Next Friday, April 15th, Philthy is hosting a plethora of cool shows (Lissie at Johnny Brenda’s, The Joy Formidable at Underground Arts, Har Mar Superstar and High Waisted at MilkBoy, and Iggy Pop’s last ever Philadelphia show… at the oldest operating opera house in America… for $150…) but those whose taste leans most heavily toward the DIY, socio-political party scene will likely want to be at Everybody Hits for Seattle’s Tacocat, the brilliant quartet who has become best known for their punky, ‘90s alt rock riffage, as it soundtracks profoundly poignant and profoundly quirky commentaries on sexism, societal stations, and pop culture… which are mutually exclusive to absolutely no degree… That and for gaining an overwhelming affection from people such as Ben Gibbard and music journalist god Greil Marcus. Last week saw the release of Tacocat’s third LP, Lost Time, which embodies the most charming idiosyncrasies of the best sounds to first be discovered on 120 Minutes, coupled with heavy doses of riot grrrliness, and nods to the most delightfully snarky and sassy singer/songwriters of the past three decades. It’s basically an intro to cultural theory in the form of a pajama party for the disillusioned. I recently got a chance to chat with Tacocat drummer Lelah Maupin about all of this and just the history of the band in general.
Izzy Cihak: So this is a pretty big question, but you’ve been a band for quite a few years now: What have been some of the highlights for you? You’ve gotten tons of amazing praise and put out a lot of music.
Lelah Maupin: Hmm, well I suppose that is true. I guess it is a bizarre question to answer because for me, it feels like that became true about four days ago. For a long time we struggled as a band to put out music. I mean, the music has always sort of flowed naturally in a creative sense but the process would take too long, in our opinion. Highlights of being in Tacocat for eight years include: Traveling the world with my best friends and all of the challenges, experiences, people, and opportunities that it brings. It has opened a lot of doors and brought us all so much joy. Moving on from that, lately I feel a sense of responsibility as musician, as a woman, and as a human. That sounds kind of heavy but it’s not really, it’s an honor. It is an honor to have a positive influence and get to spread it all around like warm peanut butter.
Izzy: How would you compare Lost Time to your previous releases, both in terms of its sound and the process of writing and recording it? Did you feel like you were trying anything for the first time on this record, or was it just a natural evolution?
Lelah: I think the sound is definitely a natural evolution, but we thought about it and discussed it as well. We never want to make the same album twice, but we also want to stay true to ourselves. The latter isn’t very difficult though. Unless we sat down one day and said, “Hey lets become something we’re not,” I believe the output will always be us. I believe in all of us as artists and as such we’re not in the business of fakin’ it. As far as the process goes, Lost Time was created in a shorter window than the previous releases and I think we all knew it was time to raise the bar a little, so we did.
Izzy: You make the album’s non-musical influences pretty clear in the lyrics and song titles and I think you’re discussing a lot of stuff that really needs to be discussed and in a charmingly off-beat, unexpected manner, so I’m curious if there are any other contemporary artists or works of art whose contemporary cultural commentary you think is especially worth checking out and considering? Have there been any films, books, records, etc., of recent years that you would highly recommend checking out?
Lelah: The ever important music of Weird Al, Seveneves (and other books) by Neil Stephenson (a Seattle-based sci-fi author), The Downtown Boys (a rad political band from Providence, RI), The Witch (a film by Robert Eggers), the artwork of Kehinde Wiley, Frankie Cosmos, and The New Powerpuff Girls.
Izzy: On a related noted, Hardly Art is one of my favorite labels. How is it being a part of that family? Any particular favorite labelmates? Chastity Belt and La Luz are some of my favorite bands of recent history.
Lelah: Chastity Belt for sure. We played shows with them when they first started out at their college they formed at, Whitman. We were like “These girls!” The rest is history. We hang out like at home with them and stuff. Shannon and the Clams is the other band on the label we have a long standing friendship and history with. I believe we each played our like seventh show ever together or something like that. It’s like our bands were born on the same day. We have always loved them as artists and people and they will always be close in our band-family. Also, they’re amazing.
Izzy: So this is personal, but “Men Explain Things to Me” is one of my favorite tracks of recent years, which sort of reminds me of if Liz Phair were fronting The Eyeliners… which I’m now realizing I once told Potty Mouth about “The Gap”… (Hopefully none of this is at all insulting, as it’s meant to be the exact opposite.) Anyway, how did that particular track come about?
Lelah: Hahaha. That is not offensive at all. I just found out I love Liz Phair! (I think I am very late to the Liz game, however.) Anyway, that song was created how most of our songs are: a jam turns into some parts, the parts get refined then recorded on a phone, then they’re listened to a bunch until a vibe or feeling is clear. Emily is a lyrical genius and I can’t speak 100% on her process but I know the idea about having a “mansplaining” song had been tossed around for a bit. We love it too! It almost reminds me of a song that could/would/should be in a musical. Tacocat the musical! Great idea.
Izzy: You’re going to be playing Philadelphia in the very near future (and at batting cages, no less). What can be expected of the live experience?
Lelah: I can’t really picture what it might be like to play at a batting cage. I’m not even sure I’ve ever been to a batting cage. We played at a bowling alley once in Asbury Park, NJ (Asbury Lanes. I heard it closed. Major bummer.), it was really cool. I suppose my question is, what can be expected at the batting cage?! Will there be baseballs flying around? Can we swing at them? I hope it’s not too dangerous. As for our show, it will be very dangerous. J/K. But perhaps we will bring some surprises. Sometimes we like to surprise. I know I packed a bag of them, so…
Izzy: And after your US dates you have a ton of international dates. Are there any cities or venues you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Lelah: We’ve never been to any sort of Scandinavian country and I couldn’t be more excited. We have about a week of shows in that region. Birthplace of Ikea? Somehow a place where humans have figured out how to live together in a cool, nice way? Yes please! I should stop before I reveal how little I know what I’m talking about, but for real very excited about Copenhagen, Stockholm, Hamburg, etc. Also I am always excited to go back to Berlin. I love that city so much. And Paris, cuz duh. You know what, we have like a week just in the UK and we have been getting so much positive press and stuff from the UK lately and have never really explored it that much. So the UK too! Okay then, I guess we / I am pretty much excited for the whole thing. Oh! We’re going back to Ghent too! Ghent was so special. AHHHH!!!!
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for the band? What are you most excited for in the second half of 2016?
Lelah: Right when we get home from Europe we will be playing Sasquatch again. It was such a fun and positive experience the first time, we are super stoked to go back. And we’re basically opening for the Cure, so. Ha Ha ha.
As for the rest of the year, I’m excited to find out! I feel like in the past I knew what to expect-ish from band endeavors, but I don’t anymore. Glass ceiling? Sky’s the limit? I would definitely like to make more music videos ourselves and hopefully get to expand into other creative / design arenas. Oh! And I want to play on a late night talk show. Is Conan still on? Jimmy Fallon? Jimmy Kimmel? Gimme a Jimmy, please! <3