KEXP at CMJ, Day 1: Takka Takka

Doron Gild

review by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Doron Gild

New York, New York, oh how we love you. Actually, as of late, your music loving masses have deserted you. Disappearing daily are the old haunted venues where we used to spill our drinks and crush up against one another to check out the punks and the rockers. Gone are the back alley dodgy bars where we could dance the nights away, smoking on our cigarettes and yelling into the night. Now you are clean, safe, have laws against dancing and smoking, spawn new high rises and are the battlegrounds for a drowning Wall Street. New visitors might ask themselves when venturing to the Big Apple, where will I go to see the underground sound? Well, my friends, welcome to the borough where the sign on the historic bridge says it all: “Welcome to Brooklyn, How Sweet It Is.” Sweet indeed. This year has been the season of reaping the fruits of four years of labour for Takka Takka. Testing out the waters of change in 2004, vocalist Gabe Levine ditched his Texas trappings and graduate school goals for the poetic existence, writing songs and coaxed some close friends into joining his revolution. Fellow bandmates Grady Jurrens, Conrad Doucette, Rene Planchon and Drew Thurlow (the later two joined in 2007) were carried into the current of Takka Takka’s captivating slow saunter that has kept leagues of fans swaying to their songs every ebb and flow.

Signed to Ernest Jennings Record Co. the band released their debut LP, We Feel Safer At Night, as a deluxe edition including three songs from their 2007 EP, Talk Faster. Although they’re loved and held close by their neighborhood and fellow musician community, it seems the rest of the country is again tilting their heads towards the streets and stages of Brooklyn with Takka Takka’s recent Daytrotter recorded studio sessions and a spot on the movie mix, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Soundtrack. Their debut album, Migrations, was released during the hot days of July but is the perfect album for new listeners to pick up and discover during the Fall when Mother Nature slowly sheds the burdens of the past year and prepares herself for hibernation, meditation and renewal, for this is what Levine intended both on an artistic and personal level. Describing the completed album, he said, “Sometimes this record is about existing in a place you don’t belong. Conversely, it is about where you came from and how you got there, sometimes [this record] is about a band experimenting with sound and form, trying to honestly say things in song it has never said before.” This might seem like a lot for a band to try to convey on their first go, but Takka Takka has been working towards this since there early days playing shows in Williamsburg in friends’ basements. Produced in part by Sean Greenhalgh (also known as the drummer of Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah), the final product features guest performances by some of the brightest and most beloved on the Brooklyn scene with Bryan Devendorf of The National, Lee Sargent of Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, Olga Bell of Bell, and Charles Burst all lending their individual talents. 2008 might be slowly winding down, but Takka Takka is too busy to notice and Brooklyn is too proud of their latest loves to care.

After kicking off the week with a stellar in studio performance Brooklyn’s very own Takka Takka stuck around Gibson Studios to salivate over the famed room full of guitars, discuss artwork and profess their love for Dragons of Zynth. After weaving through the web of which radio stations influenced the boys growing up, we moved onto the topic of their artwork from their most recent album, Migrations. Unlike the inspiration for their band name (“Takka Takka” was taken from a Roy Lichtenstein painting of a jet firing its guns and for them also refers to the horrors of war), the band conveys an overwhelming air of frivolity and innocent thirst for music. Not completely tossing their day jobs aside for rock and roll fame (just yet), Gabe dispenses more creative energies as a freelance graphic designer, Drew works at a record label, while Conrad is a writer contributing to various magazines. As Gabe reminisces about the pivotal encounter with JP Jones back in 1999, he glows with excitement over the friendship that made him take the final steps towards starting a band and changed it all. While working at Simon & Schuster, Levine caught word that a fellow co-worker was a musician and signed to much adored record label, Matador. After meeting and discussing their shared love for music, Gabe and Conrad started the band a few short months later. This has not cut their friendship short by any means as Gabe goes onto share that he will be the best man in JP’s upcoming wedding next month. As the boys shuffle about with anticipation over their upcoming shows this week, they admit to preferring to play a festival such as CMJ or SXSW in their hometown rather than in Austin due to factors such as being able to hide in their apartments the nights leading up to their showcases and the convenience of plopping into a cab at the end of a long night. The modern day invention of a car led Gabe to discover KEXP on the radio in New York: while looking to procure one of the most coveted of possessions in the city, a parking spot, he came across John in the Morning. With this mention the entire Takka Takka squad grinned big toothy hipster boy smiles and admitted that John’s show is highly addictive, demonstrating once again their pure adoration for music which has brought them together, to where they are, and will lead to them to where they deserve to be, on the top.

View more photos / slideshow.

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One Comment

  1. Matty in SF
    Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    John & Cheryl,

    Takka Takka’s live in studio and chat session was great! Thanks for turning me on to their sound today…



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