Interview: Giant Flying Turtles By Rock Star Journalist Eileen Shapiro

Brooklyn based up and coming triumphant sensations, Giant Flying Turtles, a genre stretching, conglomerate, of talented musicians, will be releasing their newest album on September 23rd, entitled, ‘Waltz to the World”. 

A cross between Police, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears, Bob Dylan and Allman Brothers, this band strives to make great music, and loves playing live. With no one admitting to being a frontman, Johnny, Calvin and Jim, are all in front and equal, with drummer Jim, in the back. Together they are thrilled to have found each other in the big city considering the fact that there are 10 million other musicians in New York. Their chemistry, dedication, and commitment is very apparent when seeing them live, listening to their music or even speaking with them.

Their song, “Keep My Dream Alive” is the theme of the film, “Shining in the Dark”, which was nominated in The Moscow International Film Festival where they were invited to perform, and their song “Raven Hair” is featured the festival “One Wall-Kings of Coney Island. 

As interesting as their name, Giant Flying Turtles, I spoke to the members about their fascinating musical view points, and future plans. With their album not even unleashed to the world, they are already excited bout this next album.

So, are all of you Brooklyn Boys?

TJ: I actually live in Queens. 
Jim: I live in Staten Island but I was born and raised in Brooklyn.
Johnny: I’ve lived here for 20 years, but originally from Silver Spring Maryland.
Calvin: I’ve been here for 13 years, but I’m from Kansas originally. I’m going to click my ruby slippers together and I’m not in Kansas anymore.

How long have you been together as a band?

Johnny: I think since 2011. Calvin and I got together and played in bars as a duo, playing each other’s originals. Then my wife, Michelle said, “Why don’t you try writing something together”? Once we thought we were goof enough we got a great drummer Jim who was in another band. Then we found TJ a few years later toward this second album.

TJ: Me and Johnny ended up on a couple of gigs together in the city, and he asked me if I wanted to come play on a couple of tracks on some things he was working with his band, Giant Flying Turtles. So I went and recorded one song really without ever hearing it before. We did that, we did another song, and as we were sitting one day, they asked me if I wanted to be in the band. 

Where did you get the name, Giant Flying Turtles?

Calvin: It’s kind of a long story, but a long time ago a friend, a musician friend of mine use to have a saying called, ” Off like a heard of turtles”. Then Johnny’s wife looked it up and saw that another band had the name “Heard of Turtles” so I think she and the rest of us somehow figured out that we would be called, ‘ Giant Flying Turtles”.

Johnny: I was watching a show about the Mayans, and that had these carvings of giant flying turtles with human heads. There was speculation that maybe we were visited by UFOs. I thought “Flying Turtles”, that’s perfect for a band name, because they are all taken, the good ones. So we immediately googled that, and nothing came up.

Who writes the songs?

TJ: Everybody. The current record you have was written by the  other band members, I wasn’t in yet so I’m basically a guitar player and vocals on the band. Now we’ve already moved into the next phase of writing so, it seems to work best when we all write together, and everybody puts in their creative input. Moving forward everybody is writing. That particular record I wasn’t involved in.

Calvin: TJ is totally right. All four of us for our third album which we are still writing right now, and is really exciting when we do all the rehearsals, all these brand new songs. We’ll probably continue for the next six months. I think we’re most excited about the third album, even though we’re just putting out the second one. The third one, all four of our ideas are really gelling together, so I think it’s going to be the best one yet. I guess I’m speaking for all four of us, but that’s my two cents.

Jim: My opinion is that the third album is probably the best thing that we’ll do because as the guys are writing this stuff we will be playing the music. I think the music will be performed before  its recorded to a record.

Jim, what do you play?

Jim: I’m the drummer. 
TJ: You definitely don’t want to talk to him.

Who is the frontman?

Calvin: In this band Johnny is in the middle but it’s really kind of all three of us up front, singing as much as possible. Most of the songs have three vocal parts, a lot of harmonies, so we like to split it up and have all three of us with Jim playing back there. It’s not the type of situation where is actually a frontman. It’s a cohesive unit of four people playing off if each other.

Johnny: This band really delivers live something that you won’t hear on a CD. Everybody is a great Improvisationist. We can make a song three minutes or we can make it ten minutes, but we love playing live. The whole reason we even write songs is the thrill of being able to take them out and play them in front of people. The most incredible thing due to Jim’s drumming is people that see us for the very first time, they get up and dance. I can’t think of a better complement then somebody dancing to your music.

We’re blaming this on Jim?

Jim: I’ll take the blame.

Calvin: I want to chime in for a second. I totally agree, we are really, really lucky. I think this group of four musicians, the chemistry is incredible. We are really really lucky to have found each other in New York City where there are 10 million musicians. This group of four musicians is really crazy but we could go play the most horrible gig or maybe a nice gig with a nice PA, but whenever we play we have a lot of fun. I get super excited to play with these guys because of the chemistry we have, even if it’s not Madison Square Garden. We’re sort of hoping for that. I think we’re really, really lucky to have found each other. It’s pretty amazing.

TJ: We’re also all big fans of all kinds of music. One of the great things about this band is that it’s an “Anything goes” situation. There is no style of music that won’t be approached, whether the song works out or doesn’t work out, I love being able to play different genres within one band, and making it sound like one band still. I think that’s missing from a lot of music these days. 

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