Talking Gear, Improvisation and Music with TAUK Guitarist Matt Jalbert

Posted 11 Jun 2014 in Artist News, News

If you have been following the festival circuit and been to events such as Bonnaroo, Summer Camp, The Hangout Festival or many of the other big events there is probably a good chance that you’ve had the opportunity to see the dirty, funky, 4 piece band TAUK rock the stage with their music.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch TAUK live you will have your chance as the band continues to play festivals and shows to showcase their music.  I had the opportunity to ask TAUK’s guitarist Matt Jalbert a few questions about his gear, style of play, improvising on stage and what its like adjusting to the different venues that TAUK has been playing.


Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford

 Q&A with Matt Jalbert from TAUK

Q: What is your setup like in terms of amps, guitar, pedals etc.?  How different is it for recording vs live gigs?

MJ: I mainly play a Gibson ES-335 that I bought about seven years ago. It’s such a versatile guitar and has a really big sound that helps thicken things out. I had been playing out of a Fender Twin for a while, but earlier this year started playing out of a Swart Atomic Space Tone. It’s way smaller than the Twin, just 18-22 Watts, but I love the tone of it, and it has some of the best reverb I’ve heard from an amp. When it comes to pedals, I’m always looking for new things to add to my sound, but there are definitely a few staples. The Foxy Brown, which is an overdrive, is basically always on and gives just a little bit of dirt. Then there’s the Maxon overdrives, the Memory-Boy for delay, and for certain songs I use a Whammy. Everything else is more out there effects that I use more sparingly. When it comes to recording vs. live, for this last album I was using mostly the exact same setup. We really want the album to reflect what we do live so most of the tracks utilize my live setup. For certain overdubs we would try a different amp or try some different effects and utilize the advantages of being in a studio and having more freedom to explore sounds, but for the most part we kept things pretty true to the live sound.

Q: TAUK has been playing a variety of stages from clubs to festivals.  Do you tailor your gear to create a specific sound based on each venue or festival?  Aside from the obvious size differences, are there any challenges you face as a guitarist to make the music sound ‘right’ based on the venue you are in?

MJ: Playing to the room has always been a challenge and the more rooms you play in the better you get at figuring out how to make things sound “right.” We don’t really have the luxury of bringing a ton of gear with us on the road so when we leave for tour we have what we need and we stick to it. But if you know your gear well enough, you start to figure out how it responds to certain situations and manipulate the sound. This could mean EQ-ing your amp differently or using different pedal combinations.

Q: There’s certainly an element of improvisation in your music.  When playing live are you taking cues from the other members of the band or are you feeding off the energy that the crowd is displaying?  Is it a combination of both?

MJ: There are a lot of opportunities in our music to improvise, which really helps each show feel different and unique. There are certain songs that we’ll usually stretch out depending on how long the set is, but even within the structured parts people will play things a little differently from night to night. I know that I respond both to the band and the crowd a lot. Changing the setlist each night really helps songs take on new roles depending on where they are placed, and the crowd will usually respond to that. A good example is “Afro-Tonic.” Some nights it happens somewhere in the set where things need to settle down a bit and it really feels relaxed and laid back. Other nights it’ll be somewhere in the set and have a funkier dance feel and the crowd reaction is completely different.

Q: How much experimenting do you do on stage during your live shows? Are there times where you try something and it just doesn’t work out?  How do you deal with that in a live setting?

MJ: We’ve definitely gotten into situations where we’re basically falling flat on our faces. In those situations we just smile and nod and pretend like everything’s OK haha. It comes with the territory of experimenting in a live situation. The more shows we play and the more risks we take, the more we learn how to deal with getting into a weird situation. One of the best parts of being in a band that has played together as much as we have is that there’s a lot of trust so when things go wrong you know that somebody is gonna have an idea of how to bring it back where it needs to be. Sometimes rather than playing more notes to try to get out of it, it’s best to lay out and let somebody else take it. Knowing when to play and when not to is really one of the keys for us when it comes to experimenting. You have to let each member of the band have a part in directing the music.

Q: Many musicians have a mentor who works with them on theory, technique, song structure etc.  Is there someone in your past or present who you look to for mentorship?

MJ: I’ve had so many influences growing up when it comes to music. Everybody has their own take on music so I’m always trying to talk to people about what they’re listening to, or what they’re practicing, because you never know when somebody can show you something that will spark an idea.

Q: Besides being funky and jammy, TAUK’s music is quite technical. For newer musicians out there, are there any specific guitar techniques that you have studied over the years that have helped you achieve more ‘technical soundness’?

MJ: I’m always looking for different techniques that I can utilize to add to my sound. I don’t think the learning ever stops really. I’m a big believer in the metronome for sure. To me, rhythm is the most important thing. You can play a million notes at lightning speed, but if it’s not in time and have any sort of feeling behind it then it doesn’t really move me. So I would say whenever you’re working on a new technique, be it something having to do with picking or some sort of arpeggio, or scale, or whatever it is, make sure you can do it in time. Sometimes just to make things more interesting I’ll use a song instead of a metronome and play to that. This can also help with hearing whatever your learning over different grooves and you can really get into messing with accents and the details.

Q: When watching and listening to TAUK it looks and sounds easy and free flowing for you as a band.  Is it difficult playing these type of instrumental arrangements in a live setting?

MJ: We make it a point to rehearse a lot so that we can get the songs to feel as natural as possible. Most of the time the challenge comes in the writing process where you might come up with a line that is difficult. The key is to just play things over and over until you don’t have to think about them. It’s really important to us for the music to be able to convey a feeling and not just be something technically impressive. The sound comes first. So if we’re up there thinking about what we’re playing, the crowd is going to have to think about it to, when it should really be as free flowing as possible. We have certain songs, like “Carpentino’s Rebirth,” where it took a few times of playing it live to get comfortable with it. That song has a lot of sections, but I think we’re at the point now where we can focus on the rest of the band and not each have to worry about our individual parts.

Q: Tell some of the younger readers how many hours per day you typically practiced as a kid.  How much time do you get to practice now that you are playing more and more shows?

MJ: Growing up I would play for hours at a time. A lot of it was listening to the music I loved and sitting there and figuring it out. That was always the most fun to me. I’d listen to something on the way to school on the bus and get really amped about getting home and learning that song. Transcribing is still one of the most important things to me. I learn so much by listening to the musicians I love and figuring out what they’re doing. It’s always cool trying to figure out something played on a different instrument and making it work on guitar. Playing piano parts on guitar really helps me get out of the patterns that I tend to fall into. I try to get as many hours of practice time in each day as I can, which can be difficult on the road. But I think it’s really important to at least have consistency and play your instrument every single day even if it’s not for too long each time.

Q: How many different guitars do you typically play during a show?  Why?

MJ:At most two, ideally one. I only play my backup if I break a string. I break a lot of strings and it’s very frustrating. I plan on fixing this issue ASAP. Anybody out there wanna re-fret my guitar?

Thank you to Matt for giving us some insight into his sound and setup.  TAUK is out on the road throughout the summer and beyond.  You can catch the full schedule at their website.  In the meantime take a little time to search out some music from TAUK.  You won’t be disappointed.





Dave has been eating, living, and breathing music since before he could talk. This makes Dave perfect for his role here at Guitar News Daily.

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