Q&A: Tabah

Local indie rock group releases debut album “Symmetry Somewhere” while seeking community amongst the endless rhythm of perseverance and destruction

Photographer: Carter Blochwitz

Photographer: Carter Blochwitz

As the five members of Tabah and I sat together eating afternoon waffles and talking about the present moment and the value of collaboration, the number of days till their album release hovered above us. The timeline they have followed with reverence for the past year is now reaching its destination–the album release–only to be immediately transformed into a new timeline. This endless pursuit of creation, a state of simultaneous endings and beginnings, is central to the Tabah project. The name Tabah means perseverance in Malaysia and destruction in Hindi-Urdu, which is the group’s yin and yang creed that pushes and unites them, while also being a moniker vague enough to capture their genre hybridity.

With the careful consideration the group seems to give to each step Tabah takes or expression Tabah makes, my conversation with them felt refreshingly personal. Beyond the group’s inward pull, however, it is outward that Tabah is truly pursuing. As Jeff (guitar), Cecelia (vocals/guitar), Murphy (drum), Andrew (keys), Charlie (bass), and I drank coffee and melted down the reality that we were strangers, they expressed their hopes of making Tabah a community. They expressed their dream to expand and make creative connections across state lines and across artistic mediums. The following are some highlights from our conversation.

The Wake: So March 4th at the Turf Club you guys are having a co-album release show with J.E. Sunde. Can we expect any collaborations with him live or on your new album?

Cecelia Erholtz: We like J.E. We’re different, but we’re all kind of pursuing branching out into a larger audience in the Midwest–so let’s help each other. I don’t know about collaborations, but I think what we’re excited about collaborating on is getting our crossover of audiences, meeting each other, maybe engaging and embracing a wider music scene.

The Wake: What have your experiences been in the local music scenes so far?

Murphy Janssen: The Twin Cities is pretty open and willing to give small, small bands–or really just anybody–a chance to play. You can meet people through the Nomad or Acadia, the little stages there. Then that’s how we get to all meet each other, by playing tiny shows of just small stages and bars and cafes, giving people a chance to just do whatever. We can meet each other and build those bigger projects like Tabah.

The Wake: You guys recorded a few songs on your EP and all the songs on your upcoming album in Nashville. How did you end up working with a studio in Nashville?

Charlie Bruber: A friend of ours was interning at another studio in Nashville called Blackbird, and Blackbird is owned by Martina McBride and her husband. Really cool. We got to go down there for our EP and record some tracks, and he was like ‘Ya know, when you guys are doing a full album you should definitely check out this place called Welcome to 1979’–which is all old equipment. So we went down there for two weeks.

MJ: I think Nashville was a pretty awesome setting for us. We went down there in 2014 and really liked it–found a couple watering holes. Nashville is just…

CE: It’s a good hang, we like them.

CB: We stayed at a ranch like 20 miles out of Nashville–with long-horned cattle and acres of land and huge rain storms in the middle of the night.

CE: A big gazebo looking at the pastures… So, I guess to bring it full circle, we had this nice two-week experience and then–what do we do with it? We had a timeline all up till now, the release, and it has taken us every ounce of that time. And it’s just the beginning, that’s what I keep forgetting. You know, we’re passionate people that like to write music together and share this experience and embrace each other’s weaknesses and bring each other’s strengths and just push it through. We found out Tabah kind of means something like that.

The Wake: I wanted to ask you about that. I was reading on your website and it seemed that Tabah is a word that already exists, did you know that initially?

CE: No. I have a dear friend Tim, and I was living in Prescott with him and some friends–Tom, Bobby, and Jamie. One day, I was sitting on the porch talking about my roommates to myself just going: tah…bah…ah. Tabah was something that I could, as an artist, just push behind and let it create itself. Whenever I hear band names, let’s call it Football Pizza, there are things that come to my mind before I’ve ever heard your band. Words bring images to mind, so I wanted something more anonymous, more vague. So, we named our band Tabah Yames, cut the Yames out after a while. Then we started to get these Facebook messages from people that are just sending us Tabah, the word.

MJ: Or they were like, named Tabah…

CE: Or they were all from…

CB: Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan.

CE: So we looked into it and we found that, in Malaysia, Tabah means perseverance. And we also found that in Hindi and Urdu it means to be ruined or destroyed, destruction. And it really got to me.

Andrew Seitz: Which are incidentally really relevant themes in our whole journey.

The Wake: I feel that the present moment is a significant theme in your music, which is like right snug in what Tabah represents, existing between the past and the future.

CE: Yeah, you’re not quite here on the spectrum of dark, and you’re not in the light, you’re in the middle spectrum of space. I think that’s where it’s good to exist.

The Wake: I read that your previous release, the Time Will Come EP, was intended to illustrate the experience of your first years of development as a band. Is there a vision or experience you’re hoping to illustrate on Symmetry Somewhere?

CE: We spent more time together on this project where we’d sit in chairs at night for hours, a lot of hours, and just talking about it. Talking about what is this song? I’d read them the lyrics, and we’d openly discuss them and make sure that we all understood what we were about to represent and say. And try to be, all together, in these tunes. And I really hear that, I really see that. The EP was a lot of beautiful hodgepodge.

Jeff Ley: As far as what we want this record to do for us, is just expand our listening base to a level where we can just travel around and play our music for different people. Hopefully, it will allow us to do that.

MJ: I think our goal is just to connect with as many people as we can through music and just on a person-to-person level. Hopefully, we can meet them as we travel the country and just talk about this stuff.

The Wake: Anything else you’d like to tell readers?

JL: We’re gonna have specific local artists that made one of a kind artwork on the vinyl covers for us.

MJ: On our website, you can buy these pre-sale copies which are all custom-made record jackets from ten artists around the Twin Cities that we’ve kind of teamed up with, and we’re just getting them today and they look amazing.

CE: We also met a clothing designer at the U randomly, at some tapestry warehouse, and we started talking and she’s gonna make us a whole set of clothes!

MJ: The Twin Cities have given us a big chance in terms of playing and supporting us, and we want other people to be involved in that too. Whether they’re drawing or creating clothes, or also creating music or whatever. It’s just like… let’s do it together, ya know?

CE: Light shows… whatever you got!

MJ: So you guys are really just a d.i.y. paper in which you do everything–it’s not a class, right?

The Wake: Nope, it’s totally student run.

MJ: That’s really cool. I’m glad that we were able to be a part of this too because it just ties into everything that we’re trying to do–just people doing it on their own and making it work. I mean that’s what we want to do around the country, is just collaborate with everybody.

Tabah email – tabahbooking@gmail.com
Our Photographer – Carter B

Jeff Ley – guitar
Murphy Janssen – drums
Charlie Bruber – bass
Cecelia Erholtz – vocals/guitar
Andrew Seitz – keys