Tandem Felix are a wonderful contradiction: at times pointedly DIY (they once sold a series of records for which every single one had an individual cover), but also hopeful of making a serious international breakthrough, the quirky indie act stride down the most wonderfully surreal of lyrical roads and famously don’t particularly like the live arena.
Perhaps best styled as a kind of indie country folks band, their debut album Rom-Com came out last year, though there is already a second one on the horizon (or at least the songs are written).
I caught up with frontman David Tapley to talk it all over…
The album’s been out for a few months now. How has it gone for you?
It’s gone well! Albeit, stalled a bit early due to COVID-19. We had a few shows booked but obviously they’ve all been cancelled/ postponed now.
Have you found releasing a record makes much difference to how you’re seen in the industry? It does seem to be dying as an art…
There were definitely moments where I felt like the financial stress it would put on me would be too large but people still have a big appetite for records! It’s great. I’ve sent packages all around the world and it is very heart-warming to know that our music is reaching people on the other side of the globe.
Let’s talk a moment about a track that didn’t make the record – ‘The Assassination of President Music’ sounds like it might have quite a story behind it. Tell me a little…
We played a show in London a few years ago and saw a crime scene in a café-bar. Yellow police tape, hazmat suits and everything. At the time, we were deep in the throes of trying to get recognition from the UK side of the music industry and having little-to-no success. I took my frustrations out on this fictional President, assassinated in a London bistro.
The album itself seems to be written very much from a ‘this is my reality’ type perspective. Was it important to you to pour a lot of yourself and your life into the record?
Yes and no! I wanted to write stories as well as personal tales and sometimes intermingle the two. There’s a fair amount of fiction interspersed with autobiography. I guess there’s a fair amount of fiction in my memory too though, so yeah, that “is my reality”.
Are there any abstract little references hidden away on the record waiting to be uncovered? I certainly found a couple on the videos…
Not so much hidden references but there are a few jokes I tried to write into the lyrics. In the song ‘Nightclub…’, I liked the idea of referencing Corsodyl because it sounds like a drug, even though it’s just mouthwash. The lyrics to the chorus of the song ‘Oil Money’ are “oil money, no problems” which is a reference to ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ by Notorious B.I.G. Things like that! There are also plenty I think I have just forgotten and they have become embedded in the lyrics so deeply that I’ll never remember what they were.
Have you considered doing much with the ‘other half’ of the record? I understand it’s been recorded already?
We had a “pile” alright, which is probably 15-16 songs deep at the moment. Most of that will see the light of day soon, I hope. It’s difficult to plan around COVID-19, but I hope to release a second record next year.
I understand you’re not that big on playing live. That’s very much the financial heart of music today – can that get difficult?
Definitely. You need to play shows to get shows. And you need to play shows to sell merch and records. To be honest, I am going to have to learn to love it!
Tell me a Tandem Felix story that most of your fans might not have heard…
Bob Gallagher directed a video for our song ‘Ryan Hoguet’ which starred an actor/model from Mongolia named Ruby Zoloo. There was a feature written about her in Vogue Mongolia which featured a link to the video and it blew up overnight! The video was a viral smash hit, but only in Mongolia.
A few years ago you did a record that had 250 different hand-painted covers to it. Did you hear of any of them ending up anywhere interesting? Is that DIY, unique side of things important to you?
Most of them were sold at gigs. Not sure how many of them made it across the planet. The DIY aspect is important to me. I like to see other musicians experiment with fun homemade ephemera and I think that music fans appreciate the personal touch.
You’ve been at this for years in various forms now. What do you think you’ve taken from the experience so far?
Not to worry too much about the stuff that is out of my control and to always remember that I do all of this because I love music. It supposed to be fun and creative, it’s not always about the graft.
You describe yourself as an ‘idealist clown’ on the album PR. How does the idealism come into your music?
In “Rom-Com”, I think there is an atmosphere of hope and joy, even though some of the songs are sad love songs. I don’t take myself too seriously, even when I sing about serious matters.
Obviously the coronavirus is hitting us all hard right now. How has it impacted you to date? What are you doing with the time away from playing music publicly?
It has impacted us in terms of playing live, like everyone else. But I am trying to stay active musically at home. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just set up everything and start working but everything after that should be an exciting exploration.
Aside from that, I have been doing a lot of cooking (and eating). Like everyone else, I made my first ever sourdough loaf. It turned out pretty bad but I think I know where I went wrong. I will come back stronger than ever for loaf number 2.
What are your hopes for the future?
The imminent recession that we are facing is going to be hard for everyone but I hope that we as a nation have learned from the last one and that no one puts any faith in FF/ FG to get us out of it.
I was quite hopeful with the result of the General Election that the population had made it clear that we are tired of the same old-same old and that we need a change of leadership. The next few years are going to be difficult for everyone and I hope that there will be some normality in view for the people who need it the most.