Giving Us All a Gift, Again: A Conversation with Phil Lipscomb of Taproot

It’s been 13 years since Taproot released their now seminal debut album Gift, an album that not only put the Ann Arbor, Michigan product on the map, but also established them as a force in the rock world. They went onto release another five albums, including one on their own (2008’s Our Long Road Home), and have enjoyed many successes along the way while outlasting countless of their scene contemporaries.

Now, the band are looking back to move forward by taking their debut album out on the road, performing Gift front to back from one coast of this great country to the other, performing for scores of fans along the way. Not many bands can say that their fans are clamoring to hear an album nearly a decade and a half old played in full.

Bassist Phil Lipscomb revisits with Get eXposed to chat about the tour, what things were like in the rehearsal room in preparation of the Gift tour, and what album the band plans on performing live next.   

Get eXposed Music: Tell me about how the tour has been going? How has Gift been going over live, and how has the crowd response been so far?
Phil Lipscomb: It’s been really good. We started out with a two month run hitting markets we’ve haven’t been to in a while, and the response from that was so good that we decided to continue it. This tour has been bringing out a lot of old fans that perhaps haven’t been to rock shows in a while or haven’t seen us in a while, which is the point of us doing this.

You mention bringing out older fans. Do you think that maybe you’ve lost fans along the way since Gift?
I think it’s more of the case that life gets in the way. Back when we released Gift our fans were 18 years old and now we are all in our 30’s. Like I said, life gets in the way but I think with something like this, I feel that we’ve made it so people couldn’t resist the opportunity to come out and see us again.

Let’s go back to the genesis of this tour. How did the decision to perform Gift live come about initially?
We were between records and between singles, in kind of a really weird spot where we were deciding what to do, whether it be another single or another tour. I felt like this was the best way to promote the band right now so we just started talking about it and it didn’t take long for all of us to agree to do it. We’ve thrown around the idea of this kind of tour before, so it just made sense for us to do it right now.

Tell me a little bit about how Taproot prepared for this tour?
It was certainly a process. Most of these songs we haven’t played in a decade and some of these we haven’t played live since we first recorded them. In addition to that, we had been playing with a drum machine, so we had to go back through and dig out those tracks. It was not a simple, ‘oh we’ll just go back and play this album,’ it was a lot more complicated than that. Like “Again & Again,” which was our big single, that song has the drum machine in it, so we had to relearn how to play with the drum machine. 

When you got back in the rehearsal space to play these songs again, were there any songs off of Gift that you were looking forward to playing again?
I really like “Mirrors Reflection” that leads into “Dragged Down,” which is something we’ve played in the past but had since had to stop playing it because you can only play so many songs. For me, being able to do that again is fun. We’ve been teasing it live by playing the first note to make people think we’re about to do it, but we end up playing something else. But now we get the chance to do it live again, and I like that.

When you were recording Gift, did you ever imagine that you’d be at this stage with this album? Since it was your debut and you didn’t really know what to expect from it, did you ever think you’d get to this point with it?
No, never even considered it honestly. Back then we were young and having fun, and just wanted to record a record and do the best we could, hoping that we could somehow make a career out of it. I was always hoping that we’d have a long career, but never really would have imagined that we’d go a full tour playing our first album, one that we recorded when we were so young.

What does it mean to you guys as a band that your fans are showing up on this tour to hear you play this one album front to back – what does that mean to you?
It means a ton. I know growing up, there are certain albums, usually the first album of a band or their breakthrough album, is the one that really connects with the fans, which is why we initially chose Gift to play on this tour. It’s an album that a lot of fans are connected to because this is how their discovered us initially. Getting to hear a band perform their big album live, makes you feel like you’re part of it, and you’re part of the band becoming big. You feel that special connection. Like Korn’s first album, or Deftones first album, or for me it was System of a Down that really brings back memories in my life. That’s where I feel like we were at and that’s where I feel like our fans are at. It’s almost going back to high school again for some of them.

Have you talked about doing another album live on tour, like Welcome?
People have been asking us that a lot. We’ll see. We’ve done it before actually. When The Episodes came out, that was the first time we did an album front to back live. We don’t always have the time do a tour like this, so we will see.

What is it about Taproot that you’re able to have the type of success you’re having now on a tour like this? What is it about this band that allows you to do a tour like this when a lot of your contemporaries back when Gift was first released aren’t around anymore?
Part of it is that we still get along and we’re all still friends, because we started out as friends before we were a band. When it comes to any relationship, whether it be a band, or a girlfriend, being friends first makes it a stronger relationship and makes it last longer. As far as being able to do a tour like this now, I’m happy we were able to go out in the early 2000’s and build a fan base and build a career, because to be honest, I would not want to be a band starting out in the music industry right now. 

Are you playing any songs other than Gift?
Yeah, we’re of course playing Gift front to back, but then we’re playing a song called “Day By Day,” which is a b-side to the album and was on the Dracula 2000 soundtrack. And of course we’re playing “Poem,” because I don’t think fans would be very happy if we didn’t play it.

What’s next for the band after this tour wraps up?
We have a few spot dates throughout the summer, a few festivals were playing. We don’t have any big tours coming up yet, but we’re actually in talks for some big tours that hopefully we can be a part of in the fall.