(Copyright © 1998 Piero Scaruffi)

Tadpoles is a psychedelic-rock band founded in 1984 by chief guitarist, singer and songwriter Todd Parker while he was still at college, but the band came truly into itw own only in 1992 when Parker, relocated in New York City, was joined by Nick Kramer (also on guitar and vocals), David Max (bass), Andrew Jackson (guitar) and Michael Kite (drums). After the {Superwhip} (1992) demo, the line-up debuted officially with {He Fell Into The Sky} (Bakery, 1994). Kite and Jackson left soon after that album and the remaining trio moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. {Far Out} (Bakery, 1996) was recorded with the occasional help of a couple of friends on drums. At the end of the year, a stable drummer, Adam Boyette, filled in that void for good. At the end of last year the EP {Know Your Ghosts} (Bakery, 1997) came out and 1998 will see the simultaneous release of two albums, {Smoke Ghost} (Bakery, 1998) and the live {Destroy Terrastock} (Bakery, 1998). The former is all new material, the latter collects seven songs performed at 1997's "Terrastock" festival (two are out of {Smoke Ghost}, four out of {Far Out} and one out of {He Fell Into The Sky}).

This album shows a new balance, at least in compositional terms, between Todd (Parker) and Nick (Kramer). Is this because of Nick's growth as a songwriter or because of a new dynamics within the group?
Nick: "Basically, when Tadpoles started I hadn't been playin guitar for very long, and during these years I have been able to devleop my own style of songwriting. I was inspired both by Todd and by my idols. I got a lot better and a lot more confindent. I must say that Todd has always made the room for everybody to have a part in composing the songs. For the next album I wouldn't be surprised if all four of us will have songwriting credits."

Todd: "We are writing better stuff, all of us. If the material is there, no matter who has written it, if it's a good song, it's a good song. David is writing a lot more, collaborating a lot with both Nick and me. Adam is new in the band, he doesn't have a writing credit yet, but only because he's new."

David: "Tadpoles started as Todd's vehicle for his own music, but he has taken them to a point where he wants to make it more than a solo project. So they are slowly turning into a collaborative effort. He pretty much went out looking for the people who could help him build that".

Todd: "Also, my favorite groups always had more than one songwriter and at least two vocalists. It's just that at the beginning no one else was around to help me out. Hopefully, by writing good material, I have encouraged them to present their own stuff. Hopefully, I write sutff that is good enough so that they get motivated to write good songs too. It's not competitive, it's inspiring."

Todd: "As a result we are not changing our style, but rather evolving over time. We wouldn't want to make same record all the time, anyway. We can trace our development and growth from record to record. It's not that the old material is not mature or good anymore. It's just that we are not making our living from this, so there better be other reasons for us playing music, and the most natural reason is to make good music and always different."

Nick: "Each album has turned progeressively more complex. A lot of this has to do with us getting better. Some of this has to do with having so many different voices. Anytime a band has more than a songwriter it adds to each other's songs."

I notice that the kind of songs you two write are quite different. Nick's tend to be more aggressive, Todd's tend to be more mellow...
David: "You should have heard Todd's songs 10 years ago..."

Nick: "I think that Todd has been writing songs for far longer than me and he may now be in a stage of his life where he is more interested in subleties that I don't yet grasp. I am just spreading my wings, I am merely at the beginning of the songwriting road, while Todd is a little farther along.

Todd: "Another reason why my contributions ended up being the mellow ones is that we try to balance ourselves. Nick's songs ended up being more aggressive, so there was no need for me to write more of the aggressive stuff. I unconsciously decided to pursue more melodic mellow material, because we had plenty of the aggresive one already. In the past I have done more fast, violent stuff. This time I became more interested in experimenting with more sophisticated styles."

Nick: "Overall it's true, but hopefully we achieve a balance what we write between more aggressive and mellower sounds. And I think that that balance is in both of us."

The arrangements, as usual, are an integral part of the personality of the songs. How much time do you spend arranging a song as opposed to writing the melody and lyrics? Who does most of the arrangements?
Nick: "Our parts for the most part are pretty simple. The the chord progression for the riff comes pretty quickly. Then we jam out a little bit and the other parts also come pretty quickly. Arranging becomes the key to writing a good song. We are inspired by Love, whose music is so arrangement-driven. When you have simple parts, very often it's the arrangement that brings them to another level."

Todd: "Yes, figuring out the arrangements take much longer than figuring out the melody. Sometimes it takes a year."

Nick: "Also, we employ different arrangements when we play live than when we record. You can jam things live a lot more. When we record, we want to boil down the song to its essence and make it as strong as possible without shortchanging it. We really try to keep it down to what is necessary."

David: "Some of the songs on this album took a long time to arrange, over a year. We toyed with them, put them aside, took them back..."

One of your trademarks are the cacophonous instrumental codas at the end of each song. Rather than being just a kind of free-form group improvisation, they seem to have a carefully-orchestrated logic.
David: "Some are carefully orchestrated, some are impressionistic in our own personal way. There's a combination of both happening all the time".

Nick: "Early on, honestly, we always had trouble ending our songs. This actually led us to concentrate on the arrangement process. Truth is that for the most part they are very thought out."

Todd: "The way our songs are structured is unusual. A lot of the time we have no choruses, nothing that you can sing along. We must find something that imprints the song in the memory of the listener, that repeats over and over again, and unconsciously or not we end up focusing on the coda."

Nick: "And also ending songs the way we do it adds to the psychological complexity of the song. I love songs that have an ending coda where the ending just kind of inverts the sensibility of the rest of the song. It gives all parts more strength and depth."

What else is different between the previous albums and {Smoke Ghost} in your opinion?
Nick: "Adam, our new drummer. The recording of this album is Adam's coming of age in the band. Adam is the reason number one for all our development as musicians and for the more balanced songwriting. There is a much stronger group feeling."

Todd: "It's the very first time that Tadpoles has functioned as a full group. For the first album we were not really operating at the same mental level. It was chaotic. The second album we weren't functioning as a group, we didn't have a drummer in the band. As good as they were, our friends were not active members who could add something personal to the project."

Nick: "When we did Far Out, it was kind of like recording on someone else's time frame. We would not record a song at the ideal moment, under the ideal circumstances, but simply at the time when the drummers were available. As soon as the songs we thought were ready, we would record them."

How do you relate to the bands of the Sixties and how do you relate to modern psychedelic bands such as Flaming Lips and Monster Magnet?
David: "We're all really influenced a lot by the music that came out during the Sixties, like everybody else is. The Flaming Lips are really amazing, but I don't see them as a recollection of the Sixties, they are more of a postmodern Eighties band."

Nick: "We're fans of music from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, whatever... I thik we have never been afraid of being labeled retro. We don't think that we sound like a retro band, but we're not afraid of being labeled so. I'm not afraid of using a fuzz pedal because it was used back them. Modern psychedelia has a fear of rocking out or just lacks a sense of history. We have a deep sense of love of rock music. We love My Bloody Valentine, Beatles, Spacemen 3, Love, Bob Dylan, Kiss, bands from every era. I do think with the new album we're better equipped to show off the influences as opposed to the first two albums."

Todd: "A number of modern groups are on the same wavelength with us. We share similar influences with Flaming Lips and Dandy Warhols. But I hate it when people say we are retro. I saw a documentary on the Jefferson Airplane and that scene and it reminded me of how naive it was. We don't relate to that. I don't even like the word psychedelic. The term should be used in a modern context, not in a retro context."

Nick: "Back in the Sixties, they didn't even consider the Velvet Underground as psychedelic..."

Unlike, for example, Flaming Lips, Tadpoles have laways focused on the song format and never attempted the long, free-form format of the suite. Is it because you like the concise song format or because you dislike the suite format?
Todd: "Those long jams like the Grateful Dead used to do... we are capable of doing them, but I personally would be a little bit embarassed to put them on a record. Frankly, I think that is kind of boring. We did a half an hour version of one of our newer songs, [Coarse And Buggy], but that was simply because the equipment broke down."

Nick: "Our specialty is definitely the arrangements. I like good songwriting more than everything else, and I try to get rid of the fluf."

Todd: "We are consciously cutting out from our sound what is not necessary".

Todd, what was it like in the beginnings? What are your memories of {He Fell Into The Sky}?
Todd: "It was a pretty exciting time. We were doing a lot of gigs, we had three guitars, two of which had hardly ever played... I would teach them what to play, and for me it was almost like having extra arms. We were very loud, and we did a lot of drugs. We were called the loudest band in New York. It was pretty chaotic, we were all living in the Village, none of us working full-time, a couple of us still in college. But it was out of control, it wasn't meant to last."

What about {Far Out}?
Todd: "That period is important because it's when we started forming the core of what Tadpoles is now, me and David and Nick. We didn't even care about finding another drummer, or a label, we were more concerned about making another good record together. We became good friends. It was a much more laid back period, we didn't play as many gigs . We were very focused on the music."

Nick: "That was the time when either Tadpoles would have ended or it would have become what has become. The three of us came back together again and realized that playing music and being in this band was a calling for us. You know when the things are right and this was the right thing to go. We were redescovering why we were in a band in the first place. We didn't need anyone else to be a band."

Psychedelic rock has been a reality for over thirty years now. Why is it still around and so popular? Why kids keep moving back to it, generation after generation? What makes psychedelic music so ageless?
David: "When it's done right, it's exciting, it's completely different than the mundane life that kids live in the suburbia. Any kind of exciting music is thought-provoking, and kids need that."

Nick: "What is truly psychedelic is capable of expanding the listener's mind like nothing else."

Todd: "Kids get older and move to college. At that point most teens are trying to break away from whatever they were brought up with, they need a soundtrack for that rebellious period of their life."

What would rock music be like without psychedelic rock?
Todd: "It would be schizophrenic, only the extremes would exist: happy joyous music like the Spice Girls and violent hardcore music. Psychedelic rock sort of crosses over, bridges the aggressive mood with the mellow mood."

Tadpoles: {He Fell Into The Sky} (Bakery, 1994)
Tadpoles: {Far Out} (Bakery, 1996)
Tadpoles: {Destroy Terrastock} (Bakery, 1998)
Tadpoles: {Smoke Ghost} (Bakery, 1998)

Web site: Tadpoles