Bits of Storytape and Feldspar: bedroom pop and jazz for the age of Covid-19

Christian Wibe, Contributing Writer

During a pandemic, many are keen to deem music as not essential to the general population—usually a season lush with concerts and music festivals, most have been canceled this summer to slow the spread of Covid-19. 

But for Nadav Skloot ’22 and Julia Ricks ’22, time alone with family is ideal for playing instruments, singing songs and producing albums. Story Tape, an alias of Skloot and two of his cousins, is releasing their debut album by the end of this summer. Ricks is looking to restart her band, Feldspar, with Skloot and a few other Macalester students this fall.

Distance has not stopped Skloot and Ricks’ collaboration. They have stayed connected by sharing their own pieces of music with each other by text message.

“I would listen to… what we have in the background and I would make up a melody and some words and then record myself singing it and send it to him and he would overlay it with the music he has,” Ricks said.

However, these artists are also individual creators. Both are planning solo albums, with Skloot’s set to be released near the beginning of the fall. Since he started to play music as a child, he’s only expanded his repertoire. 

“I started off playing violin at a young age and I’ve kind of expanded to be able to write more music and record myself playing on a bunch of different instruments, so in Story Tape and my own music I play violin, piano, guitar, electric bass and drums,” Skloot said.

Story Tape is essentially a family members’ band with roots that extend back to their childhood. Its focus on storytelling, tales old and new, draws from its band name. This name, “Story Tape,” holds a unique significance to the band that may not be readily apparent to many of Skloot’s age.

Story Tape members as children. Photo courtesy of Skloot.


“Storytape is what they used to actually call their… CD cassettes back in the day,” Skloot said. “We kind of like the name and, you know, music kind of tells a story in a sense, and then it’s got that kind of vinyl, retro feel so we like that.”


Story Tape logo drawn by Henry.


As for Feldspar, its band name can be attributed to geology major Ricks’ enjoyment of rocks, and even a certain mineral in particular. Indeed, she has blended geology and music in her projects multiple times, examples including a soundtrack for the dinosaurs.

“I wrote an EP with four songs that are all using the biology and behavior of dinosaurs and…  science behind dinosaurs to write songs about them,” Ricks said. 

Mesozoic — Age of Reptiles cover designed by Ricks

This green-covered EP can be found on her Soundcloud page, along with other works which show her many-sided songwriting discography, which started with a dubstep track in high school.

Beyond dinosaurs, Ricks has also taken inspiration from a certain family friend: Herbie Hancock. This gentleman’s fame comes from his pioneering work in several genres.

“I know him actually because my grandpa was really good friends with him in college, so… I’ve met him a few times and he’s a really big inspiration to me because he plays jazz music but also he wrote a lot of really influential early electronic music,” Ricks said.

Likewise, Skloot cites Stevie Wonder, Jacob Collier, Rex Orange County and Bill Evans as a few of his favorite artists.

“[A] wide range of different things… and some of that shows through in… the bedroom pop style in our Story Tape,” Skloot said.

His cousin and bandmate in Story Tape, Mira Henry, conceives of bedroom pop as something derived from a similar pool of influences.

“It’s basically just a subgenre of pop that originated from pop that you can make in your bedroom, so, [it’s] low-budget and your own instruments, but it’s kind of its own vibe,” Henry said.

Story Tape’s equipment is indeed low-budget. Mira Henry sings, writes the songs, and makes the artwork herself; her brother Ari produces the record and their cousin Skloot makes the sound from his instruments.

Ricks’ learned her preferred instrument, the trumpet, back in elementary school. It has come in handy at Macalester, where she performs with it in Feldspar, a band named Geyser and Jazz Band, and began a fourth organization: Mac Pep Band.

“I really love just getting a group of people together to play music,” she said.

Similarly, Feldspar member Gabby Helf ’23 has been playing the drums since she was ten. In remembering which experiences encouraged her to involve herself in music, Levon Helm from The Band, her father and musicals each contributed.

“I’m a huge… musicals fan”, Helf said. “I listen to a lot of showtunes and I feel like that’s [the] kind of influence [on] the way that I… go about learning different kinds of music because there’s a bunch of different styles within… a show.”

Helf expressed excitement for returning to campus and playing music in-person with her bandmates, mentioning a small jazz combo in which she participates with Skloot and others.

“I just hope… we can just like play and… find the space and find ways to do it. I miss… playing with people in person,” Helf said.

This hope resonates for Skloot and Ricks, both of whom are preparing new and different collaborative efforts to officially present this fall.

For example, next to Story Tape is what Skloot calls his own music, which is actually another whole project he is currently working on. He will feature on his debut album additional singers and instrumentalists, including Ricks and Cathryn Hasson, a musician he has known since high school.

Likewise, Ricks’ own musical explorations, which have involved the electric bass, funk music and even the trumpet parts in French disco, speak to her dedication to variety and breadth of understanding across genres.

“I really like the use of brass instruments in non-traditional settings,” Ricks said. “I think that it can make any song really cool.”

Interested listeners can follow Story Tape on Instagram @storytape and Skloot @nadav_music. Story Tape’s first single, “Blank Spaces,” is now available on Spotify. Also, Feldspar is starting up this fall, and Ricks’ past projects can be found on her Soundcloud.

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