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Alright, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: how did T.a.p.e.s come to be?
T.a.p.e.s started out as a side project of mine back in December of 2014. I had just finished up a semester in Austin, TX and went back home to Laredo to visit family. During my down time there, I began producing and working on the early demos of “Youth” and “Sundial”, but I never really intended for them to be released or to go anywhere.
How did you come together as a group?
A couple of weeks later, once I was back in Austin, I was invited to perform on a television show known as Local Live. I prepared a producer set of about twenty minutes, and showed it to a good friend of mine, Sergio Romo. He was really into the tracks and asked if he could work on some of the guitar parts for them. We both performed on Local Live later that month, which was our first show as T.a.p.e.s. It was a lot of fun and pushed us to continue working on the project. Once we continued to build the sound, we asked Myles Philips to join in and play drums, which was the icing on the cake.
Who are some of your biggest influences? I immediately pick up on a heavily post-rock atmosphere, but has anybody influenced or inspired you that people wouldn’t necessarily expect?
The interesting thing about T.a.p.e.s is that all of our influences vary quite a bit. Speaking for myself, I’m really into producers such as Shigeto, Teebs, and MMOTHS. I think those guys create such a warm atmosphere of sound when you listen to their tracks. I also really dig bands like El Ten Eleven, Don Caballero, and American Football, but will listen to everything from Nas to Pink Floyd. Serge is heavily into progressive rock, bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Myles is also into a very wide range of music, from Melody’s Echo Chamber to Rick James, so I think that, although these are our influences, you wouldn’t necessarily expect it because we try to create our own sound. I think where you can really see the influence of these artists, though, is how we try to merge analog/acoustic and digital sound into one whole.
How has the music scene in Austin treated you?
The music scene in Austin is the best music scene I’ve ever been a part of, hands down. I really think it boils down to musicians being willing to help out one another and collaborate on each other’s projects. A lot of art scenes are pretty cut throat, and although you occasionally come across those individuals in Austin, you’ll find that the majority of the city just wants to consume as much local art and music as they can get their hands on. Because of that, I think it pushes all of us to want to create next level music and art. Had we resided elsewhere, T.a.p.e.s may have remained a bedroom project.
What’s your preferred set-up at live shows? What visuals do you like to use?
Our preferred set up is to use Ableton Live to run everything. This is the backbone to our tracks. I use an MPD 32 drum machine on stage to produce the tracks live. I also play guitar and bass over these tracks, and occasionally use looping to create more layers. Sergio plays guitar over the tracks as well, with Myles on percussion and drums. In terms of visuals, we created some 3D visuals with the help of the UT3D department for our album release show back in May, which was a lot of fun. But usually we just let the venue decide for us.
I find it interesting that in your band description on Facebook, you self-describe yourselves as making music “to close your eyes to”. What’s the dynamic like at your live shows?
Haha, what’s interesting about that is that our live shows are actually really energetic. We usually play off the crowd, but there’s always people grooving to our tracks. When you listen to our recorded music, it’s the complete opposite. Our recorded tracks are very light, atmospheric, and ambient. I think that’s my favorite part about T.a.p.e.s, because it always keeps things entertaining. We really want to give the listener a different experience based on how they’re listening to us.
Somewhat going off of that, its immediately apparent that you don’t utilize a vocalist. Why did you make this stylistic decision? Do you have any interest in collaborating with a lyricist, or do you prefer to challenge yourselves to structure emotional soundscapes without any vocalist to “guide” the listener?
I don’t think there was really a choice to not have a vocalist. When we write our tracks, we usually get into a room and just jam them out until we have something concrete. That process always puts you in a good state of mind and creates a flow between all of us. At that point, I think we just like to let the music speak for itself. Vocals would probably throw us out of our flow state, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we’ll never include vocals. If it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t, that’s cool too. I’m really attracted to the idea, though, that the listener can associate their own thoughts and ideas to our music without a lyricist guiding them.
What is your dream for T.a.p.e.s? A progressively increasing string of albums? Playing a huge festival? Scoring a movie?
I think it’s important to set your dreams one step at a time. A few months back, it was our dream to have our own original music on a physical record. Now, that’s actually happening! A few years back I wouldn’t have expected that to ever become a reality, but it shows you what hard work and dedication can accomplish. I think the next goal or dream for T.a.p.e.s is to write and record a full-length album and tour in support of that. Scoring a film would be killer too.
Going off that last question, I’m going to ask something a bit difficult. What do you see as the point of making music such as this in this day and age? I personally enjoy it, but do you think music in this vein will ever reach a mass mainstream audience? Is that something you’d even want to achieve? Why or why not?
I think it’s simple why we create music. We are all musicians and love what we do 110%. Every morning when I wake up, I immediately put on music and pretty much have something on until I fall asleep (my roommates probably hate me by this point). But it’s just something that I truly love, and I know we all share that in common. I think it’s so exciting to be an artist or a musician in this day and age when you really think about it. We have one tool that no one before us had: the internet. I’m currently living in Los Angeles, California, and the rest of T.a.p.e.s is in Austin, TX, but regardless, we still create music, and send project files back and forth. That’s something you couldn’t have done fifteen years ago. Collaboration is at an all time high. In addition, there’s so much more music out there than there ever has been. You can now have conversations online with bands that you love and talk about gear set up, future shows, how much you love them, whatever. There’s no excuse for doing what you love and not putting it out there.
Do you think music in this vein will ever reach a mass mainstream audience?
I think that’s neither here nor there. I think every musician would love to have success at that level, as would every filmmaker, photographer, journalist, painter, etc. Once your primary goal is to achieve that, you lose the whole point of creating music with your best friends. You should really only do something because you love it, not because you want to get famous from it, as cliche as that sounds.
Now to somewhat refute that previous string of questioning, with the advent of platforms such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, its become easier than ever to release your craft into the world. What do you see as the trick to standing out among the myriad artists currently releasing independent content?
One of the things that I think separates a lot of artists from just releasing something digitally is when they release a physical copy of their album, either on cassettes, or records, or even USB cards. There’s something tangible about being able to hold a real work of music in your hands because it feels more authentic than just streaming something on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. You can really appreciate the cover art and listen to the album the way it was intended to be listened to. I think this really helps connect bands with their audience.
Let’s close on something fun: who’s your dream collaboration/artist to tour with?
I would personally love to tour with El Ten Eleven. They’re a fantastic band with such high energy at their live shows. They look like a lot of fun to be on the road with.
Thanks for the interview!