It’s intimidating to talk about jambands, let alone Phish or the Dead. It’s really tough if you don’t have a musical background. So much of the jamband community is based on musical theory that a musically illiterate fan like myself can’t really join the conversation. Usually, this doesn't bother me. In these conversations, I'll smile and nod maybe throw in an occasional cool but Taper’s Choice makes me wish I had the musical words to have these conversations.
If you listen to the band's 3/11/22 show (or stylized like Taper's Choice 3'11'22) they open with Darkness on the Edge of Midtown and 23 seconds into the song the drums kick in. By the 24th second, I knew I was going to enjoy this band. By the time the show wrapped up with Above the Timberline I was a fan. In between, there are so many good moments in that show that I don't have the words to accurately describe them.
I’m constantly listening to the band and I just want more. I want to live inside the peaceful jam in The Impossible Sound>Lilac Palace forever. A great mix of Phish and the Dead, Taper’s Choice has quickly become my favorite new band. There is something joyous about how the band floats in and out of jams and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I hope these guys stay around and play for years to come because I hear a lot of potential in this group.
Taper’s Choice is Alex Bleeker on bass and vocals, Dave Harrington on guitar, drummer Chris Tomson who sometimes sings too, and Zach Tenorio-Miller rounding out the group on keys. As of this writing, they have played 7 shows. So now is a great time to jump on the Taper’s Choice Bandwagon. The have 3 Choice Tapes (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3) available on their Bandcamp page, and four shows up on archive.org. They have their own Choice Fest happening on June 18th. But what’s in store for the band after that?
Well, we decided to reach out to get to know the band a little better and see what the future looks like.
W+: How did Taper’s Choice come about?
Chirs Tomson: On April 27, 2021, at 7:36 pm PDT Dave sent Alex and I an email with an unbeatable conceptual prompt. I’m paraphrasing here but it essentially said “should we start a jamband?”...and how can one even think of declining such a request? We started with some exploratory zooms, then progressed to sending musical ideas back and forth and the giddiness has only snowballed from there. We’d played a little bit together as a trio when we found Zach and asked him to come on board and the classic Taper’s lineup was settled. It’s really fun to be in this band!
W+: How did you settle on the name Taper’s Choice?
Alex Bleeker: To be honest, initially we wanted to call the band Relics but some guy in South Carolina or somewhere or other held the copyright to that name so we had a big 3 headed brainstorm about names before we played our first show. CT brought “Tapers” to the table - and while we liked the spirit of it, it sounded a bit too much like a 2010 indie band to us. I said “Taper’s Choice?” and we were off to the races.
W+: Right now there are 2 shows on Relisten and The Choice Tapes on Bandcamp, where else can people hear some Taper’s Choice music if they want to relive a show?
Dave Harrington: Friend of the band, California taper extraordinaire Wharfratjoe has been putting shows up on archive so I’d say check there too. We’re also working on another volume of Choice Tapes right now and I think the Big Sur tape will be in the pipeline shortly!
W+: At the beginning of the 3/11/22 Above the Timberline someone says “Welcome to Taper’s Choice 2.0”, what was 1.0?
AB: Ha! 1.0 was the entire period the band existed before I’d contracted Covid and had to miss a gig. I guess the infamous 2’25 gig that I couldn’t be at physically represents the gap.
W+: Are there any plans to release studio music?
CT: We have done so already! We’ve compiled/constructed two volumes of our Choice Tapes series that mixes live and studio jams together into a heady and well-seasoned bouillabaisse. They’re not albums per se, just choice tapes! A few future volumes in the series are already underway and I think we’re all feeling a proper album forming underneath our feet even as we’re moving steadily forward. Gotta let the tectonic action take its course though, excited to see where it ends up…
W+: The posters for your shows have been really dope, who designs them?
AB: We’re blessed to have some talented friends! Thus far, Darryl Norsen has done most of our design work, but we’ve also commissioned some other fine folks, like Elijah from Online Ceramics and our favorite heady prankster, fad Albert.
W+: Aside from The Dead and Phish, what are your other influences?
DH: You know, we all have a lot of different influences and musical backgrounds so there’s a lot in the mix. I mean we all love the electric Miles Davis records, Steely Dan, Can, Popul Vuh, all that psych and kraut type stuff for sure. But it spirals from there! Zach our keys player is a huge prog rock guy and has played with Jon Anderson of YES, and he’s nuts about Brazilian music. I come to the jam world from the groove side of things so MMW, Scofield, and downtown NYC stuff like Zorn and Frisell is huge for me. In addition to being monster players, Bleeker and CT are real songwriters and so they bring a lot of thought into the music from a lyrical perspective as well. Oh, and of course, there’s Pink Floyd, always Floyd.
W+: What is the Choice Fest and how did it come to be?
AB: We are a true and earnest self-identifying Jam Band, and so it only stands to reason that we would have our own festival. We’ve personally curated every act on the bill and it promises to be an afternoon and evening of exceptional music, heady jams, and generally good times. Anyone who digs what we’ve been up to will surely enjoy themselves at the inaugural CHOICE FEST! Plus you’ll get the bragging rights of having been at the first one - we’re planning to do many more of these.
W+: What is next for the band after Choice Fest?
CT: Unsure at the moment except for, as always, more jams. We’re doing our best to figure the specifics out but there will definitely be more shows and Choice Tapes forthcoming. If you have any good suggestions/comments/concerns please do hit us up at email@example.com …we’re figuring this out in real-time so all assistance is appreciated!
W+: What can a fan expect at a Taper’s Choice show?
CT: Well, besides the obvious (high energy, heady jams) I think there’s one patented and proprietary technique that really sets a Taper’s Choice show apart. Basically, if a show is dragging or we just need to inject some new energy into the mix, we’ll play a few bars (minimum 2 and maximum 4) that sound like The Doors. We call this microDoors-ing. Now, if we played a whole song that sounded like The Doors, that would start to drag in its own way, which would be overDoors-ing. It’s always better to pace yourself and microDoors than go too hard and overDoors. Keep your earballs peeled for such moments.
W+: What is your favorite era of The Grateful Dead and why?
DH: For me, it’s a tie between ‘74 and ‘77. Dicks Picks 7 (Alexandra Palace, London ‘74) was the first GD music I got turned onto and it still remains one of my favorite shows to listen to—it was the gateway for me so it really defines my understanding of the band. BUT I love ‘77 too because then you’re getting all the Blues For Allah material in there and that record is a true favorite for me, I’m a sucker for a good help—>slip.
AB: I know it’s a classic answer but 72 is still untouchable to me. No offense to Mickey (big fan of the beam over here) but I like the way the band can play and “turn on a dime,” as Phil has said, with only one drummer. The excitement and energy surrounding the sheer well of emerging classic material at this time is palpable in the playing. Keith is on fire but Pig is still in the mix, it’s just unbeatable to me.
CT: Honestly, pretty much everything up to Egypt. And any show where Bobby is wearing shorts.
W+: Does your banana mascot have a name? If not, what would you name it?
DH: His name is Hieronymous Bong. Our friend Todd Goldstein who designed our logo and font and has done poster art for us tweeted that phrase a while back and it was right after Darryl Norsen first started using H.Bong in the art and I was just like, that’s his name!!
W+: How is songwriting handled in the band?
CT: In all of the ways! There’s been solo strummers that got all shined up, loops excised from long jams and zoomed into, laborious prog constructions, pure improv, and almost all the other paths that songs can take into being. No set ways and no set results, it’s all feeling good so far.
W+: What do you think of the current state of the jamband scene?
AB: Pound for pound, I think the jamband scene, and by that I mean its fans, is the greatest in all of popular music. Fan engagement is what I'm all about as both an artist and a fan and there’s just no denying that jam band fans have the most fun, period. Musically - I think there’s new territory to be explored and deep wells of influence that have yet to make their way into the Jam scene - and we’re hoping to bring some unique flavor to the sauce.
W+: What bands have you been listening to lately?
AB: I’ve been on a heavy Brazilian kick lately. Joao Gilberto, Gilberto Gill, Novos Baianos, and Os Mutantes to name a few. Lots of Pharoah Sanders, too.
DH: I’ve been listening to Bill Frisell again a lot lately. I mean, he’s one of my all-time heroes and favorite guitar players of course—but I got to see him play in LA recently and he just blew me away all over again, so I’ve been going back to his records, specifically the double live East/West record from the 2000s some time. Also just watched an incredible doc on Paul Motian so I’ve been listening to him lately too.
CT: I went record shopping today and got (in no particular order) Jean Redpath "Song of the Seals", Bjorn J:son Lindh "Sissel", Harvey Mandel "The Snake", Martha Velez "Hypnotized", Egberto Gismonti "Dança Das Cabeças", The George Lewis Solo Trombone Record and The Lounge Lizards S/T…so that’s what I will be listening to these next few days!
W+: Have you seen any Taper’s Choice bootleg merch yet? What is your view on bootleg merch?
CT: Not yet but I eagerly await the day (could be Choice Fest?!)...although we’re kind of approaching our own humble merch set up with the lot spirit in mind. If any enterprising souls are reading this you have our complete blessing to make any/all Taper’s merch you so desire. I can’t guarantee anyone will buy it at this particular point in time but we would be psyched as hell to see it!
We want to thank Taper's Choice for taking the time to answer our questions and tell us a little about what they have been up to. Be sure to check out their Choice Tapes on Bandcamp and check them out at Choice on Saturday, June 18th.