INTERVIEW: Meet Tacocat

It’s been nine years since their debut record, Shame Spiral was released and Tacocat is still making their wonderfully insightful tunes for fans to rock out to. The Seattle-based band - Emily Nokes (lead singer), Eric Randall (guitar), Lelah Maupin (drums) and Bree McKenna (bass) - is getting ready to drop their fourth album, This Mess is a Place this May, but Nokes made some time to chat with me about music, the band’s upcoming tour and empowering listeners.

Interview By: Bridget McGuigan

How do you think your music has progressed over time? What have you learned about the music making process since your first album? I hope we're always getting better! Not just technically better, but better at songwriting and progressing as musicians and also as people. What have we learned since our first album? Oh wowww we have learned so much I could write a very long and incredibly boring book on the subject. Our first album was recorded in 2010 or something, so there has been a LOT of time in between then—when we were literally recording vocals in Eric's apartment bathroom when his roommates weren't using it, or in our practice space in the middle of the night when there would be less of a chance we'd be interrupted by a doom band down the hall—and now. These days it's a totally different world when it comes to recording, but I think the essence of Tacocat music-making will always be there. Just four friends riffing on some ideas until they become a real song that seems fun to jangle at other people.

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“I tend to think of the feminism in our music as less of a theme, or even a topic, and just more of an extension of who I am / who we are as a group.”

Feminism is a recurring theme in your music. Will we be hearing more patriarchy smashing in This Mess is a Place? I tend to think of the feminism in our music as less of a theme, or even a topic, and just more of an extension of who I am / who we are as a group. There are a couple of polemic moments for sure, but I still consider our songs with less specific lyrics, or more personal lyrics, to be feminist, since it's from my point of view. That's where I live and that's where I'm coming from. Even if the topic of the song is candy or something, it still feels feminist because we made it... and one could argue that making an irreverent candy song (which we have!) is a feminist act in its own right because we're often expected to write something "more political" in ways that are defffffffinitely not expected from cis-male bands. Smash it with literal lyrics, smash it with candy, all smashing is valid smashing.

But yes, you will hear songs about: dissolving power structures, starting over on new planets, self-like, satire becoming reality, wonderful pets, male privilege, stuck friends, climbing out of depression, a restaurant I've always wanted to get day-drunk at, and tour. In that order.

What kind of music are you listening to at the moment? Do you get a lot of inspiration from the music you surround yourself with? At this very moment, I'm listening to Cate Le Bon's Crab Day. I've been listening to her a lot lately. What a treasure! What else? Every morning my boyfriend puts on Le Mystère Jazz De Tombouctou, this amazing Malian record from the late '70s that happens to be perfect for helping a non-morning person wake up. I've also been listening to more Blur than I ever imagined I would, but here we are haha.

I don't really get inspired by other music necessarily when working on Tacocat songs, at least not intentionally; I think for my parts I get more inspired by reading and ideas and words and conversations. Then the melodies just sort of come with however the words are coming, and what the existing notes and structures already are. We all have pretty vast music taste so I'm sure if you asked one of the others you would get a different answer from each of us! I prefer not to know what Eric and Bree and Lelah are listening to when they're writing guitar and bass parts because I don't want to accidentally mimic something, or try to bend my sensibilities to fit another musician's.

What can we expect with this new album? What do you want your fans to feel when they listen to it? This album feels more nuanced but also bigger in a lot of ways. I want people to feel good. I always have and I always will! It's been a rough road trying to make music in this post-election landscape, but I still wanted it to feel more powerful/empowering than sad or angry (though both of those emotions are completely valid and important and necessary).

You have a tour coming up! Are you all excited about it? What's your favorite part of touring? We do! A leg of the tour in May and a leg of the tour in June, with more to come. I'm really excited! We haven't toured so much this past year just making and getting ready to put the album out, so it's always neat to get on the road with new songs and new haircuts! My favorite part of touring is seeing old friends, making new friends, and experiencing new places and weather and food!

This Mess is a Place will be released May 3rd, 2019. You can check their music and see tour dates here.