Thursday, August 8, 2024

Tapir!

Teatro Arena Conchiglia

Tapir! – a South London sextet comprised of Ike Gray (vocals/guitar), Will McCrossan (keyboards/rhythm machine), Tom Rogers-Coltman (guitar/saxophone), Ronnie Longfellow (bass), Emily Hubbard (trumpet/synth), and Wilf Cartwright (drums/cello) – are a “fusion” of musical, theatrical, mythological, artistic, and narrative art meant for sharing.

In their journey, they have been fortunate to collaborate with a plethora of talented individuals, including Kyle Field (Little Wings), Honeyglaze, Hywel Pryer, Lilo, and Joseph Futak, contributing to the realization of their multidisciplinary project: the debut album “The Pilgrim, Their God and The King Of My Decrepit Mountain.”

Employing paintings, stage designs, soundscapes, costumes, and short films in their live performances, Tapir! invites the audience into their exciting and mysterious world. With a series of memorable live shows in London and the support of Loud & Quiet and So Young Magazine, the band’s first year was capped off by a placement in the top 5 of the 2022 Green Man Rising Competition, earning them a spot on the Rising Stage of the festival.

Gray and McCrossan formed Tapir! in 2019, and after playing a single concert at the iconic George Tavern in East London, the UK quickly entered lockdown, prompting them to continue the project online. They developed songs that combined acoustic guitar and a Randy Newman-esque narrative with the reliable propulsion of their Elektron drum machine.

What would become the world and plot of “The Pilgrim, Their God and the King of My Decrepit Mountain” was gradually assembled over the following year with the help of the artistic collective My Life is Big. The band then slowly recruited the rest of the band/friends to collectively create the world of The Pilgrim, its costumes, and sets.

“The Pilgrim, Their God and the King of My Decrepit Mountain” follows a three-act structure – released by Heavenly Recordings as three four-track EPs – narrating the story of a solitary traveler, an ambiguous red creature known as The Pilgrim, on a journey through a fantastical landscape of eerie forests, tempestuous seas, and mountains inhabited by beasts, birds, and eidolons. A whimsical and fantastical fable, driven by Gray’s clear and passionate vocals and the band’s instinctive and idiosyncratic melodies: the project seems like the musical equivalent of paintings by Henry Darger, Henri Rousseau, or Philip Guston.

The collaborative and collective ethos of Tapir! largely stems from the inclusive, non-judgmental spirit of the George Tavern. When Honeyglaze’s drummer, Yuri Shibuichi, saw “Tapir!” live at the venue, he encouraged them to record their songs. The band emphasizes that it was his enthusiasm (soon joined by growing attention after participating in the Green Man Rising in 2022) that prompted them to take the project more seriously. Shibuichi’s playful and carefree production style (always encouraging the band not to overthink) aligns perfectly with the humble, handmade, DIY nature of Tapir!