FOO Fest Preview: Tapestries

FOO Fest Preview: Tapestries

I’ve caught the boys of Tapestries at the end of an East coast tour, the night of their homecoming show. We had planned on meeting for coffee, but at the last minute front man Mike DeCosta had a better idea: “Why don’t we go down to Mama Tina’s for our buddy Jeff’s show? It’s free and full of lovely people.”

When I get to the hole-in-the-wall Jamaican restaurant on Atwells, DeCosta is nowhere to be found. The band’s manager, Mackenzie Holway, approaches me. “Mike left for AS220 to sound check,” she says with an apologetic smile. “He’s always on the move.”

I’m not too surprised to have missed DeCosta. From what I’ve heard, the 24-year-old musician is constantly in transit, humming with an irrepressible energy. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he’s shown his range in a long list of solo projects and bands, including Way Out, Volcano Kids, Birdlady, and Dry Bones. These days, though, he spends most of his time at the helm of Tapestries, crafting psychedelic rock soundscapes with the melodic agility of Built to Spill, the experimental dynamism of Radiohead, and the washed-out ambience of My Bloody Valentine. With two EP’s, two LP’s, and an East coast tour behind him, he’s is back in Providence for just a few days before he heads to Chicago with the band for a Daytrotter session. The kid never slows down.

But I don’t mind the chase. If nothing else, the scene at Tina’s is a reminder of where DeCosta came from. The crowd is made up mostly of local musicians, twentysomethings who meander from the makeshift stage to the bar and back again. Everyone is in high spirits, sipping on ginger beers and sharing heaps of crab legs. Somebody’s playing a bicycle wheel. This is jovial chaos, the kind of ad libbing that’s only possible among performers who really know one another, but somehow it works. Nobody can sit still.

I find Jeremy Joubert, Tapestries’ lead guitarist, at the bar. “Is it always this much fun?” I ask, gesturing to the crowd. He grins and nods, sipping on his Dark and Stormy. “This is why Providence is different from, say, New York City. There are people here who care about making stuff happen,” he says. “There’s actually a community. It’s not just a revolving door.” We watch the performers wrap up a number that has the whole room singing, and Joubert adds, “This is our family.”

Later we head to AS220 to catch up with DeCosta and bassist Chris Pereira. We order a round of Narragansetts from a bartender who happens to be Pereira’s brother. “Ah, the taste of home,” DeCosta says, raising his can in the air. “It’s good to be back.”

It’s not hard to see why. Nearly everyone at Tina’s has followed us to the venue; the house is packed. And though the boys have been gone for just a few weeks, they’re met with embraces and pats on the back from almost every passerby. We’re joined at intervals by childhood friends, high school classmates, and fellow musicians. It’s clear that the band’s love for Providence is far from unrequited, perhaps because their roots run deep in Rhode Island soil.

Pereira and DeCosta have been playing music together for over a decade, since their middle school days in suburban Lincoln. “We had a punk rock band called Odd Man Out. We were twelve years old,” DeCosta recalls. “When we went to high school we disbanded. We were becoming all hormonal, a little more self-aware.” Pereira laughs and chimes in. “Not too self-aware, though.”

After Odd Man Out, DeCosta started a solo project called My Every Minute, recording tracks in his parents’ basement. When he joined up with Joubert to play a gig at a friend’s sister’s birthday party, the two hit it off. They started playing regularly with Milo, a band DeCosta describes as “a more experimental Tapestries.”

There’s a romanticism to his telling of those early days, the golden glow of late-teen revelry and unmapped territories. “It happened by chance. Just hanging out in a basement in suburban Lincoln,” he says, shaking his head as if he still can’t quite believe it. “Everybody else in school kind of seemed to be doing whatever, playing sports and getting jobs and applying to colleges, and we were just getting drunk and playing rock and roll in a house.”

It must have been a heady combination: last remnants of childhood innocence dissolving; adulthood still lingering just out of reach; nights unspooling, seemingly endless. DeCosta closes his eyes and leans in. “Take note,” he says. “I had the best feeling I’ve ever had playing music in Milo. At one moment. It was a serious moment.” He trails off, lost in recollection.

So Milo took what seemed like a logical step, dodging college and moving to New York. It’s one part of his journey DeCosta is reluctant to talk about. “We were there for a year and a couple of months,” he says. “It was just too much. I never left the house. Too many temptations, and I happen to indulge.” A rare moment of quiet ensues, and Pereira steps in. “New York ran him down.” DeCosta nods. “Coming out of high school and going to New York City, you know, shit can go haywire real quick.”

Back in Providence, DeCosta continued writing solo material as Tapestries, eventually joining up with Joubert, Pereira, and drummer Kyle Stumpe for recording and performing. Since the relocation four years ago, they’ve made leaps and bounds. Here, the band’s got a solid fan base, a long-time friend as their manager, and DeCosta’s brother as recording engineer. Things are looking up, and DeCosta knows it (for proof see “Gardenvision”: “Moved home from NYC / and I’m better off”). “Coming here, you’re just a part of this powerful thing,” he tells me. “This is home. I was born here.”

Of Providence, Joubert adds, “There are more of the same people coming to your shows every time and there’s not an overwhelming number of bands. There’s a real sense of community. We strive to bring something different to every performance, whereas in a bigger city you could just do the same stuff over and over for different people.”This must be why, even with a crowd that’s at least half regulars, the performance space at AS220 is abuzz with excitement when the boys take the stage.

Tapestries opens with “Great Mapping Out” from debut album 1120. DeCosta’s guitar part unfurls in a hypnotic spiral; Joubert’s reverbed-out touches slink in underneath. The song swells to fullness a minute in, all underwater guitar fuzz and roomy drums.

DeCosta’s versatility as a vocalist is on display right away. On the verse his voice glides lazily like Doug Martsch’s, on the chorus it crackles with energy like Hamilton Leithauser’s on an early Walkmen track. And those melodic lines–they’re wailing and ghostly, ethereal rays of sunlight under water.

A couple of tracks in, and I still can’t stop smiling. These boys have got chemistry. Their energy is infectious. You can practically see the sparks flying when they trade solos.

It gets even better mid-set when they pick up the pace. With Stumpe’s drums and Pereira’s bass locked in and kicking along at high power, standing still becomes impossible. On “Repeat,” “The Fear,” “Dreamy” and countless others, the crowd is a mass of blissful movement. These songs sound twice as intense live as they do on the record.

Even on the relaxed, undone numbers like “Road Tripping” and “Waking Up in Brooklyn,” the band sounds extraordinarily tight. These are washes of sound, densely woven and glazed to a languid delirium. The guitar melts, the bass thuds, and the crowd ripples and surges in syrupy slow motion. Everyone’s entranced.

After the show, I stand with a group Tapestries’ old friends, gushing about the set’s energy and still on a musical high. It’s clear they’re pleased to see an outsider’s excitement. “It’s great to meet a person who’s not from around here and still appreciates it as much as we do,” someone says. Holway agrees. “I love these guys like my very own brothers. It means a lot when somebody recognizes their talent.”

Maybe it’s all the unchecked affection floating around, or maybe the band is just that good, but at the end of the night I sort of feel like I’m part of the Tapestries family, too. When DeCosta wanders over later he says, “See what I mean? It’s like, Wendy is my mom, but Providence is my other mom.” I nod. I think I finally understand.