'I was raised with psychedelic gypsies': CultureCritic interviews Tamaryn...
Written with her musical partner guitarist Rex Shelveton, and much like the pair’s 2010 debut The Waves, Tender New Signs is an immersive record of reverby guitars and ethereal vocals. Speaking to us earlier this week, Tamaryn (singular) told us why they’re not even a shoegaze band, why she’s not really a musician and why Google keeps her living in poverty…
It’s been two years since The Waves came out, what have you been doing since then?
I moved from San Francisco to LA, and just kind of lived a life for a while because I felt like I’d just been a band person for the two years. Then I realised that I’m not really cut out for anything else, so I came back.
You mean a nine-to-five life?
No, no one would give me a job. They Google you and they see what you do and realise you’re going to quit. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah sure, you’ll be here for what, three weeks? No’. So, you know, I’ve lived in poverty and desperately tried to write the best record possible.
How does LA compare to San Francisco?
It’s just hotter. There’s crazy people in both cities, just different kinds of crazy.
Congratulations on the new record, it sounds fantastic.
Thanks. I think it’s one of those records you have to really want to enter into because I’ve noticed from some of the reviews that some people just don’t seem to understand it.
It sounds very much like a continuation of The Waves, is that what you were aiming for?
Yes, I see myself as one of those artists where I could do anything I want to in the future, but with Rex, I want to make a couple of records that had that same production technique and sound.
We feel that in these times, where everyone has access to technology to make any kind of record they want, it’s important to have your own sound. We don’t use a lot of technology – we don’t use any pedals, only space echo. Rex rebuilds the amps to get different sounds; every time I come into the recording space he’s got a headlamp and a soldering iron. We’re nerds, you know.
Many reviews make note of the soundscape quality of your music. Has living near the ocean and the desert influenced that?
Sure. I was born in New Zealand and moved to the States when I was about seven, and I was raised with these psychedelic gypsy people that moved around all the time. The cover of The Waves is actually in the desert in a place called the Valley of Fire, which is just outside Las Vegas. I remember going there as a child and looking at all these formations that just looked like these mythical, ancient faces. They were so intense, so I road-tripped out there and took a lot of the photos there. I like how the desert and the ocean are intertwined; the desert is kind of like the ocean floor, without any water. On Tender New Signs though, I aimed for a different imagery that is more romantic and flowery.
Your Wikipedia page describes you as a vocalist. Is that how you see yourself?
I see myself as a vocalist and a multi-media artist. If you see us live I’m much more of a performer, it’s more projected and intense.
To me, Tamaryn is all one big artistic project, not just music. The music is a priority, which is why I work with seasoned musicians and people that I trust and that I know can get my vision across but personally, I don’t necessarily call myself a musician.
I think a lot of bands when they finish making an album… its so exhausting physically, emotionally and financially that the artwork becomes something of an afterthought and I try not to do that.
Are you happy for Tamaryn to be described as shoegaze?
I don’t really think we are a shoegaze band. I think there’s an element of that because of the guitar, and that’s always going to be the dominating thing, but I see the band as more of an amalgamation of everything that I love. There’s a lot of gothic influence in there, there’s Brit-pop and even coldwave. I have a large mix of stuff I like and I try to mix it without it sounding too schizophrenic. It’s important to have a sound you can immerse yourself in.
Tamaryn is a duo. What’s the reasoning behind using just your name?
It’s not a band name. It’s because when it all began a long time ago I was interested in people like Kate Bush and David Bowie. Rex actually told me to call it my name, he said ‘It’s hard to make a band name, your name’s unusual, let’s just call it that and everyone in town already knows you, so they’ll come to the shows.’
What have you been listening to recently?
I don’t know if this is a girl thing – I hope that’s not sexist – but I do that thing where I listen to one song on repeat for a week or something. Something that I’ve been into in the past year a lot is an eighties band from Liverpool called The Wild Swans and Care. It’s this guy Paul Simpson who started the Teardrop Explodes with Julian Cope. They’re both highly underrated and have this Morrissey or The Smiths vibe to them, but, dare I say it, I think are better.
As for new bands, I really like Boyfriend from Texas. They’re two girls and their music is so beautiful. I think people haven’t being paying as much attention to them as they should. To me they sound like if the Cocteau Twins and Martika met.
Tender New Signs is out this week. Read the latest reviews here.
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