Tamaryn and the Rise and Fall of “Transgressive Rock Stars”

Singer/songwriter/multi-media artist Tamaryn has always dabbled in the most beautiful and subversive pop (especially of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s), however, recently there’s been a slight shift in...

Singer/songwriter/multi-media artist Tamaryn has always dabbled in the most beautiful and subversive pop (especially of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s), however, recently there’s been a slight shift in those particular subversions… While her first two records (2010’s The Waves and 2012’s Tender New Signs, which were both collaborations with Rex John Shelverton) coupled fuzzy shoegaze reverb with the romanticism of post-punk.  However, for her third LP, Cranekiss, out this Friday, August 28th (the first without longtime collaborator Shelverton), Tamaryn gets a little synthier, a little more whimsical, and a little more eclectic.  Many of the songs are reminiscent of ‘80s goth rockers at their most soulful, with tunes that actually regularly wound up on prom playlists (Yeah… I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but there really was a better time for music.)

In a recent chat with Tamaryn, she agreed that the current state of music in general is certainly lacking… but more on that later… I first ask her about these differences between Cranekiss and her first two LPs.

“As far as production goes and songwriting, it’s a totally new direction.  I was really pushing myself sonically to explore new territory.  It doesn’t sound like one thing or one sound.  I mean, we mentioned 15 band names per song.  It’s not an homage to any one thing.  I had Jorge Elbrecht as producer and I’m a huge fan of his bands [Ariel Pink/Violens/Lansing-Dreiden).  I think what I was trying to do with The Waves was I was a feminine entity and I was trying to project some big guitar band, but I’m no longer playing any of those old songs.  It’s a new era for me.  I want to be able to collaborate with anyone I like and have different eras and still keep the name, kind of like a Bowie.”

I ask if there’s anyone that she dreams of collaborating with and she immediately responds with, “My dream would be to collaborate with Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, whom I actually recently got to interview.  He’s my favorite songwriter, other than maybe Robert Smith.  Or maybe a collaboration with Trent Reznor would be cool.”

In addition to her recent musical shift, Tamaryn also recently relocated from San Francisco to NYC, but she tells me that the move wasn’t necessarily huge or even anything new to her: “I mean, I lived here for like nine years before.  I moved [to San Francisco] for Rex; he’s a surfer and would never leave.  But it’s just in my nature to be around; I was born in New Zealand and I lived in Washington state for a while.”  And while she does seem to enjoy the city, she admits to having mixed feelings on how it is to be a musician in New York at the moment.

“It doesn’t seem to have a band scene.  It’s expensive here.  I don’t mean to badmouth it [laughs], but to have something like that a city needs to be affordable and needs to have bored people.  Scenes come out of youth culture and people who aren’t distracted with other things (which is the opposite of here) and people with the urge to create something.”

Tamaryn has a short string of live dates that begin with a record release show on August 28th at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC and which conclude on September 3rd at Johnny Brenda’s.  As someone who’s rarely wowed by a live performance, I was quite taken aback by the spectacle of Tamaryn’s last show at Johnny Brenda’s.  I ask her about her approach to live performances and she tells me that she definitely wants something that will be regarded as more than just live music but admits that, at the time of the interview, she was still working out the presentation for her new material.

“I’m really trying to figure out how to present this and it’s changing all the time.  I want it to be an incredibly visceral, powerful, emotional experience.  I think it will be very powerful, but in a different way.  That was an epic guitar band, and there are guitars here, but it’s very different.  I’m disappointed so often these days with live performances.  You should totally be enthralled by the entire experience; it should be a visceral experience, but I guess there’re no transgressive rock stars anymore. It bums me out.  Even Marilyn Manson is a bore live.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.