Turnover frontman Austin Getz rediscovers own identity on ‘Altogether’
Turnover frontman Austin Getz explains his interpretation of the group's latest album artwork, a lifelong fear that keeps him chasing authenticity and reluctantly offers advice to people who may be wrestling with their own sense of self.November 7, 2019
Turnover recently released their latest full-length record—the stunning and shimmery Altogether, an album that feels dreary and disco in equal measure. The record sets Turnover’s bold new direction of atmospheric emo jazz-pop into motion. It‘s a captivating yet logical evolution from their previous work.
Altogether is the culmination of frontman/guitarist Austin Getz’s move from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Northern California in pursuit of a more creatively affluent and spiritually liberal environment. However, muses are as difficult to come by in California as they are in Virginia.
In an in-depth exclusive, Getz gets candid about the creative process of writing Altogether and how his personal journey of self-discovery aided in crafting the sound the band had been trying to flesh out since 2017’s Good Nature. Getz recalls his expectations of seeking a fresh vision and the measures he took to reinvent his songwriting process. A period of personal growth ultimately led to a newfound perspective of his place in Turnover, his sense of self and his most fully realized and most collaborative version of the band to date.
Altogether just flows together. It’s almost like you’re breathing these songs out. They don’t seem premeditated. How did you achieve that? How do you make sure that listeners get to consume it without any regard to the real meaning behind it?
AUSTIN GETZ: Honestly, it’s not something I really ever deliberately think about. I think that I naturally like the stuff that I listen to. It’s not like I typically listen to a lot of top 40 stuff, but a lot of the stuff I listen to is the good-feeling pop. A lot of what I listen to isn’t poppy at all, but I hear it, and I’m definitely not a jazz player, but I hear it, and I wonder if I can take some of those influences and make it into a song. But it’s honestly not something that any of us have really thought about. We’ve never sat down and said, “Oh, we want to make this kind of record.” I’m constantly listening to music, and I’m constantly playing guitar, and I’m just writing what naturally comes out. I hope I can be authentic with myself in the stuff that I’m consuming always and I’m authentically inspired so the stuff that comes out can be true as well.
Is there a moment on the record where you think you’ve achieved a new level of authenticity in your music? What is a moment you’re most proud of and feel most revealing about?
I feel proud of the really new sounding stuff because I think it’s really exciting, and it feels like a large accomplishment because it’s so different. The parts like the beginning of “Still In Motion” or “Ceramic Sky,” I love those parts. On Good Nature, there were parts where I wanted the guys to get a little more jazzy, but they weren’t ready for it yet. I think that’s good because I don’t think Turnover fans were ready for it yet. I’m glad we have stuff like that on this record.
But, then again, [for] “Still In Motion,” I feel like if you took the second part of that song, the driving majority of the song, you can put it on Peripheral Vision, and it would fit right in. I’m really proud of that song because I feel like that’s a place where I do get to flex a little bit of the new stuff, but at the same time, there’s the me that let go of the notion that just because [I] wrote three pop songs doesn’t mean [I] can’t write another one. For a while, I definitely had that in my mind, where it was just, “I’ve already done that. Why would I want to do it again?” But it’s not like because I’ve already heard psychedelic rock, I never want to listen to it again. I think I came full circle. I still love all the music I grew up with, and I’m still a product of all of it.
The artwork in the rollout, all the music videos and everything—they all feature ambiguously shaped silhouettes. That’s my interpretation of it. What was the intention with the aesthetic of this era? What visuals did you want people to associate with this music?
We knew that we definitely wanted it to be very different from Good Nature and Peripheral Vision, just because the music was a lot different, and we’re always trying to switch it up, and we really had no idea what we wanted for the art, and then we just stumbled upon this woman, Jennifer Juniper Stratford and her studio called Telefantasy, and instantly, we all kind of looked at it, and even though from listening to the music, it’s nothing that all of us thought. If you were to describe how I thought the music looked visually, it would not have been that. When I saw it, I thought it expanded it in a way better than what I could have imagined. And so it just fit super, super well. And we saw some of the previous works, and then we hit her up. We stressed to her how we were a fan, and she seemed to really want to do it.
All the stuff just ended up feeling like it fit really well. I think there’s something about the muteness of some of the colors, some of the ambiguity but, to me, still looks really beautiful. To me, I think it has certain elements of the darkness of Peripheral Vision and certain elements of the lightheartedness of Good Nature. I think that the one singular figure on the cover, to me, I’m trying to figure out why did the universe put this here. Like, what is this supposed to mean? I think that the figure is saying in being indistinguishable is, to me, a representation of how each song stands on its own. With this record, before it came out, we were considering not even doing a record and just doing a bunch of singles because of how the songs sounded and just being unsure of an album’s place in 2019. I think it’s got a lot of different elements to it.
Listening from beginning to end, do you feel like the songs have found a voice together? Do you think this album sounds like an album, or do you feel like each song truly does feel separate?
I feel like it feels more like an album than the other albums…That was my only beef with some of our stuff. Not so much with Good Nature, but more so with Peripheral Vision. I felt like I was listening to one long song, not that I don’t love it, but with this one, and with Good Nature too, there are a lot of things that tie everything together [in] such an overt way. And with Altogether, though, I do think that each song is really, really different, but I do think that they work together so well. And I’ve always wanted to make an album like the albums that I love, like Pet Sounds, albums where each song sounds so different, but they really do work together in a way that is so recognizable. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like [these songs] work really, really well together as an album.
I definitely agree. It seems like you write records around things that you’re questioning or ideas that you’re wrestling with. What is something you’re questioning in life now that will inspire the next phase? Or what’s something you still want to figure out in this phase that you’re questioning?
I feel like a lot of my mental space is tied to the music. I put so much out into the ether with these songs that I’m in a place now where I’m just decompressing. You know, normal questions that are always, always happening. A fear I’ve had since I was young is that I never want to become stuck in my ways. I think that that’s a general underlying theme where a lot of the other questions that I ask are wondering, “OK, am [I] still pushing myself? Am I still relevant?” But then, at the same time, am I being true to myself? Am I not forgetting where I came from and the things I had in the past? So trying to do that blend of keeping one foot in the door and trying to go out of it as well and always trying to remain an inspired person but also an authentic person, so I feel like I’ll always be wondering about trying to navigate that.
I feel like that’s a universal thing that people in this generation are struggling with all the time. What advice do you have for somebody who feels like they’ve lost their identity? What’s your best advice in finding that identity for yourself again?
That’s so hard because I’m so wary of giving advice. I feel like sometimes I’m like a horse trying to give advice to an elephant or a tiger. I noticed over time that people are just so different that something that works for me might make somebody else crumble or vise versa. The only thing I can say is try to not think too much about what everybody else is telling you what you need to do. You need to be really honest with yourself. Just try to see things for how they really are and not how they are in your mind. Think things through and try to see all sides of something and not just the side you want to see. Be honest with yourself.
You can read more on Turnover in AP #376 featuring cover star Waterparks.