.TAPES Exports Its Santa Cruz Synthwave to San Jose

No longer aiming to go viral, Tach Perez focuses on the music

By Mat Weir

The Buddha once said, “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

OK, there are centuries’ worth of ways to interpret that. My favorite is that we should dedicate ourselves to our passions. Discover what it is that makes us tick, that makes every single one of us so unique, and give it everything we got.

For artists like Tach Perez—one half of the Santa Cruz synthwave duo TAPES, who made their debut at the Caravan Lounge on March 29—it’s a lesson he had to learn on his own.

“At first, I was definitely chasing that dream,” Perez explains.

“Trying to go viral, or trying to be an influencer of some sort. But ever since I put that aside and focused on the music, staying humble and grateful, things are starting to set in place.”

Born and raised in Santa Cruz to a musical family, Perez first created TAPES in 2019 as a solo act when he released the debut EP, Side A. At that time he was living in Los Angeles working with high-profile artists like Wiz Khalifa and Miguel and receiving offers from Atlantic Records and Sony. (Find Side A on Bandcamp at tapesband.bandcamp.com.)

However, by 2022 he had grown disillusioned with the music industry and after—in Perez’s words—“a series of unfortunate events,” he moved back to Santa Cruz to reassess his values. That’s when he got a little help from his friends.

“It was actually Carlos Diaz—who plays guitar with me—that got me to play live,” he remembers.

“He came to me and said, ‘If I get you a show would you be willing to perform?’ So I told him if he got me a show I’d pull him on stage and we’d perform together.”

It was at their first show, thrown by Watsonville DJ/Promoter, XXIIIHRS, that TAPES met their soon-to-be sister in music, Gabi Bravo. In the last two years they have performed countless shows with Bravo and another act, the Forbin.

Along with XXIIIHRS, Bravo and others like Hani Gata, the Mothership Connection, the Microclouds, Perch and more, TAPES is a part of a burgeoning new indie scene growing in the Central Coast. It’s a fiercely independent movement, with creators making the music and building the shows they want outside of genre-defining boundaries.

Although described as “synthwave” earlier, TAPES’ music is much more, blending that genre with emotional ballads, post-punk and psychedelic dream pop. When writing, Perez draws upon a wide variety of influences from MGMT and Tame Impala to EDM producer Steve Aoki, STRFKR and 1980s German pop duo Modern Talking.

“I wake up sometimes blasting Michael Bolton,” he laughs. “I also listen to a lot of country music and old, romantic Mexican music that my dad used to play a lot when I was younger.”

This tasting menu of music can be heard all throughout TAPES’ recorded catalog. There are tracks like “Enough,” a mellow, semi-somber R&B track with Post Malone vibes. Then there’s the dark-yet-poppy “Regret,” a song that utilizes ’80s drum sequencing and an ambient beat that could easily be on the classic electronic Drive movie soundtrack. Or take “I Need You So Much Closer,” which starts out with a heavy trap sound and then opens to an airy ’80s melody.

One of TAPES’ newest singles, “Hey Strangers”—which came out last year—is an optimistic, autobiographical track about seeing that old flame “dancing in the front row” and wanting nothing more than “let’s get drunk tonight and let’s go back in time.” A message of lost love and the excitement of its possible rekindling, floating on a driving beat of hope.

“That one came to me quickly,” Perez remembers. “I was playing a show and wasn’t expecting an ex-girlfriend to show up. I had the beat already done and thought, ‘Oh, she’s dancing in the front row,’ then it all came together kind of quick.”

For now, Perez says he’s currently sitting on a catalog of new music he’s been tinkering with, tweaking the details until it’s ready for the world. Fans can expect them to be released as a series of singles with a possible EP in the future but no promises.

“I want to take this as far as I can,” he explains.

“Right now I’m building my audience. I’m not focused on fame or money, just having genuine moments and connecting with people. I think one of the best things is people look at me and think, ‘I bet he’s a rapper.’ Then I’ll play the show and after people will come up to me saying, ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’ They’re completely shook.”

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