Tales in the Shade is the five-piece band from Cardiff, the capital of Wales, who confess bits and pieces of a larger, more potent narrative, with the trademark of their own meticulous sound design on their latest single, "Tama's Warning (That Boy)."
Enticing listeners to connect the dots between the lines with their own imagination, their ethos centers around writing songs not so bereaved from the "show and don't tell" concept of establishing a powerful emotion through storytelling.
What's most jaw-dropping are the sonic orchestrations that follow-suit; a sonic fad worth getting immersed in. "Tama's Warning (That Boy)" was recorded on the verge of the pandemic's initial lockdown, and in a way, it's jam-packed with that same foreboding pressure of the heterogeneous scenario.
It's an alternative-rock tune zapped with a psychedelia-inductive haze that shoots up into an uproaring chorus like a catapult.
The song is based on a sinuous narrative revolving around an alliance that started out as a brotherhood between two compatriots before it quickly unravels into paranoid examinations, decrying the true intentions behind their bond: "he's bad news, and he's like a brother to me!"
Developing a mirroring tension to that same counterfeit relationship, the band presages and finally erupts into a tremendous impacting climax, with riffing acoustic guitars, clandestine vocal mantras, and industrious rhythm sections that widen and enhance the imaginative tale with a potent sense of wonder.
Tales in the Shade manage to create a sonic space within "Tama's Warning (That Boy)" that renders-up like a uniquely foreign and mystifying world, meticulously put-together through hounding instrumental orchestrations, and a vivid anecdotal map made whole via their listeners' personal imaginations.
Listen to "Tama's Warning (That Boy)" here.
Hello Tales in the Shade and welcome to BuzzMusic. What were some of the themes and experiences you found yourself channeling into for the performances you've captured on "Tama's Warning (That Boy)?"
We’ve never really been too great at writing about personal day to day experiences, taking a more abstract approach wherein we first piece together an entire backstory and cast of characters, usually in a “slightly different version of Earth” kind of setting, and then write a song that captures a fraction of that bigger story. This feels more interesting than just explaining the story in full, in too obvious a way. To that end “show don’t tell” can be really effective in creating intrigue and ambiguity. This song is about a mountainous tropical island, upon which two childhood friends called Kai and Tama find their lifelong brotherhood going sour when a mysterious stranger appears and leads Kai astray for sinister purposes, utilizing his charms to procure local girls who they then use as test subjects for their experiments in black magic. The song is from the point of view of the friend he left behind, warning a friend of theirs to stay away from Kai and the stranger. When recording the song, you can draw tremendous power and conviction into your performance by closing your eyes and going into the world and dramas that the song is painting.
Do you think Cardiff has had a large impact on the ethos behind your music, and the aesthetic you've established over "Tama's Warning (That Boy)?"
On a larger scale, yes, in that over the last decade and a half I’ve seen a huge wealth of very talented and individual bands and artists play around Cardiff, and played in all kinds of outfits, from easy listening reggae-tinged pop to extremely heavy and magnificently ugly-sounding metal and everything in between, gleaning influence from each one. Tales in the Shade is a bit of an amalgamation of that, and we feel proud that people seem to find it difficult to pigeon-hole us. There are so many criminally talented and enthusiastic wonderful people around Cardiff, and it was a joy to be part of such a passionate (if sadly struggling) scene pre lockdown. For instance, we’re currently making the video for Tama’s Warning and in lieu of a fully animated video (which would be amazing if we had the money), we’ve been lucky enough to have 8 artists paint and draw depictions of each line of the song which will be displayed throughout the video. It’s amazing to have so many beautiful and talented people around to lend us a hand.
What is a sentiment you try to convey through your music most often when creating songs like "Tama's Warning (That Boy)?"
At its heart Tales in the Shade is about making pop music, in the sense that we like writing (usually) upbeat, catchy numbers with verses and choruses. We want to stick in people’s heads. Imaginative and cryptic lyrics that allude to other worlds and surreal situations but in a kind of nonchalant and ordinary way are an important factor. For me personally, there are certain chord sequences that feel almost holy to me, so it’s a buzz to structure huge songs around them and hear music that makes so much sense to you.
What were some of your most memorable moments (pleasant or otherwise) concerning the recording of "Tama's Warning (That Boy)." Were there any enlightening learning experiences worth mentioning?
We’d booked 3 days in the studio without producer Mike, going in at the tail end of March with the intention of recording 3 songs. The first day was largely taken up by doing the drums and eating Pringles. On the second day, we soldiered on, becoming aware that the Prime minister would be making a big announcement at 6 pm. At 6 pm we took a break and huddled around a phone, learning that the country would be engaging fully in lockdown at midnight. It was a very surreal and memorable way to experience that initial fear and uncertainty, working on through the night together to get the songs finished, not knowing when we would next see each other when the night was through. We lost the 3rd day but thankfully completed our first single Elephant and Tama’s Warning thankfully. Other than that, it was just a wonderful experience to evolve the song from the limitations and nervousness of a live setting into a more fully realized and cinematic piece of work in the studio, adding throat singing and tonnes of additional synths and nuances.
What has been keeping you inspired in 2020?
It’s been lovely to see musicians find ways to keep performing and creating, particularly with the live streams regularly taking place in the first few months of lockdown. It was a cozy and very communal feeling to tune in to one of your friends at a certain time and chat with your co listeners while enjoying the performance. We had a good deal of raise and kind comments after our first release and it seemed to really resonate with some of those listening thankfully. This whole ordeal has shown that people are very passionate about the arts and its preservation with organizations like We Make the Arts bringing people together to campaign for their importance. It’s also just made us appreciate each other and how sacred having a good bunch of friends and family around you really is.