Tortoise promises not to be slow to the party

After nearly two decades, indie band Tortoise continues to be almost impossible to define. The five members collaborate on works — sometimes as long as 20 minutes — of primarily instrumental jazz rock/math rock that continues to develop even as the band has matured beyond their roots.

 

After nearly two decades, indie band Tortoise continues to be almost impossible to define. The five members collaborate on works — sometimes as long as 20 minutes — of primarily instrumental jazz rock/math rock that continues to develop even as the band has matured beyond their roots.

 

“Tortoise has worn our evolution on our sleeve,” says bassist Doug McCombs, “because all of our recordings are us trying to perfect our songwriting and our musicianship. The records are almost documents of us doing that.”

 

McCombs says the band has learned a kind of restraint over the years, “having more tools at our disposal and knowing when to use them and when not to use them.” But they still attract a very diverse crowd — even the normally raggle-taggle jam-banders.


“We get a certain amount of admiration from the jam band community,” McCombs says. “A percentage of them are into it for the intellectual aspect and another percentage just want to groove to the music.”