INTERVIEW: Meet Russian Funk Band Neon Tapehead

Today we speak to Russian Funk band called Neon Tapehead who are releasing an up and coming EP on 4th of December. The band have been influenced by many genres including 80’s Electronic Funk, RnB and Soul to name a few. They have just released their single today so what a perfect time to catch up with the group to find out all about it.

Hello Neon Tapehead tell us about yourself? 

Hey there! We are the ElectroFunk/Soul/R’n’B band from Moscow, Russia! And we assume that we are the first Russian Funk band you’ve ever heard!

How did the band form?

Dmitry Ursul : The band was formed by myself (guitars/songwriting/sound production) after I bought my first retro synth Roland JX-8P ’85 and decided to form a full band with drummer Aleksandr Kovalchuk in 2016.

How long have you been making music?

Dmitry Ursul: I have been producing music for 10 years already. The first songs for Neon Tapehead were written before the band was formed. And then, when the band was finally formed with Maya Shonia and Dmitry Votintsev all of the songs were reworked and reproduced with fresh ears and concept as Electro Funk with an 80’s flavor and modern production.

How did you all get into music?

Dmitry Ursul: I have been playing instruments from early childhood since attending music school aged 7. Being a big fan of 80’s fashion and music (and Miami Vice TV series) I dived into Funk/Soul and Synth music when he was 18. Along the way I had played in rock bands (since I was already a pro blues/rock/jazz guitar player), however, always wanted to write some “funkier” stuff which brought me to form Neon Tapehead.

Aleksandr Kovalchuk has played drums since he was 18 and his goal was to be a session drummer for some big artists. But when he saw the post on a music form that I was looking for a drummer for his new project, he decided to try out and got the position!

Maya Shonia is the youngest band member and Neon Tapehead is the first band and music project in her life. She studied at one of Moscow’s music universities when I found her on the internet and offered her the position as lead singer. Maya has Georgian roots and has loved singing from early childhood and has a really strong voice.

Dmitry Votintsev is a self-made musician with great music taste. He played bass with different artists and always loved R’n’B, Funk, Soul and House music. He was happy to join the band when I showed him some Neon Tapehead songs and demos.

Who do you find your inspirations? 

We have a lot of inspirations in R’n’B and Soul music of different time periods: from Rick James, Kool and the Gang, The GAP Band, Whitney Houston to Bruno Mars, Chromeo and Lizzo.

Tell us all about your new single Know What I Want?

“Know What I Want” is the song about the girl who knows what she wants even if her acts or wishes are illogical or inconsistent. She goes and gets it every time!

The main word behind this song is that you shouldn’t be shy with your wishes or goals. Just ask yourself about what you want right now and then go and get it! “Brrr POW!”

How long did it take to write the song? 

The lyrics for verses were written by myself in 2017 and we had some rough funky versions in our demo folder. Maya then came in and we decided to make something powerful from that pretty typical tune which it was in the beginning. Maya decided to add the hook “I get it, get it Brrr Pow” which brought a different attitude and feistiness to a song and the lyrics. After that, we went to a studio and started to work on a new beat and groove for it. Now we think that it is one of the strongest songs in our set!

Where does the inspiration for the song come from?

The song was written and produced with influence of 80’s Electro Funk and Early 90’s house with slower tempo. We tried to mix different elements of these styles into the one song.

Tell us about how you have been making music in lockdown?

Actually, lockdown hasn’t changed anything in our music making process since we work on new songs mostly in my home studio. We have finished the songs for our first EP which is coming out on NexGen Music on December 4th (2020). We have also commissioned some remixes, shot and edited the live recording on a golf field, and participated in a new photoshoot during this time. We have also started working on new songs for next release which we plan to release sometime in 2021. Of course, we miss the gig life so much right now but we still have a lot of things to do and lockdown is not the time for idleness!

What is the most challenging thing when it comes to producing a record?

The most challenging thing is to find the right groove and synth sounds. We produce our music with analog vintage synths like Roland JX-8P, Korg Poly 800, Moog Model D and drum machines so it takes a lot of time to create the right sound. But it is a really fascinating process and we love it!

You have an Ep coming soon as well, what can you tell our readers about that?

Yes! We have our new EP “Never Say Never” to come on December 4th and we are really proud of that. It contents five songs which show us from all our musical sides. There you’ll find different vibes and moods from Synth Wave in the main album song to early 80’s electro funk with TalkBox and Vocoder. This EP is the best way to get to know Neon Tapehead!

How do you warm up for a show?

Nothing special. Alex drums the training pad, Dmitry Ursul and Dmitry Votintsev do some finger warm ups and Maya Shonia sings or hums her favorite songs. All these we do with jokes and fooling around

Also let’s talk tour – will there be live shows coming next year?

It is so hard to predict the tour and concert live for the next year right now. We really hope that lockdown will be finally over, borders will be open and we will be available to play our songs live in front of the audience and without masks on our faces. But who knows? Anyway, we have some local shows in Moscow for little audiences in small venues right now but we still miss the big stage. 

What is one of your favourite songs to perform live? 

Our first single “Know What I Want” is definitely that kind of song! But not the only one

What is the toughest songs to perform live and why?

Hmm. We have the song called “Count Out!” which we plan to release next year as a part of the next EP. In this song Maya shows all her attitude and drive, so be prepared for this song, you will be amazed!

How have you been keeping creative during lockdown? 

Business as usual! I am always keeping myself inspired sitting in front of my synths, which give me the opportunity to create new melodies and grooves – which then inspires the rest of the band to write new stuff.

Has it led to lots more songs?

Definitely! We wrote some new melodies, lyrics and also some additional stuff such as Coronavirus Video (it will be released soon as well, stay tuned!)

Our site also is about improv – in a music sense, what have been some of your favorite improvised melodies that you have created and been able to use in songs and why?

All our songs were written in an improvisational process. Either it was the rehearsal studio jam, Dmitry’s synth tweaking or Maya’s home vocal warmup session – all of it brought us to our songs. By the way, I graduated from Moscow College of Improvising Music where I learned how to play jazz on the guitar, so improvisation is the most comfortable form of music creating process for him. And the shower humming sessions as well, of course…

What are your plans for 2020 / 2021?

We plan to continue our work on the next big release, release some singles and new music videos and we hope that it will be possible to play the big show anywhere on Planet Earth when the lockdown times are over!

And finally why should people check out your music?

It is easy! Can you imagine Russian guys who play Funk and R’n’B with their unique attitude and it sounds good? No? Then you need to listen to our single “Know What I Want” and our EP “Never Say Never” and you will be amazed… or at least you can say to your music geek friend that now you’ve heard everything!

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