Tjutjuna | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly


Psych-rockers keep feet on the ground

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Tjutjuna’s Twitter page contains a description of the band’s music that’s as succinct as it is accurate. “Loud space rock” reads one line, followed by a second that says “the future” and a link to the Denver group’s Facebook page. That first characterization is particularly on-point. Westerner, the four-piece’s second and latest record, houses kaleidoscopes of dreamy guitar lines and lingering effects, a total lack of vocals, mellow track lengths that span between roughly three and eight minutes long, and a set of hippie-dippy song names (specifically: “Desert Song,” “Songer Dance” and “Oneironaut”). As far as volume goes, Westerner spends notable chunks occupied with calm introspection, but there are also enough blasts of gut-rattling firepower to give them a pass on using “loud” instead of “quiet/loud.”

In tandem, all these elements consistently remind you how much these guys relish (metaphorically) visiting the upper reaches of our planet’s atmosphere and taking it easy. “To me, it’s more transportation music, like an environment for things to happen in,” guitarist/keyboardist Brian Marcus, 29, says of his band’s work. “I think about what it sounds like to me as far as the landscape and then I get a lot of colors, but nothing very specific or a narrative.”

Marcus, Robert Ballantyne, James Barone and Adam Shaffner—the four original members of Tjutjuna (whose name is pronounced “choo-choo-na,” taken from the Russian equivalent of the sasquatch)—go all the way back to elementary school. Then, during middle school, the four started playing music together, with everyone essentially learning how to do so all at once. Their first project was Burden, a hardcore band in the vein of 1990s acts Torn Apart and Snapcase. Still, they were much more into listening to the kind of music they’d soon come to play. “We listened to more psychedelic/classic rock, and then probably sometime in college, it started getting a little more experimental,” Marcus says. “Me and James took a class in college that was an avant-garde improvisational ensemble, and that definitely had a big impact on not just our tastes but also the way we approach songwriting and performing with other musicians.”

After a few years of dormancy and fluctuation, Burden eventually turned into Mothership, a psych-oriented group that also included Brendon Schulze. “With Mothership, it was very much Adam’s songs,” Marcus says. “He would just kind of get baked and write ’em in his dorm room.” Shaffner’s “little acoustic songs” would then get beefed up by the whole band.

Marcus isn’t exactly overflowing with compliments for their past work, calling Mothership’s songs over-arranged and too theatrical and bombastic. The primary purpose of Mothership’s existence was to give the band a reason to play at Fiske Planetarium in Boulder, Colo. In 2006, they made good on their goal, and gradually, Mothership morphed into the current quartet, which today exists without Shaffner and with Fernando Garcia. “With Tjutjuna, we wanted to do something that was a little simpler but also really psychedelic,” Marcus says. “I feel like a lot of bands called psychedelic music [are] not really all that psychedelic. We wanted to be the most psychedelic we could possibly be without being pretentious about it.”

Looking toward Tjutjuna’s future, Marcus can’t really think of any big goals to discuss, and his nonchalance and modesty about band matters contrast sharply with the wide-screen spectacle of his output. “There’s not too much ambition, and we’re pretty understated dudes, which I totally understand how you wouldn’t get from the music,” he says. “Really, for me, I’m bugged that rock music is kind of like legacy music now. When was the last time you heard truly innovative rock music? It’s mostly just retreading stuff that’s happened in the past, so I guess that’s I want to do. I want to be original. That’s probably the most lofty ambition that we have: to be original.” 

w/ Acid Mothers Temple, Rainbow Black
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Tuesday, April 9, 9 p.m.

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