Tandem Felix, hailing from Lucan, are all set to follow Popcorn, their acclaimed EP from earlier this year, with a 7-inch single: “Ryan Hoguet/How Strange, The Weather”, an edition of 250 with individual, hand-painted artwork by friend of the band Salvatore Fullam. We sat down with front man David Tapley (who also performs mixing and mastering duties) in Trinity’s JCR café, ahead of the launch on December 11th in the Button Factory.
How has your songwriting process developed since you started out as a band?
We started off in the very early days with a sort of stale, standard rock format of writing together based on whatever we were jamming out, which produced nothing worth mentioning. Then I got into using samples, and at that point, everything I was recording was really for the purpose of a demo, but then I kind of got a little bit good at it, and realised that using these old jazz samples had a sort of lo-fi quality to them that contrasted with the more modern instruments I was recording. I started putting these recordings out on the internet, and it became something people would always comment on. But it never originally happened for any other reason than that I had to do it, because I didn’t have the set-up to record drums. Then, as I got better at it, when we were actually recording drum tracks, I would sample those recordings, like three seconds or a four-bar loop of drums, and use that. It allowed me to cut up the drums and, in this way, make beats that never existed.
For Popcorn though, we used no sampling, and everyone got a look in, which is something we wanted to try, and it sounds a million miles away from anything we’d done before, which is great, because we then have two different, functioning ways of doing things. This latest single is sort of a return to the old way of doing things: the drums were recorded in full by Fiachra and then I got those tracks and sampled them.
Your songs often make use of silence, and dynamic shifts. How does this translate from the songwriting/recording phase into a live setting?
Sometimes it works great. Sometimes people don’t clap when the song isn’t finished. Sometimes, however, people think that we’ve gone quiet enough that the song must be finished, and they clap. It’s something I’ve considered, and I think we’ve just got to power through with it, with crowds that may not be there to see us, or know or recognise our music; I don’t know if I would be willing to change a song dynamically just to suit that fear of there being clapping before the song’s over. There’s a pause, or a silence, like this in “How Strange, The Weather”. With big, touring bands, the light show makes a big difference with this: if the lights don’t go down, then people don’t clap or talk, but we’re not quite there yet. Getting a sound guy (Stephen Dunne) was the biggest leap so far for us, so maybe a lights person is the next step.
Does writing the songs alone, then bringing them to the rest of the band, change your approach to songwriting more generally? I mean terms of ideas, or lyrics?
Something my brother says a lot is — and I believe it too — every lyric of every song means something, has to mean something. I’m not into this sort of, à la Kurt Cobain, it’s for you to decipher thing. I mean, it’s always about something: it was written by me, and about something to do with me. For example, if someone said, “I think ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is about drugs,” Kurt Cobain would say: “yeah, sure.” If someone says to me: “I think ‘Pointing and Laughing’ (from Popcorn) is about a girl you once liked,” I would say: “That is incorrect. That is not what that song is about. You misinterpreted the lyrics.” I think writing alone gives me the opportunity to say something that I would never say, for example, in a large group of people.
Tandem Felix’s “Ryan Hoguet/How Strange, The Weather” single launch is in the Button Factory on Wednesday 11th December 2013. Doors are 8pm and entry is €5.