At the age of fifteen, a shaggy-haired, wide-eyed kid named Matt Tarka was recruited by a close high school friend to join an unnamed band, and soon began tinkering with his first electric instrument - a four-string Peavey Fury bass guitar. While the band stuck together for a couple of months, each member decided to go their own separate way, but the friendships stayed intact.
Tarka later joined another band, The Generators, an acoustic-electric outfit that covered artists including the Moody Blues, Jimmy Cliff, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, and Sonny Boy Williamson. The Generators would later morph into Tulgey Wood, a group that incorporated the mandolin into its psychedelic-blues repertoire. “We’d spend hours in my parents’ basement and in garages experimenting with an ancient tape recorder laying down tracks with the same intensity of a live show. Sometimes we’d joke around that studio time was really expensive, but the only time anyone ever pulled the plug on us was when you could hear the triangle signaling that it was time to eat” says Tarka. Tulgey Wood played parties, dance marathons, variety shows and parking lots in Pennsylvania in the late 90s. The last song the band played together was a rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”.
Following his stint at Hershey High School, Tarka took some time away from being in a band while attending the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania), and started exploring elements of songwriting in addition to bass guitar. Songwriting grew naturally out of poetry he began to write during his sophomore year, and he quietly accumulated a cache of ideas and pieces of songs. Eventually, Tarka became one of the principal songwriters and singers of the short-lived, barefoot acoustic trio, Smith’s Grove. “Rich (of August Moonshine), Moose and I used to get together and practice in one of the top floor rooms of one of the off-campus houses on Linden Street - we were pretty heavy into Bob Dylan, Blind Melon, Jets to Brazil, jazz, folk, really all over the spectrum” says Tarka. Though the band lasted only a year, Smith’s Grove received some local attention, performing at coffeehouses, dive bars and campus spaces in Northeastern PA. “Whoever would allow us to drop in, crank out a set (or two) any given night” says Tarka. “This probably seems old hat today, but basically, we took a word-of-mouth approach to promoting the band. Photocopy a few flyers and staple them to telephone poles all over town. We just wanted to get out there, play for your friends and strangers and have a good time with it.”
After another extended hiatus from music, this time three years, Tarka rekindled his interest in playing songs and poetry he had written since moving to the Washington, DC area after college. There he joined a four-piece rock band named Colonel Potter on bass and vocals with lead guitarist and fellow University of Scranton alum, Matt Perlick (ex-Glassoline). “It was just a revolving cast of characters, especially on drums. We all wanted this band to succeed and play shows, but everyone found something different that they wanted from the music. We did a handful of open mic nights, but eventually it became hard to sustain.”
In early 2009, Tarka decided to venture out on his own, and taught himself to play guitar on a second-hand Washburn acoustic. As of Fall 2011, Matt Tarka has recorded a five song EP titled Motorcycle Breakfast with DC area producer Dave Mallen. This album follows the 2009 release Rind of the Moon.