Interview: Neon Tapehead on modern technology, 80s synthesisers, and the stages of love
How do you approach songwriting together and what is the overall concept for your new EP Never Say Never?
Usually everything starts with some beat or synth progression, after that we search for a nice vocal melody with Maya. Then we go into the studio to begin working on the overall song’s structure and dynamics. Finally, we write the lyrics and start the recording process.
The overall concept of our EP is a journey into soul and funk music from a 2020 point of view. We took everything we love from the 80's, 90’s and even 00’s and added some of our own style and flavour. All five songs are mostly about love, and the different stages of falling in love, to breaking up (and getting back together again). Just never say never!
Your musical style combines nostalgic elements of old-school era synthesizers with modern production, what equipment and techniques do you like to utilise to achieve these combinations?
Yes, we produce and record our songs with respect to the “old-school” style of producing music i.e. using vintage synthesizers, recording live drums and funk guitars, using drum machines etc. Then we combine this process with modern technology, utilizing fully in-the-box post production, using tools such as Logic Pro X and a number of class A plugins. These techniques present new possibilities which were unavailable in old times - now the real magic is happening!
As the band was formed in Russia, how do those music scenes compare with that of the UK and / or the US?
We have an absolutely different music scene here with its pros and cons. Of course, in big cities like Moscow there are a lot of people who listen to western music, but most of the local audience tend to listen to Russian. Regarding different genres, we have our unique types of rap, deep house, and pop, which are pretty monotonous from song-to-song and artist-to-artist - however, they're still very popular. Therefore, we don’t really have so many funk/soul bands here, since it was out of our Soviet and post-Soviet scene. At the same time, the popularity of funk and soul music is pretty high over here, so we also try to write songs in those styles for the local audience using Russian vocals, which is not an easy thing to do!
The influences you’ve listed include Kool & The Gang, Zapp, The Gap Band, and Rick James - what is it about these artists’ styles that you are drawn to?
We love that unique grooves and harmonies, vocal parts, vibe, mood and the actual sounds of their records. Also, these bands have the perfect attitude, even some irony in their songs, that is perfect for our particular taste; which we also feel still fits in with the current times and sounds fresh. For example, take a look at the success of Mark Ronson’s 'Uptown Funk' which is constructed fully from the 80’s vibes, sounds and lyrics as well. It still has it!
How have you been adapting to a world currently without many live shows?
Yeah, we miss the big stage so much…and travelling of course. But we have some additional time to prepare our EP for the release and also to start working on new songs for the next release. So the good thing is that we are using this time as an opportunity to build ourselves as an artist group and continue expressing our creativity.
With the new support of this record label, how has this transformed your experience and direction as a band?
It was a huge energetic push for us! Many thanks to NexGen Music team for believing in us and helping us with this release! Now we have much more inspiration to work harder and deeper with our music because we know that we have a great team of professionals behind us, who will help us with advice and help our music to reach the audience around the world. It is a really big achievement for a Russian band to have such an opportunity.
Finally, what does the word ‘groove’ mean to you?
Groove is such a kind of magic which is made with perfect combination of rhythm, harmony, sound and performance, and which has enough power to change the BPMs of people’s heart beats, uplift their moods and make them dance along!