October 24, 2016

Interview: Tacocat

The ladies of Tacocat play FMK and coin their fanbase "Tac-kittens."

Breaking down on the side of a New Hampshire highway isn’t the most ideal way to finish a trip. However, with thieves having stolen the bolts to our tire, I suppose it was how the weekend was going to end. Despite this small hiccup, it was only twelve hours earlier that I was making my way into 3S Artspace in Portsmouth to meet up with the three powerful ladies behind Seattle’s Tacocat for what vocalist Emily Nokes coined our “dinnerview.”

For almost ten years, Tacocat has slowly taken over the Seattle’s music scene. Soaking punk in color and saturating it with perfected pop melodies, the group has crafted their own distinct and unique blend of infectious West Coast rock. However, analyzing Tacocat solely through their bright, fun antics takes a two-dimensional look at a meaningful project. You would be ignoring the meticulous layering in which the band flawlessly weaves in political and social themes into each track they release. Now as the band follows up their debut with their newest record, Lost Time, it’s obvious the group has not lost their touch. Seamlessly moving from poking fun at horse girls to honoring X-Files hero Dana Scully, Lost Time never has a dull moment. With a few hours before their set, Bree McKenna, Emily Nokes, Lelah Maupin, and I sat down over drinks to talk about this new release. Between our discussion of childhood dream jobs and their newly named “Tac-Kitten” fanbase, the four of us also touched upon the band’s history – discussing how their goals as a group have changed and the obstacles they’ve had to face to get to where they are today.

The Le Sigh: For those who have not listened to Tacocat, how would you describe your sound in two sentences or less? 

Emily Nokes: Punk with pop, with candy, with glitter, with emojis, with sequins…

Lelah Maupin: Point Break!

EN: Blade Runner!

Bree McKenna: Christmas Vacation!

TLS: Tacocat’s popularity has grown incredibly since you all started - if you were going to give your fanbase a name like “The Beehive” or “Beliebers,” what would you call them? 

BM: Glitter Kitties?

LM: Should we be Tacoheads? For all those dads out there? Fancy Feast?

BM: Wait the fan is called the "Fancy Feast"?

LM: Glitter Kitties make the most sense, or Glitter Kittens

EN: I just wanted them to be in a litter of really cute little kittens. Tac-kittens?

BM: Tac-Kittens! Finally, thank you.

TLS: You all have been a band for almost 10 years. Do you think your goals/vision for the band have changed since you started? 

EN: Oh definitely, I mean when we first started we didn’t really have any goals, except to maybe to play a party. And not to forget all the words to all the songs was my main goal, usually.

LM: I just wanted to go on a tour.

BM: I feel like our goals have changed constantly. At first, it was just to play a couple house parties, and then we wanted to go on a tour, then we wanted to go on a West Coast tour, then a US tour, then we wanted to go on a Europe tour. Now we want to go a Japan tour.

TLS: After running a band for almost a decade, what has been the toughest challenge you all have had to overcome running a band? 

EN: Oh man. Juggling your personal life, and knowing when it is okay to not have a day job or get different day job – or do freelance. It’s kind of weird being this poor when you’re this old. But it’s also really cool because I feel very free and very good about that. But then I look around and I’m like whoa! People have kids and houses and high-paying jobs right now. Pretty glad I don’t have that, but you know.

BM: It’s a very specific lifestyle that’s kind of crazy.

LM: I didn’t know when we started the band that I would be signing up for being this old doing this.

EN: Oh yeah, no way. I’m just surprised we ever played a show. It’s a challenge, but it’s been cool – I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

LM: Also, it’s been a challenge just between the four of us. Like, have you had a relationship that lasted 10 years? I haven’t except with these people. And then, just like any relationship, it takes a lot of work. You gotta know when to buy 'em chocolates, you gotta know when to zip your trap, or you know, just bitch slap someone.

TLS: Also just the transition of being purely friends, to then also being— 

LM: Coworkers!

EN: Family members!

BM: Lovers!

LM: Yeah, we’ve been through it all.

BM: Luckily our zodiac signs match up.

TLS: What are your zodiac signs? 

BM: Three Libras, and a Gemini – we’re all air signs.

TLS: I absolutely love Faye Orlove’s work and you premiered video she directed for “The Internet” recently – how did you get involved with her and how did that video come about? 

EN: She’s so talented! Oh, man we’ve known Faye for a long time!

LM: Yeah, Nicole from Slutever lived in the house that Bree and I live in for a little bit, and Faye came to visit Nicole so she was there for like a week and that’s how we all got to spend some actual hang out time with her instead of just knowing about her. Whenever we go to LA we see her.

BM: She’s incredible! I really want to go visit Junior High –the new [space] she’s [running]. It seems amazing and I love her videos. She’s a genius.

TLS: What was the story behind that particular song “The Internet”? 

EN: It’s about anonymous faceless troll-style human beings that do nothing but stir shit up. Antagonizing women, usually.

LM: A lot of internet attacks are just really cowardly and come from this anonymous place where you can take out your anger on someone’s art and it’s so exhausting and stupid.

BM: Usually it’s from people not producing much of anything productive and they are just full of all this hate and tear other people down.

TLS: Do you all think that social media and the Internet in general has been beneficial for you as a band? 

EN: Oh for sure!

BM: We find a super cool community of awesome people who like the same stuff as us.

LM: Social media to me is just like another outlet for anything. Although with social media, you don’t get a lot of trolls, there’s not a lot of comments on my Instagram or Twitter that are really out there. It’s just in the YouTube comments.

BM: There is some creepy stuff sometimes, or really sexist stuff. I think it’s really cool a lot of blogs stopped allowing unmoderated comments. I think it’s a really important step in [being responsive to] online harassment.

TLS: Most artists either lean more towards the studio or performing. What do each of you prefer, recording work or being on the road? 

EN: I really being on the road. I like the studio too but I’m not like, Lindsey Buckingham-style where I need to like sit there and fuck around with stuff. We usually make a studio date and then rush to get things done. We are a band that makes deadlines – we aren’t a band that’s endlessly tweaking and barely making the finish line. I love performing live more.

LM: The studio is stressful, exhausting…

EN: And scary!

LM: Being on the road is exhausting, sometimes stressful, but ultimately, a lot more fun.

BM: It’s a lot more rewarding.

LM: Being in the studio you just created a new thing, which is amazing, but the process of doing it sucks.

TLS: Well because then you’re making music and you have to wait for that feedback.

LM: Oh yeah! Then you’ve written all these songs and you’re so proud of it and you’ve been in the studio for days and days or weeks or whatever, working so hard - for nothing! Because then no one hears it for 7 or 8 months. By the time it comes down, you’re like, oh I forgot about that!

EN: And then you listen to it and you’re like oh my god I sing it way differently now, or we should have made it faster. It’s like any other art where you could sit there at and pick at it – it’s better to get it out.

TLS: Tacocat recently recorded the intro for the new Powerpuff Girls reboot, if you were to remake the reboot intro for one of your favorite childhood shows, which would you all choose? 

EN: I didn’t get a lot of TV time when I was young, but Lelah…

LM: I was born in front of a television and I’ve never left. What was my favorite show? Are You Afraid of the Dark? That would be so funny.

BM: I liked X-Men and Batman the animated series a lot but I don’t think we would do a good job at that.

LM: I was also thinking of Clarissa Explains it All. Maybe we should cover that song.

BM: We were talking about covering the Buffy The Vampire Slayer theme.

TLS: Along those lines, if Tacocat never existed, and you were forced to work your childhood dream jobs what would you all be doing right now? When I was a kid I always wanted to be a zookeeper. 

EN: I want to design candy and candy packaging. It was something I was really really interested in-- like where that comes from. I get into candy brands like people get into record labels. So, I would maybe want to do that.

BM: I wanted to train Icelandic horses. They have a fifth gait called a tölt – it’s different than other horses. I was 100% sure that was what I was going to do with my life.

LM: When I was a kid I was obsessed with the ocean and I wanted to be a marine biologist even though I had no idea what it meant. I was just like yeah that’s me! Currently, I wish I could design shoes.

TLS: I always ask this question, and I’ve already asked Bree before - but if Tacocat was going to be made into a movie, Bree already said Nick Cage was going to play her in Childbirth’s. I don’t know if you want Nic Cage to make a second cameo… 

BM: I just really love Nic Cage! I’m going for a second round with Nic Cage.

LM: Dakota Fanning!

EN: I guess Lelah could probably pull me off.

LM: No, Miley Cyrus plays Emily!

EN: Oh yeah, Miley is me. Even our names can be scrambled – and we’ve got big ol’ teeth!

LM: There’s a promo photo of Emily and a promo photo of Miley that look very similar!

EN: You guys used to tease and say I looked like Hannah Montana and made me sad but when Miley grew into a beautiful swan I was like okay!

TLS: Who’s going to play Eric so we have the full cast? 

EN: Jesus Christ!

BM: Courtney Love!

EN + LM: No, Jesus!

EN: Whoever plays Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar...It also needs to be a musical!

TLS: I was wondering if we could play a couple rounds of Fuck, Marry, Kill. 

LM: This is Bree’s favorite game!

TLS: Alright, we’ll start out simple - Fuck, Marry, Kill: Bernie, Trump, and Hillary?

EN: Kill Trump.

EN + LM: Fuck Hillary, marry Bernie.

TLS: FMK, Pizza, weed, alcohol? 

EN: I know Lelah’s answer on this one. She’s gonna kill pizza because she doesn’t like pizza.

LM: I certainly don’t like pizza, but I’ll eat free pizza! I’ll eat it – I just don’t like it!

EN: I would say kill pizza too even though I like it because it’s everywhere and I can’t go without marrying weed.

BM: Marry weed, fuck alcohol.

TLS: Lastly, FMK, Coffee, Beer and La Croix? 

LM: Marry La Croix, fuck coffee, kill beer – L.A. CROY as I like to call it. I also own some shares of stock in La Croix so everyone, buy it! I’m trying to make a million while I sleep here!

TLS: We’re trying to get you to be a shoe designer! 

LM: Exactly, I need some CASH FLOW!

Listen to Tacocat on bandcamp.

Amy Garlesky is a philosophy/political science student and freelance writer based in Cleveland, OH and Burlington, VT. Follow her ramblings on twitter @ayygarl.