We chatted to London folk band Tapir! to discuss their new three-act album and the wonderful world they have built around it
Tapir! are an exciting new 6-piece folk outfit from London. With their last 2 EPs, ‘Act 1 (The Pilgrim)’ and ‘Act 2 (Their God)’ they have begun to build a wonderfully weird world for their character, The Pilgrim, to explore.
With two-thirds of the project now out in the world, we caught up with the band to discuss this world and their exciting creative ambitions of the future.
George: For anyone unfamiliar with you guys, where did you start, where are you from?
Ike (vocals/guitar): We all met each other in London over a length of time and now we’re mostly in South London.
Ronnie (Bass): It was a four-piece for a while. Ike and Will wrote some songs together during lockdown, then became friends with Tom and I kept on asking to join because I liked the songs. We then got Emily and Will so now, it’s 6. That’s it now, 7 would be mad!
George: What’s up with the heads?
Ike: This is a creature called The Pilgrim, which the narrative of the album follows. The album is based in a fictional universe and follows the adventures of this creature. It bumps into loads of other characters.
George: I love it. Why did you choose to release your debut album in chapters, rather than a traditional album rollout?
Ike: I think because the process of making the album and piecing together the narrative happened over time, it made sense to release it in parts. After each part was released, we could continue working on the project rather than tying it up in a bow. It’s allowed us to expand as a band and as a project. It’s kept it alive and breathing.
George: So, do you consider the EPs their own projects rather than pieces of a puzzle?
Ronnie: That’s interesting. Definitely no, but also kinda yes. They are 100% three acts of one whole things, but visually and vibe-wise they’re all distinct. The colours and tone are different.
George: I found it interesting that you described the EPs as ‘Acts’ rather than ‘Parts’; do you view music in a theatrical way?
Ike: A goal has always been, in the long run, to see live shows not just as band performances but to try to integrate other mediums and explore other worlds in terms of film, theatre and hopefully, down the line, we can push that theatrical element. It could even work as a play or a musical.
Ronnie: The album is the music side of the multimedia project. There’s an art project, there’s a film side of it, there’s a drawing side of it, and this is the music side of it.
George: Can you tell us a bit about the spoken word opening and the collaboration with Kyle Field (Little Wings)?
Ike: I just asked him! It’s crazy what you can do with Instagram these days. It was very early on in the process, during the last lockdown, I’d been writing songs and listening to him a lot. I started with a typical soppy message, saying how much one particular album had meant a lot to me during lockdown.
We were developing this narrative and had written out the story and we thought it would be cool to have someone outside the band to perform this piece. So, I took a chance and asked and he was super up for it! He’s a very lovely guy. He didn’t have to do that. He sent me the song by The Clash with Allen Ginsberg as a reference.
Ronnie: What’s cool is that he’s also on ‘Act 1’ but he’s not credited as a feature there. That’s a little easter egg.
George: And tell us about ‘Gymnopedie’. What inspired you to take such a well-known, beloved piece of music and put your spin on it? That seems like a bold move.
Ike: It felt a bit too much on the nose at first, to be honest, but the more research I did into the song and the history of the song, the painting the title comes from, it opened up these doors into more mythological ideas. The second EP is nice because it plays around with more mythological and biblical ideas. Obviously, it’s a very well-known, gorgeous piece and I think it just holds quite a nice image in its melody; it’s a nice skeleton and feels quite ancient so works nicely in the folky, mythological vibe.
George: Talking of mythology, did you lay out the story first? Did you have a full idea of this world or has it all come gradually?
Ike: Very gradually. There are some older songs which we never intended to be part of the narrative. ‘Grassy Knoll’ was definitely written with the narrative in mind, the kickstart to the whole journey.
Tom (Guitar): The interludes are part of how the world-building comes together. I don’t know where the idea for the interludes came about but they became place-making spots on the album. Using environmental recordings was such a nice thing to work on.
George: You recently performed at End Of The Road, how was that experience for you? It’s my favourite festival in the world.
Tom: I think it’s all of ours as well. Ike and I had been going for years and years and it was a goal of ours.
Ronnie: It was 100% a bucket list thing.
Tom: It was really fun! We had our friends there and my family.
Ronnie: We brought on a choir of our friends which was mad that they allowed that! They were really accommodating. They even let us bring a dancer as our crew so our friend Sophie got to come too. They really let us make our set a lot more than ‘band-play-gig’. We really want it to be more than that.
Tom: Which is obviously a testament to their success as a festival, they’re really open-minded about who they book.
Ronnie: They’re up for weird shit, which is great.
George: Finally, I wanted to ask about the exclamation mark. I love the exclamation mark, it always makes me so happy when I see it. Is there a reason behind it?
Ike: It’s quite boring. We started the band before lockdown as Tapir and after lockdown we came back together and it got to the point where we thought we might as well continue with the name. The group chat was called “Tapir?” and when we were sure, we changed it to “Tapir!”
George: That’s not a boring answer! That’s a great answer.
Listen to ‘Act 2 (Their God)’ here: