[Interview] Talking Squashes and Stories with Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe
All photos by Annabel Shettel for Bullet Music
It was a sunny Saturday morning as the purple people were resting in their hammocks and steadily waking up to mix their breakfast drinks. Elsewhere, workshops were being held under a canopy, as a sea of vendors began to unravel their items for another day of hustling. Leaving them behind, myself and Bullet journalist Stephanie Cruz met with Luke Quaranta, percussionist of Toubab Krewe. As he blessed us with the accommodation of an air-conditioned forest unit, he sat down and smiled brightly to tell us the story of his musical journey.
Where does your sound stem from and is it a sound that has evolved?
I think it's definitely the case that our core sound is based on and inspired by music from West Africa. We traveled individually well before we started the band and, as friends, we traveled to Guinea. We went out there to stay with teachers and to study traditional music; first, it was drumming and then we got into string music. Drew Heller and Justin Perkins, our two string players, started studying guitar during a 2001 trip. They studied kora, which is a harp instrument with twenty-one strings from West Africa. Since then, we've allowed ourselves to write freely.
How do you maintain a creative flow?
Most importantly for us, it's a matter of making the time and not getting caught up in just playing shows or just kind of running around. Sometimes that takes away from the creative process; you get caught up in that and don’t give yourself time to actually sit down and flesh out some ideas.
You guys have played at Spirit of the Suwannee several times, so you’re no stranger personally. What is something that excites you about coming back?
For me, it’s the feel of the park and the feel also of everyone who visits. It’s such a special place for music. The Amphitheater is one of my favorite places to play, ever - it’s such an amazing setting. I was really excited to get back and reconnect with everyone here, longtime friends and fans, because it’s such a magical place. I'm sure we're in for some magic tonight, and I’m psyched to sit in with Catfish Alliance. Roosevelt Collier (of the Roosevelt Collier Band) hit me, up and I think I'm going to play a tune with him as well.
What is your involvement with Stylo Seeds?
Stylo is the name of our record, which we put out in March. Drew (member) had this really cool idea, in that he really wanted to do a seedbox garden for the album - release an album of seeds with seed packs. The cool thing is, his wife works for a nonprofit in Asheville called Seed Programs International and they deliver seeds and farming expertise to communities all over the world that are in need, so we decided to let our artist make some custom artwork for the project. It was totally in the same theme as the album cover. People get eight seed varieties and 20% of the proceeds go to seed programs. Last night somebody threw a Ziploc bag onto the stage with three summer squashes inside, grown from the project. The thrower's name is Danielle. She sent us a message on Facebook this morning, saying, “Dude, I grew those squash from the Toubab seeds.” Crazy.
What did you do with said squash?
I have it in the fridge. I'm sure I'll try to get it home in a good shape and then cook it.
Here's a Cards Against Humanity question for you. What gets better with age?
Well... I would say that music gets better with age, in terms of a relationship with the band in question. Also, bandmates get better with age. We’ve always been great friends with each other, and now we get to make music and travel together. Plus, we have this new record out, so now we're all excited about hanging out more and playing more because of it. Sometimes when you take a break the hearts gets fonder.
What do you want to tell the people of Purple Hatter’s Ball?
Let’s keep it going. Let’s make sure this festival keeps going every single year. Let's make sure that we keep showing up for Rachel and for Mama Margie and for the great cause that she has championed. Obviously, the festival stems from tragic circumstances, but she’s been able to do amazing work and make lasting change because of her own efforts. From her loss she’s been able to create so much positive energy and love. We have to keep that alive.
To purchase your own damn squash, listen to Stylo, and catch Toubab Krewe on tour click here. You can also listen to our full interview with Luke below.