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"On the Run" with Turkuaz


How could they not? Do people do your moves during the show, back at you from the crowd?

Sammi: Totally! All the time. (laughing)

Shira: Yes! We love it!

Sammi: I will mentally note it like, “okay, that move’s a good move. People are doing the move. That’s a keeper” (laughing)

That’s hilarious! And Sammi, you started out as a drummer. Do you think that led you to be one of the rhythmic focal points of a funk band?

Sammi: Oh, definitely. Absolutely. Drums were my first instrument; I started out in the school band and the marching band, and played total percussion. I played marimba, and snare bass, and I was in a ska band in high school! It was great.

There’s a lot of multitasking that we do up front, too. Sometimes I’m singing, playing the tambourine, and dancing, and having the rhythmic training helps me. You know, so I don’t go rogue with the tambourine (laughing).

Mikey, our drummer, will have me back on the drums once in a while with him during our song, “Looking Tough.” He has a big drum solo, and sometimes I’ll head back there with him and play. That’s a really special occasion. And I play tambourine and have my little toys up there: cowbells, triangles, and sound blocks. It’s fantastic that I get to incorporate that into our show.

Shira: I think it helps with the funkiness of the vocals, too. You can hear it in her voice, like how Chaka Khan is a drummer and you can hear it in her voice, too.

Sammi: And, oh my God, Sheila E! She kills it. She plays a whole drumset in stiletto heels. That’s badass. We like to send that message too: “We’re two powerful, strong women on stage.” We like to send that message to our audience.

Shira: We’re gonna do this thing in five-inch platforms, baby. No flats for us! (laughing)

In that regard, what has been your experience as a woman in the music scene? Have there been challenges or tough experiences?

Shira: You know, there are just challenges to being a woman, period. As far as my experience in music, I think of it as an advantage. Especially in our scene, there are a million dudes, right? Sure, there have been times guys have talked down to us or called us background singers in reviews, but those people are idiots. We are lucky that our bandmates in Turkuaz are seven brothers who have our backs and love us. We’re family. My hope that is with great guys like them, and women like us actually out there doing it, there can be more of us in the future.

Sammi: Exactly. I hope we can pave the way and help change the views of people who don’t think women are strong. Or who have written demeaning stuff about us. I love being a woman in the scene, it’s fantastic. But it’s rare. I wouldn’t change a minute of it, but I wish there were more of us. Definitely.

Do you think of yourselves as role models for younger women, or are you okay with being thought of that way?

Shira: Oh, totally, I think it’s great. To see the wheels turning when really little girls come to the show, because maybe they haven’t seen women on stage before. They’re thinking, “I can maybe do this too!” and that’s really cool. Because that’s a direct influence.

In the same notion, some of the women who are older than us or further along in their careers like Jen Hartswick and Nikki Glaspie, I look up to them SO much for the way they carry themselves. As such badasses. No dude at this point would ever even dream of messing with them, right? I learned from them, and hope I can pass that on to younger females too. It’s all in you. You can do it.

Sammi: I think that is so special, when the young girls come up to us after shows. Especially the really little girls who are four or five years old, mostly at festivals, who are so excited to see girls on stage. That is so adorable!!! As far as being a role model, never in a million years did I think someone would dress up as us for Halloween! That’s a trip. I hope it shows that women are powerful. Women are strong.

Shira: And tying it back to the start of the interview, talking about Jerry Harrison, we feel like it’s doing our part to help the next generation. To say to women, “you are strong! You can do this.” If we’re influencing anyone to make art, especially young girls, we are proud of that.

Inspiring stuff. Thanks for sharing. In closing, what do you want people to know about Turkuaz?

Sammi: We love each other. We really love what we do. We believe in our mission.

Do you have a specific mission statement as a band?

Shira: You know, all nine of us may say something different, but for me, it comes down to fighting the good fight for love and joy in the world. And happiness. You see it from the stage on people’s faces when we perform, and that’s irreplaceable.

Sammi: To see the joy on people’s faces is 100% rewarding.

Shira: The world needs more of that with love and music. And we’re just trying to spread it.

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