Over the weekend, I had the oppurtunity to see Tamaryn and Mirror Mirror with my friend Florenz Cruz at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. Despite being a bit out of the way, it was a great place to see a show, especially with the great stage set up the museum designed for it... complete with a giant white drape leaning over the stage and part of the audience. This seemed the perfect setting to see a group like Tamaryn, with this cavernous make-shift ceiling reflecting colors and allowing the group's music to be as big as it can be. Each song seemed to start off with a simple bassline and then explode into much more, never getting old.
After the show, we had the opportunity to go meet the group's guitarist and singer, Rex and Tamaryn, respectively, and Florenz nabbed a couple of photos and got the chance to record some Q+A with the band. A transcription of that is available to read after the jump.
Florenz: When are you starting your tour with The Raveonettes?
Tamaryn: The first show is March 30th in Philadelphia. We’re on tour with them for 5 weeks. I’m really excited about it. I have a lot of respect for them. Rex has toured with them for an older band. They’re friends of ours.
Rex: Hopefully we’ll translate well to their audience. I think the people who go see The Raveonettes are a fairly sophisticated audience. We’re really lucky ‘cause they’ll dig what we’re doing.
T: They’ve had so much staying power. They’ve done things on their own terms and just put record after record out and kept a sizeable audience. They’re a good band to look to as an inspiration if you want to start a band.
How did you guys get together with the people who were responsible for today’s visuals?
T: This event is called the MoMA PS1 Saturday Sessions and it is curated by different people every time. This time it was curated by Patrik Sandberg and Lauren Devine. They picked the bands, including us, and then they picked this wonderful multimedia video art collective called Thunder Horse. I worked together with them a little bit online via e-mail, talked about colors, images, and feelings of the things that we liked.
I thought their choices of images and colors were really appropriate considering you have a lot of oceanic references in your songs. You know, Led Astray Washed Ashore and The Waves. It felt like a melting of the air and the sky. Would you agree with that?
T: Yeah, it was very elemental. They used a lot of footage that we actual use when we go on tour, but they cut it up and they added their own things. We discussed that it should be a lot of different elements, the ocean, and I love the flowers and different contrasts between light and dark. And things sort of me—neutral and atmospheric. You know, kind of feminine, somewhat.
When you create music, do you have a sort of synesthesia? Do you incorporate textures, images, not just internal reflection, that you take your environment in, all aspects of it?
R: Our environment is obviously going to have an influence on the music. I feel like landscapes can emphasize certain moods. The idea is to accentuate certain emotions through imagery or music or lyrics too.
You guys are always really well-dressed. Where do you get your fashion sense from?
T: Rex has had his own style that he’s had for such a long time. He does not follow trends. He has a really strong sense of self.
R: I wear shirts and pants. She dresses more interesting. I think girls get to have more fun.
T: I’ve always been interested in imagery and fashion…not fashion as far as what’s going on on the runway season to season. More like personal style. I lived In New York when I was a teenager and worked in vintage clothing stores. I love seeing a band and having everybody look really good. There’s always that sensual element when you see it. It’s important to put that extra effort in. It’s going to an event. When you play a show, you want to look your best and project that energy that goes along with how hard you worked on making the songs.
R: It’s a performance, right? Some people want to be less of a performance and play that down, but we’re caught somewhere between. Just like the imagery that’s on the projector or the sound of the production and everything, it’s just one more way to make people try to feel something.
A lot of people kind of pigeonhole you as shoegaze. What do you think of that?
T: I don’t actually know if people pigeonhole us as shoegaze. They use it as a reference. I think when you’re a journalist or when you’re a music listener that it’s important to have references. It’s not a word that I hate. There’s a lot of elements to our music and we sort of fuse a lot of different things and influences, but also a lot of it is naturally just how Rex plays guitar and how he’s always played guitar. I kind of feed off what instinctually comes out of him. We go from there. It’s never really intended to be one genre or another.
R: It’s not conceptually like, We’re going to this kind of a band or that kind of a band. It’s nice for someone to have their reference points, to say, “Oh it reminds me of this” or “It affects me the way these other bands do.”
T: I’m not offended at all to be compared to some of the greatest bands ever. People compare us to bands like My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, The Cocteau Twins. Those are my favorite bands so it’s a huge compliment.
When I think of you guys, I never think of My Bloody Valentine or Jesus and Mary Chain. Since you’re a female singer, I kind of group you into bands like HTRK, Warpaint, Zola Jesus because your sound is something totally new; it’s sort of a dark, subtle, new kind of rock music. Would you say there’s a kind of new age of that kind of music coming out these days?
T: It’s really cool that you say it sounds new because it is new and we definitely put our own spin on it. You named a bunch of female-fronted acts, basically, that don’t really sound anything alike, but I think the common factor is that they are influenced by maybe an emotional darker side. It’s not just pop music, but a lot of it’s electronic. I really love HTRK a lot, but then again it’s electronic so it’s very different. I don’t mind being associated with people that are working hard in expressing themselves and doing their own thing, but we’re definitely all individuals.
R: I think of us as a rock and roll band, but it’s nice that it’s still modern, even though it’s just guitar and drums.
T: If people are into those bands, and someone says, “Oh, you should check out Tamaryn because you like this such and such band,” it’s great for us. But it’s just about casting a net out into the world.
How did you two meet and how would you describe your relationship?
R: We met here in New York. I was on tour with one of my older bands called Vue. She was working on some demos at the time. She had a really neat take on music and she was really inspired. We always felt we should collaborate, and it took a long time to coalesce. Eventually, we’re doing an EP back and forth, bicoastal because she was living out here. She came out to San Francisco to make the last record. That’s the way it started, and it’s been awesome.
T: We’ve been friends for a long time. We both always found each other really inspiring, and I personally was always looking for somebody to team up with and make music. He’s always been so busy—he’s always been a singer in his band. He’s had a lot of great records and a lot of great bands, and I never thought that I’d be able to get him to work full-time on a project with me. I was always looking for someone else. He would help me make a demo here, make a demo there. Over a really long course of time, the project just started to become more serious. Now here we are.
Do you put on personas when you get on stage?
R: Being from more of an indie or hardcore scene, it’s more about losing yourself in the music. It’s not quite so super self-aware.
T: What I think about mostly is trying to immerse myself in the sound and let my responses be to the actual music itself. It’s not about putting on a persona. It’s about staying focused on the music. It’s less of a persona, more of trying to grasp that thing you were creating when you make the album.
R: I want to experience it as we’re playing it.
T: It comes off of as a performance because it’s so full of expression.
Does that go along with the fact that you call the band Tamaryn, due to this lack of “persona”?
T: I don’t have a persona and my name is Tamaryn. The band is called me because Rex thought it would be a good idea. When we began I lived in New York and knew a lot of people around. If I had music out there and it was called me, it was less promotion because people already knew me. I could take that music and have a band that changed over time but would always be able to be my music throughout my life. We look up to people like David Bowie or Kate Bush. They’re their names. In that way, it gives you creative license to be able to have a career your whole life no matter who you work with.
R: I liked it because it was neutral too.
T: There’s no way to say what genre it is by just saying the name. There’s no name like Crystal in it, or Skull.
R: Or Night.
T: You can’t assume what it sounds like. You have to dig a little deeper yourself, make up your own decision on what you think it sounds like.
--interview and photos by Florenz Cruz--
---check out this video of the show shot by unartig---