be this song where it’s four chords at the end, but we’re gonna let someone blast a huge guitar solo. LCD doesn’t do guitar solos. We’ll switch it up and try and make it more relatable in the jamband sense of things. The music lends itself to this kind of crowd anyways. And I think with the people playing being from the scene, it makes it this special thing. Like, when did you ever go see Rob Compa play LCD Soundsytstem? I’m excited to see it all come together at Goosemas. People are flying in from all over the country for this.
Miles: Jesus, haha….
Matt: Dude, seriously, there’s people coming from all over the country, like people flying from places like Wisconsin into Norwalk Connecticut. I’m seriously so shocked.
Avery: Yeah, if you look on the Goose Chicks page, there’s girls driving down from Maine and Vermont in carpools, because they’re Deadheads and Phish fans and are here for Goose. It’s insane.
The Poke Around: Well that seems to be one the really cool things about Taukpeck Soundsystem, is that you have these bigger players coming in, but the core people here are a great representation of the music scene across Connecticut.
Matt: Oh yeah, absolutley. That’s the thing about Connecticut, there’s a shit ton of musical talent here, and I feel so lucky to get to play with these guys. We’re all always playing. Every week, we all have gigs. And, knowing that everyone is so fresh and is always playing, I don’t have to think twice when I’m playing with anybody here.
Avery: That’s a huge part of it. You can trust these guys to know their parts with the music pretty much all the time. Because we want to make sure that people coming in to the band are all set, and we want to seem like professional hosts, I’ve done stuff like typing up notes, like I’ve made lyrics sheets with parts written out, all the vocals, the harmonies.
Jeff: I do want to say one thing here, which is that I’m grateful for Matt for introducing us to all these musicians and getting us to play with them. Some of the guys I’ve gotten to play with have become my friends, which never would’ve happened.
Matt: I wouldn’t call you a friend, hahaha. Business associate.
Avery: No, but it’s true, now I see these guys out at places and I’m like, “Oh, my boy is here!”
Matt: No for sure. This band more than any band I’ve been in has a really special bond.
Jeff: Maybe it’s the uniform thing….
Matt: That’s what I’m saying! When everyone gets into the uniform, it really brings it together!
Jeff: It makes you feel military about it. You’re wearing the uniform, you’re doing one thing the whole song for like ten minutes, it’s made me psychologically obedient to the group, and now I’m going to kill someone for it.
As spring and summer and festival season approach, be on the lookout for TalkPeck Soundsystem shows with can’t miss casts of musicians! To check out details about the band, head to their FaceBook page here.