Interview: Tandem Felix

Tandem Felix
Tandem Felix’s David Tapley talks charlatans, Christian songs of praise and the disappointment of meeting your heroes ...

The following interview was previously published in Cork's Evening Echo.

From the sleepy piano and gentle guitar strum to the dreamlike pedal steel that permeates through their new EP, Comma, Tandem Felix are one of those bands blessed with an ability to make everything they do sound effortless. Singer David Tapley’s hushed vocals on opening track ‘Nothing I Do Will Ever Be Good Enough’ typify this, the song almost singing itself. Yet his influences are not immediately obvious.

“My favourite vocalists are Richard Manuel, Mark Mulcahy and Jeff Tweedy. Three singers that can display their own individual pains in completely different ways”, volunteers Tapley from a rainy Edinburgh. “With Manuel, he sometimes sounds like he is in physical pain like on The Band's ‘Lonesome Suzie’. With Mulcahy, he is able to bring his voice to a realm of desperation and despair, while remaining beautiful and so note-for-note perfect. Tweedy is able to show his innards sometimes with complete apathy, sometimes with an exhausted drawl and sometimes with a cry for release.”

Although alternative country has contributed significantly to both Tapley and Tandem Felix’s musical palette, the band continue to paint trippier compositions (such as Comma’s closer, ‘Mandarin’) more akin to previous releases, such as the Radiohead-esque space-sojourn ‘Ryan Hoguet’. Is it a case of having to choose a direction for the next release?

“I have no idea where my next batch of songs is going to come from”, admits Tapley truthfully. “I guess that's the most exciting thing of all. I always had an interest in country music but I never thought to try delve into that world for a release. I will try not to repeat myself in future, but my writing style has changed and that's something I am willing to let happen again.”

Whatever the Lucan foursome are up to, it’s starting to garner attention with English publications NME and The Guardian (“new band of the week”) both lavishing praise on the quartet. From the perspective of an outsider staring across the Irish Sea, there’s definitely something happening across the water, especially when it comes to Irish music with more alternative leanings. Dublin post-punk four Girl Band recently turned down legendary record label Sub Pop (Nirvana, Soundgarden) to sign a deal with U.K. counterparts Rough Trade Records; nu-trad supergroup The Gloaming continue to be the undisputed darlings of U.K. critics; and that Hozier fella seems to be doing enough to keep the landlord at bay. This surely must be a good thing for bands plying their trade here.

“It simply means that publications outside Ireland know where it is”, states Tapley, obviously unperturbed by the recent attention. “It also seems to give them a strange pre-judgement of what Irish bands should sound like. I think the best thing about Irish music is that there is so much variety. We couldn't be further from the sound of Girl Band, even though we are good friends. There is no collective consciousness in Irish music, just a large gathering of pimps and charlatans.”

Increasingly frustrated by Arsenal’s failure to “slot one in against Chelsea” on the hotel television, I try to steer the conversation towards calmer grounds, namely the band’s fond association with Trout Records, the Dublin-based independent label that continue to release Tandem Felix records.

“Conor, the Trout CEO, approached me after having seen our band play many times. He decided he wanted to expand the Trout oeuvre, which had previously just consisted of his band, Spies. We had played with Spies a few times and I think Conor must have been impressed in how we outshone them every single time! Conor makes it easy for us to put out records. He really enables us to do what we want to do and is really on the ball about pushing our stuff, almost like a dealer.”

Following a recount of a disappointing encounter with former hero Jason McAteer at the Trinity Ball and the life-changing decision to eventually “pick Richard Manuel over Rick Danko”, David reveals the details of some surprising songwriting ventures that lie on the horizon for Tandem Felix in the second half of 2015.

“I am writing a set of Christian songs of praise at the moment. Not being a particularly religious man, it may appear to be a cynical endeavour, but the fact is I really love religious music: Bob Dylan's religious period, Judee Sill, The Louvin Brothers. Keep an ear out at our shows for a new song entitled ‘Were You There When They Crucified The Birthday Boy’.”

Be it as a Christian-folk band or psychedelic country quartet, it’ll be good to see Tandem Felix return south this weekend following their February Quarter Block Party appearance. “We had such a ball,” beams David. “We were treated like royalty and it was nice to spend a weekend in one of my favourite cities in Ireland. We also discovered Rising Sons, which was tremendous.”

Upcoming Tandem Felix tour dates:

15th May - The Workman's Club (Dublin)

For more on Tandem Felix visit: 

- Tandem Felix play The Workman's Club Friday, 15th May
- Tandem Felix's EP Comma is out now and available from all good record shops and

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