Artist Spotlight: Tim the Mute

As Tim Clapp, Kingfisher Bluez, and Tim the Mute, he thrives on raw emotion and “simply not knowing the consequences”

Tim Clapp is the face behind local record label Kingfisher Bluez and his band, Tim the Mute. (Alyssa Laube)

If you’ve ever seen Tim the Mute live, you’ll know him as the guy who smiles ear-to-ear on stage while singing about some of the bleakest topics explorable through popular music.

As a songwriter, Tim Clapp refuses to shy away from the personal and taboo; subjects like mental illness, toxic relationships, and sexuality come up often in his diary-like verses and refrains, which are regularly sprinkled with jokes and references to relieve the unavoidable tension.

During these moments, when he’s softly but surely singing about crying or masturbating (or both) and plucking at his guitar, it can be awkward, but never forgettable. That’s the first priority for a band that has been one man’s passion project ever since the days of his adolescence, which was nurtured off the Sunshine Coast of B.C.

“If you’re honest and can express who you are, people will always respond to it. There’s something about seeing all of someone,” says Clapp. “I write lyrics the same way that I talk, and I want people to feel like they’re listening to me talk to them when they’re listening to the record. That’s the way that I try to connect myself, trying to be the purest version of myself as possible, like an elevator pitch of my personality.”

That freedom of expression is why Clapp always looks so excited on stage, and the reason why he has been writing with Tim the Mute for so long. The name of the band is a throwback to the frontman’s childhood, which he spent largely without speaking, making eye contact, or feeling a sense of belonging with those around him.

He describes his persona as Tim the Mute as “an alter ego to express that side of [himself]” and “amplify this really small and quiet person that [he] was” while growing up in a small town called Roberts Creek.

There, at the ripe age of 14, Tim started booking shows with a handful of close friends to play punk in the town hall, local mom and pop diners, and now-condemned holes in the wall. This would lead him to hopping a ferry to Vancouver promptly after graduating from high school and starting his own record label, Kingfisher Bluez, which now has over 100 releases to its name.

“I think a lot of Kingfisher Bluez and a lot of my life is a testament to how much you can do by simply not knowing the consequences,” he laughs. “Vancouver’s nice because it’s a challenge. The thing with Vancouver is that if you’re a punk, if you’re into DIY, if you’re into music, every single thing is working against you.”

“When I moved to Vancouver, I felt like the scene was really unapproachable [and] it took me a couple years of living here before I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just start a label and put my friends’ music out,’” he says. “I had no idea that it would ever be on me. I never thought of it being a fixture of the local music scene, but now people recognize it, I think. I really only did it because I felt like there was no outlet for it.”

Now, Kingfisher Bluez is one of the only labels to press original records in Vancouver. It is a considerable player in the local music scene, regularly hosting shows, some of which promote bills featuring Tim the Mute and the bands that Clapp manages.

While the first iteration of Tim the Mute was constituted by what he describes as “the only four people on the Sunshine Coast who were into music,” he’s now playing with three other musicians who he’s grateful to call friends: Jasper Lastoria, Michael Phillet, and Kyle Goddard. The four of them recently toured the UK and are now preparing to release their third full album, Do In Yourself, at a local show sometime this March.

Expect to hear influences like The Replacements and Built to Spill on the album. Expect undertones of anger, abandonment, and loneliness that come with writing a breakup record. And above all else, expect some of Tim’s trademarks: unabashedly personal lyrics, charmingly warbling, nasal vocals, and two-to-three-chord songwriting with the punk heart that got him from playing in Robert’s Creek’s modest music scene to Vancouver’s over a decade ago.

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