Tipa Tipo sat down with HighClouds to answer all of our burning questions about their fatalistic and fun new single, “Grifo,” premiering right now.
Originally formed in Lima, Peru by Adele Fournet and Felipe Wurst, Brooklyn-based group Tipa Tipo isn’t afraid to mix sounds, textures, and ideas. Their music melds genres and melodies, breaking new ground as they fuse older pop conventions with Latin-inspired rhythms. On their latest release, “Grifo,” Tipa Tipo even blends languages. In the multilingual track, the group reflects on the connection between life and death, ruminating on the dead that live among us, from the animal carcasses that make the gas that fuels our cars to the bodies that sit in the graveyards in our communities. With its groovy baseline, Fournet‘s smooth vocals, and drummer Jordan Auber collaborated with funky drums, the track perfectly balances fun and fatalism in a flamboyant fashion.
But the buck doesn’t stop there for Tipa Tipo. The group has also released a visually and artistically astute music video, directed by the band’s very own Adele Fournet. The video features dynamic dancing and eye-catching backdrops. It’s a visual spectacular that romanticizes the dirty and wasteful, a dance that finds choreography in both natural and mechanical movement.
The resulting product is a track and accompanying video that are both meaningful and catchy. HighClouds was lucky enough to catch up with Tipa Tipo to discuss the process that went into creating “Grifo,” their headspace as they look toward releasing their first full-length LP, and the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced since transitioning from Lima to the Brooklyn music scene. Read our entire conversation below, and don’t forget to stream “Grifo” as soon as humanly possible.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HighClouds: Talk us through the process of writing and recording “Grifo.”
I wrote this song while in quarantine with the Omicron variant of COVID, and my window overlooked two gas stations at a big intersection in South Brooklyn. I wrote the opening lyrics in a feverish state while looking at the throbbing lights of those desolate stations. I saw the gas stations as homing beacons, calling all survivors after the apocalypse. The song grew into a meditation about life running on death, especially in the form of the liquid fossils that we pump into our vehicles for fuel. The second verse develops this theme further, but this time in the context of The Green-Wood Cemetery. This cemetery is very close to my house, and is one of my favorite places to spend hours admiring the enormous trees and imagining past lives of the people who nourish them.
We recorded “Grifo” at our studio in Brooklyn. Like many of our tracks, it was a process of reconstructing the Logic demo by replacing and augmenting the MIDI arrangements with real instruments. I knew that I wanted the instrumentation to juxtapose the mosquito-like electric guitars of old chicha recordings with the luscious electric pianos and synths of disco in order to conjure this hybrid genre we’ve been going for that we’re calling “tropical disco.” Highlights from the studio include recording with our Tipa Tipo drummer, Jordan Auber— Who really took the drums and percussion to a whole new level on this track– and recording a real vibraphone with our friend Erica Mancini. Getting Felipe‘s lead guitars to sound both danceable and annoying was also a fun challenge. We had a lot of fun creating the ambient disco vocal stabs that occur throughout the track by running many layers of harmonies through our SurfyBear spring reverb pedal. SurfyBear is definitely a big part of this track.
“Grifo” is a multilingual track, featuring both Spanish and English. Does your songwriting approach change when you compose in different languages?
We are a bilingual band, so in a way writing bilingual songs is the most intuitive and natural outcome. Felipe‘s native language is Spanish, my native language is English, and we talk all day in Spanglish. However, I’ve often feared that writing in two languages could alienate a listener – if the song starts in English, and then switches to Spanish, maybe the English-speaking listener could feel lost or confused, or vice versa? But with “Grifo,” the verses came to me so clearly in English, and the choruses in Spanglish, that it felt like the only way to do justice to the song was to write it in both languages.
The video for “Grifo” is super engaging with its unique shooting locations, trippy effects, and imaginative choreography. Where did the idea for the video come from? What was the shooting and editing process like?
The music video for “Grifo” takes place in three different Brooklyn locations that contrast the industrial and organic elements of the city—The gas stations that originally inspired the song, The Green-Wood Cemetery, and a scrap metal processing plant in Gowanus right next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I have a longstanding collaboration with the Peruvian choreographer and multidisciplinary artist Moyra Silva, in which we create site-specific dance pieces and installations that interrogate the relationship between human bodies and urban spaces. We did a site-specific videodance piece in Perú right before the pandemic, called “Limas Utópicas,” and were excited to have the opportunity to work together again after so many years. Moyra and I developed the movements for “Grifo” in response to the locations and the music, while implementing the imagery of oil pumps, machinery, connection, and running. I really like the aesthetic and feeling tone of non-narrative experimental films like Godfrey Reggio‘s Koyaanisqatsi, so we decided to blend the shots of our choreography with a collage of archival footage to create a series of tableaus portraying the relationship between fossil fuel consumption, death, and human connection.
While “Grifo” is an upbeat and dancey track, the video and lyrics certainly have fatalistic undertones. What is it like to create art when it feels like the world is ending?
The end of the world as we know it has always been a subject matter that interests me as a songwriter, but with a twist and a sense of humor. I love writing upbeat dance tracks about the world ending and fleshing out a lyrical portrayal of what that might look like. I think it makes me feel existentially better to sing about hard topics while everyone is dancing—It’s a catharsis in which we can hold opposing feelings at the same time. I love the science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin, in part because much of her world-building occurs in post-disaster scenarios. What do we do once the world as we know it ends? In “Grifo,” we have a dance party at the gas station as everyone stocks up on provisions.
Tipa Tipo was originally formed in Peru. Can you tell us more about your origin story as a band? What was it like adjusting to the scene in Brooklyn?
Felipe and I met in Lima in 2010 and started collaborating on original music soon thereafter. We played in a band called Humanimals and were in a small but blossoming experimental pop scene in Lima, with bands like Alejandro y María Laura, La Lá, and Kanaku y El Tigre. I got an opportunity to do a PhD program in Ethnomusicology at NYU, so we moved to New York and basically started over as musicians and artists in the US in 2013. The music scene in Brooklyn was enormous in comparison, and a lot more competitive and demoralizing. We stopped playing original music as a duo for many years and only played as supporting musicians for other people’s projects and worked on our own solo projects. Notably, I released a solo instrumental album in that time under my own name called Foremothers and Felipe was playing with the Latin experimental band La Mecanica Popular. In that time, we also started learning about production and engineering and slowly started to experiment more with analog recording techniques. We bought a Tascam cassette recorder and recorded our first EP as Tipa Tipo, which reignited our passion for creating original music despite the challenges of the New York scene. While living in Brooklyn we also developed a passion for Peruvian bands from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that were developing their a unique cumbia sound, including Los Orientales de Paramonga, Los Mirlos, and Los Destellos. These bands have gone on to influence our sound as we explore this nexus between tropical and disco.
Your new first full-length LP Cintas will be released early next year. What should listeners look forward to hearing on the record? What has been the biggest challenge in preparing for the release? What part of the process has been most joyous?
This record is an inflection point between the yacht rock en español we were doing with our previous EP, El Chari, and the dance-oriented tropical disco we’ve started pursuing more recently. The new album has songs that fall all along that spectrum. It’s taken two years to write and record Cintas, and we’ve especially enjoyed honing our process and techniques as producers and engineers. We’ve overcome a lot of creative fears when it comes to writing and recording, and are more fluid with our flow working individually and together. Some of the album was recorded to tape, some of it is digital—We just did whatever felt right for each song in each moment.
Now for a few quickfire questions. If you could open for any band or artist (alive, dead, active, broken up— everyone is fair game) on tour, what band or artist would it be?
If you had to create a cocktail to pair with “Grifo,” what would the drink be?
Definitely a Chilcano with gas station ginger ale.
What will 2024 bring for Tipa Tipo?
Our album release, more shows, and more new music on the way!
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