David Tapley favours dry roasted peanuts. A more involved process than that which produces their salted counterparts – dry roasting is said to enhance the aromas and tastes of certain herbs. This appreciation for the more labour intensive member of the peanut family comes as little surprise when you consider Tapley’s output under nom de tune, Tandem Felix. Care and consideration is the man’s modus operandi.
Following a two year absence and fresh off the release of their latest, stellar single Were You There (When They Crucified The Birthday Boy), Tandem Felix are on the cusp of letting their long anticipated new LP loose on the world. Awash in gently psychedelic keys and cosmic pedal steel – Tapley’s latest work pushes his already accomplished songcraft to new plains of widescreen country-tinged majesty. On a windswept October Wednesday, we rendezvoused with Dave for a pint of plain and a night of glamorous European football.
So, the Comma EP came out two years ago, to a degree of acclaim, what have you been doing with yourself since then?
Well, so pretty much before Comma even came out, I’d started working on songs for what is going to be the new record and probably some of the next record after that. My intention was to have a literal pile of songs…
Interesting, because you’ve only really put out shorter stuff up to now.
It’s all been E.P’s yeah. With Comma, it was five songs but it wasn’t really that short – I think it’s around 20 minutes. So, if I had of just taken a little bit more time we could of had a full album, I didn’t want to get left in that situation again. I have a tonne of stuff now, some of it I can tell might never get released – save ‘em for the 20th anniversary edition or Japanese bonus tracks or whatever. It’s nice to have options but making decisions is the hard part.
You’d do most of the writing yourself though, right?
Yeah, the guys in the band are good in that they give me the opportunity to go into the studio by myself and write. I’m not a drummer, I’m not a bassist, I can’t play violin, I can barely even play guitar at the best of times – so, a lot of stuff gets redone. But they’re patient enough with me that I’m allowed go into mad scientist mode and work by myself for months on end.
Why do you think you work so slowly?
I’m kind of bad with the decision making and I’m not very focused in terms of just doing one thing. We have a deadline now for the new single, Nightclub (I Sold My Soul to the Devil), which should be out around when this goes to press. Even though I know the single needs to be ready, I still can’t stop working on other songs at the same time. It’s a little, not undisciplined, but there’s a lack of focus or something. I can’t really put the blinkers on and work on one piece of music, it’s boring and makes you end up hating it a little bit. Just the other week we went into the studio to finish-up mixing the single and ended up mixing another four songs while we were there. That’s just a running theme in every single aspect of my life – I always try and do everything at once.
Another thing is that before I even went into the studio, I kind of took large breaks from it all together. I just wasn’t really in the mood to work on any music at all so that time very much got away from me.There wasn’t really anything getting in my way, I just wasn’t doing the work. I went through a pretty bad break up at the time as well. So, that was probably a large factor in me spending most my time drinking pints as opposed to working…
So you’re not really buying into the idea of heartbreak as a bottomless fount of inspiration for artists…
Absolutely fuck that. I had this one guy who was flirting with managing us for a while – I won’t put his name on record. But, every time I’d meet him for a pint he’d ask me about my girlfriend at the time. It was a long distance thing for the last year of it or whatever and this bloke would always be like “She hasn’t broken up with you yet, no? I was hoping you could get working on that break-up record”. In the back of my head I was thinking “Don’t worry, It’s already written, I know what’s coming”. So, the break-up record was ready before the break-up had even occurred. It’s funny though, most the songs on the new record are about drinking so I guess that’s what was happening at the time…
So much of your work has this very considered, immaculately turned out quality. It seems like you’ve never really had any interest in putting out anything until it was finished.
I guess that’s because we work with, and I live with, an actual sound engineer. He’s a huge driving force in terms of not signing off on things because “The kick drum isn’t punchy enough” or other things like that I don’t really hear. He’s proven to me so many times how much better something can be when you put an extra day’s work into it. The problem then is that you start thinking “Well, why don’t we spend another day working on another aspect of it…”.
Another thing is that I didn’t drink until I was 17. I think most of the years when the people were having fun, I was at home figuring out how to use my computer to make music. All of that not non-mixed, held together with chewing gum sort of music, I did that back then. I got it out of my system. I can’t buy into faux-lo-fi, I feel like there is maybe something insincere about that approach when you’re in a position to make something sound as ‘good’ as possible. Obviously, if the song is good enough none of this stuff matters. But, If you try and make something sound ‘good’, it’s going to sound a lot better than if you don’t.
I do feel a little bit pissed off when you hear bands being like “We love lo-fi” but they refuse to invest in old equipment. If you want to sound like Velvet Underground – use the same techniques they did, as opposed to recording it on fucking Pro Tools HD Suite with €400 microphones and then slapping a lo-fi plugin on the track.
It strikes me that, compared to lots of other domestic indie concerns, you’re more inclined to make the trip over to England to play shows. Does it still feel important to you to get over there semi-regularly?
A band like Tandem Felix will only exist through travelling. We don’t make the sort of music that’ll blow people away on first listen. Just to pick two bands that I do really like; if you go and see Rusangano Family – they’ll blow your socks off, or if you go to see Saint Sister – they’ll send chills down your spine. In terms of live performance, I think we’re a very different sort of band to both of those.
We benefit from repeat listens, we’re a slow burner, that’s the way I like it, that’s the way I listen to music. You show someone a band like Yo la Tengo, or even Wilco – how many people go “Stop the lights, my life is changed!”. I listened to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot ten times and on time number ten I was like “I get it now!”. That’s ultimately more rewarding than, say, when I heard 2 by Mac Demarco. First time I heard it I was like “This is class!” but by the second time, I was already thinking “…this is shit”. Shelf life is so much more important. I was talking to our manager the other day after he was listening to us on Spotify. He told me he went into the “related artists” for whatever reason. We were both laughing about how none of them got got successful until their fifth album or something like that. So, no worries then…
Football Coverage Begins
RTÉ are showing the Roma game anyway…
Roma always have good jerseys.
Tandem Felix play Whelans (Upstairs) on Tuesday November 7th.
Words: Danny Wilson