The New Tarot: “Like witchy, but not quite”

I’m sure our readers are well aware of PHILTHY’s mild obsession with “sister acts” (Which makes sense… being that we’re in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection),...

I’m sure our readers are well aware of PHILTHY’s mild obsession with “sister acts” (Which makes sense… being that we’re in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection), from experimental sis’s like CocoRosie and The Casket Girls, to the quite punky Girl in a Coma and Dog Party, to folk songstresses like The Staves and Lily & Madeline, and even mega-darlings Haim.  Well, the sisters we’re most excited about in 2016 are Monika and Karen Walker, who front (with Monika on guitar, Karen on keyboard, and both on vocals) The New Tarot, a Brooklyn-based band that began in 2014 and whose sounds are reminiscent of the post-riot grrrl riffage (and wails) of Sleater-Kinney, in addition to the ‘90s alt rock funk of Luscious Jackson.  Using their respective studies in robots and classical music composition, the sisters take the tragedies and comedies of the human experience as their muse and have gained some substantial notoriety for their live shows in many of NYC’s best-known venues, which have come to be known for a number of “bizarre rituals” they carry out among the audience.

The New Tarot, will be performing one of their [what I’m only assuming to be] morbidly quirky ceremonies this Friday, January 29th, at The Fire, and I recently got a chance to chat with Monika Walker about the first few years of The New Tarot. When I ask her about the highlights of the short history of The New Tarot, Monika admits that, at this stage, pretty much everything they do at this point feels like a highlight: “Every time I have a show I feel like it’s the best thing so far.  And being backstage at some of the places I read about as a kid is kind of insane.  And the process of having things – dreams, music – in your head become real and then having people downloading it is pretty crazy.”

When we discuss the process of creating the songs and just the aim in general of The New Tarot, Monika tells me that it can actually be relatively lofty in an existential way, if that’s how you want to think about it… but that they are ultimately, at the end of the day, a rock band: “I think we put on a lot of characters in our songs.  We do a lot of character studies and physicalize a lot of the currents of our culture, but we also just like to make music and come together… I mean you can just come and hang out [laughs].”  Of what actually influences the music, Monika tells me, “Just kind of everything.  I try to listen to a broad spectrum of music,” going on to cite David Bowie and Amy Winehouse as artists she particularly admires.

And their music isn’t the only thing likely to be of interest or draw attention from The New Tarot.  In photos they’re regularly found donning stylings somewhere between cyberpunk, tribal glam, and post-hippie.  And their recent music video for “Stella” is more than a little reminiscent of the video about halfway into 120 Minutes, when 1 am strikes, that scares the beJesus out of 10-year-old you just enough to feel bad about sneaking out of bed at midnight on a school night to quietly watch the rising stars of 4AD and DGC.  I ask Monika about what’s behind the visual elements of The New Tarot and she explains, “A lot of it is kinda like minimalist, like witchy, but not quite, not cheesiness.  I don’t like to be cheesy, but I like having fun and poking fun at cheesiness.”

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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.