Turn Turn Turn began with humble ambitions.
Adam Levy, the singer-songwriter behind the Honeydogs, wanted to add another group to his already lengthy portfolio of side projects, one that channeled his love for the country, folk, and psychedelia of the ’60s and ’70s. He enlisted bassist Barb Brynstad, a veteran of the ’90s alt-rock scene, and local singer-songwriter Savannah Smith to sing three-part harmonies and cover the music of the Velvet Underground, the Monkees, Nick Drake, the Beatles, Gram Parsons, and Dolly Parton.
Once Turn Turn Turn started gigging in 2018, Brynstad suggested the band take a stab at some originals.
“I kinda bristled, like I just wanna do covers, have a fun night out,” Levy remembers. “But when Savannah played one of her songs, and people responded favorably, it kinda dawned on me: This could actually be a pretty cool thing.”
The recording process for Turn Turn Turn’s debut album, Can’t Go Back, went “unnaturally well,” resulting in 12 songs that warmly shimmer with pop melodies that effortlessly evoke Laurel Canyon. “We knew we had something really special,” Levy says.
Then COVID-19 happened.
“We got one full-band show in January at the Turf Club, a few more trio shows in February, then we shut it down,” Brynstad says. “It was so depressing and sad.”
Turn Turn Turn had already pushed their album release back when the police killing of George Floyd transformed Minneapolis.
“We had the uprising, and we felt: Do we want to put the record out in the midst of this intense social change, does it feel like too much of a ray of sunshine?” Levy says.
In June, the group finally threw its album-release party... to an unfailingly supportive Parkway Theater staff.
“We had each other onstage, and that was a big security blanket,” Smith says. “But it’s so bizarre to play a song and then have dead silence.”
The livestream concert was one of several ways Turn Turn Turn have discovered to perform music during a pandemic; they’ve also played outdoors at Icehouse and atop a truck outside Grumpy’s in Northeast.
Coronavirus may have forced the snappily dressed trio to pump the brakes, but not before they realized what they had.
“It was a side project that I wanted to do for fun, that’s turned into a really soul-nourishing project with people I really love; we text constantly,” Levy says. “This band has gotten me through the craziness of the past year. I’d love to do another record and see where we go—let’s tour, let’s leave the country.”
Adds Brynstad: “We’re gonna hit it hard as soon as we’re able.”