You know that old saying about how you should never meet your heroes?
I felt a little bit like that when I agreed to interview Tacocat, the palindromically-named Seattle four-piece whose third album, Lost Time, will be out on the first of next month. For starters, the press release confirms that the album’s title is an X-Files reference (indeed, the first track is called “Dana Katherine Scully” and semi-rhymes “she’s the only one thinking it through” with a reference to said fully-named fictional FBI agent’s “shoulder pads and no nonsense attitude”) and its first single was an epic rant about drunk guys who turn the band’s local streets into a toilet every weekend. Basically, Tacocat are a band that make me want to like beer so I can go out for one with them and talk about how much we hate the patriarchy. Also, I bet they know where to get the best burritos.
Tacocat are four actual real-life best friends: Emily Nokes (vocals), Eric Randall (guitar), Lelah Maupin (drums) and Bree McKenna (bass). They’ve been making music together for eight years, and Lost Time is their third studio album. Their music sounds like manifestos for change written on bubblegum wrappers: short, sharp blasts of pop-punk penned by people who care about things. Those things are often social justice-related, sure, but if they’re annoyed by late buses or period pains or dickhead partners who won’t get off their smartphones jarring transphobia on their favourite TV shows they’ll write about those things too. If that makes them the bloggers of contemporary punk, well: some of the best people I know are bloggers.
Oh, and it turns out that they (or at least Emily, who answered my interview questions) are just as fun in words as they are in music.
Who’s in the band, and how did you get together?
EMILY NOKES: Emily (sings), Lelah (drums), Eric (guitar), Bree (bass). We started by just being four friends who wanted to jam together and play parties!
Three words to describe your sound…
Pop, glitter, fun!
What influences you?
Each other, fashion, old music, new music, people we meet on tour, sci-fi books, ’90s movies, cute animals on the internet…
Tell me about the cover art for your new album Lost Time – who did you get to draw all the different clocks? How did that all come together?
We all drew them! Each member made at least three or four cats and then me and Lelah scanned them in, arranged them, and did the rest of the design.
Since some of you have experience in other bands I feel like I can ask: what’s it like to be in a band with people you’ve practically known all your life? Do you feel as though your sound and the things that you write about have evolved with your friendship, or is that a really stupid question?
Not stupid at all! We are totally like family at this point, having known each other over a decade. Our sound definitely evolves with us: growing, getting better, trying not to keep making the same records over and over. Our tight-knit friendship, similar tastes, and mutual appreciation of music/culture helps us sort of move as a unit.
I get the sense that being part of a community of like-minded artists is important to you. Can you tell me a little about that, and about what’s going on in Seattle at the moment? Do you notice a different vibe when you’re on tour?
Seattle is awesome — the community is really run by women and queer artists at the moment, which is a far cry from the bearded-dude/masculine scene that was happening when we were first coming up. On tour we’re lucky to usually get booked with like-minded bands in similar scenes, but yeah, every once and a while you run into some sexist shit, or other bigoted mindsets, and it’s like “Oh yeah, we’re kind of in a liberal bubble in Seattle”. It’s good to remember that though, that it’s still a struggle for sooo many young women, POC, queer kids, and other under-represented folks all across the U.S. and beyond.
People have been going on about the death of political music for at least as long as I’ve been alive, and yet you guys have always been up for putting some pretty provocative shit into your songs. Do you think it’s important for bands to keep doing that, even when we’ve got a whole internet full of information and entertainment in front of us?
It’s important to me, but I don’t think it’s the responsibility of other bands to “have to” write about anything they don’t feel like writing about. I just write about what’s on my mind at the time, or what’s on my band-mate’s minds — be it candy or periods or gentrification of the X-Files. But yes, while we have all this information view website via the internet, we also have cesspools of trolls attacking women and hateful conservatives doubling down on archaic bullshit (like abortions) that should have been firmly decided before I was born. It’s ridiculous. I like the idea of making fun of it though, I think that satire tends to speak very loudly, if not louder than actually screaming. And it infuriates the patriarchy.
Tell me about the best cat you have ever met on tour. Pictures obviously appreciated.
I got a new phone and all my “Pets of Tour” photos are on the old one! Damn! But let’s see, there have been SO MANY. I’d say any time you come across a squish-face cat, that’s a stroke of luck. Or a tiny kitten, which goes without saying. I’m a big fan of chubby cats that love to snuggle and don’t mind being picked up. Those are my favorite. In fact, I’ll send you a photo of MY chubby cat, Dr. O, because you know that’s 90% of what’s on my phone.
New Powerpuff Girls theme – coolest thing to happen in your career to date or not? How did that relationship come about, and should Scottish fans be upset that you have usurped Bis?
It was pretty amazing! And surreal. They reached out to us and I kept thinking — seriously for months, even after we spent two days recording it — that it wouldn’t actually happen. Haha if it means anything to the Scottish fans, my Dad is Scottish so maybe I have some honorary Scot in there?
I have a question for Eric: what’s it like being a boy in a band? Like, how do you cope with having a penis and playing guitar and stuff, have you had to develop a special way of holding it or anything?
Ahhh this is the best question ever, LOL! He’s busy recording with his boy band right now (an all-male group called the Trashies), but I can tell you that, surprisingly enough, he can actually keep up with us on tour and he’s a really good guitar player for a man!
Given our mutual fandom, I’d be negligent if I didn’t ask: how do you feel about the new X-Files? And what’s your all-time favourite episode?
The new ones were SO weird! I loved the second and third episodes (except for that trans joke — come ON, it’s 2016 and you have so many people involved in this), but the penultimate episode was SO SO SO BAD. The music was awful! I could not believe how bad it was, but I was so stoned at the time I kept thinking “Am I somehow imagining how terrible this is??” Last night’s finale felt more like a movie. I don’t mind the cliffhanger, but it still felt like they spent too much time with those secondary agents and should have tried tying up more loose ends.
Wow I don’t know if I could pick just one old-school fave episode! I love the campy monster ones (flukeman!!! ahhhhhh!!!) and the early story-arc ones, but there’s something about the bananas ones a bit later, like “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man”, that are so over-the-top they won me over.
What have you got coming up in terms of touring, other projects etc?
We’re heading to Texas for 10 days around South by Southwest next month, then we’re heading out for a month-long US tour in May and a month-long Europe tour in April! When we get home we’re playing Sasquatch festival and the Cure will be there. Yay!!! Other than that, we have videos to make and merch to design. And we want to write a Christmas album if we can find the time!
And what are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to Tom Verlaine’s self-titled album a lot, and M.I.A.’s Matangi is also back in rotation. Some newer Seattle bands in my queue are Boyfriends and Mommy Long Legs, who are both so so so good! I’ve also been on quite the Duran Duran tear, and the Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys. And for some reason I can’t stop listening to the song “Burning Up” by Madonna — I think it’s been stuck in my head for two months now.
Tacocat on tour:
02/05 NOTTINGHAM, JT Soar
03/05 EDINBURGH, Electric Circus
04/05 GLASGOW, Broadcast
05/05 CARDIFF, Moon Club
06/05 BRIGHTON, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
07/05 LONDON, Lexington