After frontman Austin Getz moved to the wilderness for a year, the band reached a new level of connectedness—and a buoyant and jazzy new sound.
There’s something special in the air when I call Austin Getz, the lead vocalist and guitarist of Virginia Beach rock trio Turnover. Not only is it the spookiest day of the year, but it’s the day before the band’s senior effort, Altogether, is released into the world. Halloween isn’t at the forefront of his mind, because he’s in the UK for a small record release show. The good thing is that it’s running earlier than usual, so fans can “still go Halloweening afterwards,” per the venue’s website. The guys won’t be doing that, he says, “But we’ve been keeping the spooky playlist all day”: “Monster Mash,” the Misfits, black metal. “Just keeping it in general darkness.”
The new Turnover album is nothing of the sort. The topics circulating the album—anxiety, disillusion, loneliness—are more gloomy than bright, but the delivery and ambiance are lighthearted. It’s infused with casual moments of funk, jazz, and disco, making it a departure from the pop punk and shoegaze within their last three albums, but they’re too relaxed and sure of themselves to be worried about that big step. Part of this can be attributed to Getz’s time isolated in a cabin, where he experienced some revelations about himself and his life. “I loved it for a lot of the reasons I thought I would,” he says, “but it challenged me with the realities of what it’s like to live in a place like that.” More than anything, the album showcases the unexpected closeness that distance brought to the band.
We spoke to Austin about the concept that inspired Altogether, moving to a cabin in the woods, and finding inspiration in Curtis Mayfield and Erroll Garner. Altogether is out now via Run For Cover Records.
AdHoc: The press release for this record says you moved to a “rural and isolated” home in Northern California. What was that environment like, and how did you adapt to it?
Austin Getz: It was a pretty isolated place. It was actually on this property that we found on Craigslist, with no pictures or anything. It was just in our budget. We showed up because we couldn’t find any other place. My girlfriend and I were park-camping around California for three weeks at the time, trying to find a spot. We had to walk across a bridge to get to the property. It was this old-ass cabin that was built in the ’60s in the woods. It had a good habitat, so it was certified by California for organic areas. It was honestly so crazy; it felt like a fairytale. I actually just moved like three months ago to a new spot that’s a little less in the woods but still rural, more like farmland. It’s definitely been a trip being a kid from the suburbs—there was a huge adjustment.
Did moving there help you ease up to solitude?
Well, that was my idea when I moved there. I was like, “Oh, I want to focus on myself”—like turn inward, get some spirituality and creativity. I was planning on fully delving into the desire I was having for solitude, but I have a tendency to romanticize everything. So I think it kind of shocked me and made me see things for what [they were]. I loved it for a lot of the reasons I thought I would, but it challenged me with the realities of what it’s like to live in a place like that. It was probably the most two growth-filled years of my life. It put me into a lot of situations where I realized that I really need to care about my personal relationships, and I care more about trying to nurture [them] now.
What does the title mean to you specifically?
The title for the record [was] the last thing to fall into place. We had the artwork and the album done before that. Peripheral Vision and Good Nature fit this A and B theme of four years of my life that I put into one time period. I feel like this is a new one, and it’s different in that every song has its own theme, rather than the whole album having a general, overarching theme. But then I feel like the songs work together in a way to where it describes more of the “altogether-ness” of where my headspace was at. And it also feels fitting because even though the three of us have been separate writing this record, [we’re] the most together we’ve been as friends and as musicians. I think we’ve gotten a lot closer and the togetherness of the band is very strong.
What are some of the smaller themes that make up the larger theme of altogether-ness?
Like I said, it’s really just a lot of new things. I feel like before, I was feeling some monotony and pointlessness in some of the stuff that I was doing. Moving somewhere where I didn’t know anyone or anything made me see a sparkle in some stuff… It also took me away from the some of the comforts I had. A lot of questions of what people’s motives were, being distrustful of people, and reflecting on the value of my personal relationships, the value of my introvertedness, and trying to bring a balance to all of that.
Did you write the song “Parties” after a party?
Not one specific time. It’s not like I went and did something and I was like, “I gotta go write this song.” When I was writing that song, the third verse of it, I came up with the line “stupid parties” as a placeholder. Whenever I listen to songs, I try to feel what the song is trying to say, and then I try to write the lyrics according to how I feel the song. I thought that that one really fit well—reflecting on my relationship with my girlfriend, and how she, a lot of times, is trying to go dance, and I’m feeling self-conscious, so I don’t want to. Then, she pushes me out of my hole because I’ll realize that making her happy is more important than me feeling self-conscious, and then, because of her, I’ll have fun.
There are some funk, jazz, lounge, and disco elements on this record. What inspired that, and could you name any specific influences?
I think we all listen to a bunch of different stuff, so I can only speak for myself. The bass and the drums hold down a lot of that stuff, but we did collaborate on a lot on this record. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz for a while now. I tried to incorporate it on Good Nature, but I feel like on this record, we could do more of what we wanted.
When I first got into jazz, I would listen to Bossa Nova. With the new record, one of the things that was really inspiring me in the writing process was trying to learn keys, which made me excited about music in more of a childlike way. I could play a chord on the keyboard, and the way that it expresses itself is so much different than on a guitar. I was listening to a lot of jazz pianists—Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner. I watched the Quincy Jones documentary on Netflix, and that inspired me to go listen to the stuff he had been writing. He had strong inputs on the funk elements of [Altogether]—just stuff that he did with James Brown and through that, getting into other funk artists. Also a lot of soul, like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack. Our manager was reading the Nile Rodgers book when we went to record, and that felt pretty full circle. We had been jammin’ to Earth, Wind & Fire and Chic and all these disco acts, and we were trying to incorporate a bunch of that in a way that [captured the] general feel of it without being too polished. It was really cool. It felt like a lot of things were affirming that we were all trying to go in a similar direction, but without deliberately trying to.
Why did you feel like you had more space on this album to incorporate these elements?
I think it just being the three of us and there being [fewer] heads clashing [helped]. We had written a follow-up to Peripheral Vision already, [which was like] a turning point after having been a band for so many years; a lot of growth began at that period, and it’s always interesting to follow up a record like that. With Good Nature, we were starting to try to make a lot of the music with more ’60s influences and psychedelic influences—jazz stuff. We were very amataeur in some of our songwriting, which I think came out cool because whatever you produce is a blend of those influences, plus your own touch. But on this record, we had become more versed in those influences and felt more comfortable actually doing it. All of us had expanded as listeners and as musicians.
How was it working with producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Citizen, Tigers Jaw) again?
It’s great with Will. He’s already a part of the band every time we go in now. We’ve recorded everything since the first record with him, so it’s a really trusting relationship. As we’re writing, we always send him ideas and are like, “You have to check this out, this is what we’re fuckin’ with.” So from the get-go, generally knows what we’re feeling. But he’s not on tour with us eight months a year, so he also has kind of an outsider perspective, and usually, we find a balance between him and us, and it’s special. He really helped us nail the vision on this one because he has such an expansive knowledge of recording techniques. You can be like, “Whoa, I love how this sounds,” and he’ll be like, “Oh, shit, I know who recorded this.” He’s just masterful. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to work with him.
Lastly, are there any moments on this record that you can’t wait for people to hear?
I have a few personal favorites, but the thing that always excites me the most is hearing what people’s favorites are. It’s amazing when I hear people love the songs that I love, but it’s just as amazing, if not more amazing, when people like the songs that are my least favorite. That’s the cool thing about music: Everybody being able to have a favorite. That’s the cool thing about an album, instead of just putting out singular songs. The parts where the jazz stuff is really shining are some of my favorites, just because of my personal tastes—and I feel like “Parties” is maybe one of my favorite ones.