Tamaryn is the neo-psych pop star we've been waiting for
Tamaryn, the neo-psychedelic vocalist behind the eponymous band, sits in front of me in an all black ensemble and kombucha in hand. She may be two albums deep into her career, but the New Zealand born, NY transplant tells me that she’s finally created the record she’s always dreamt of making. Although her signature ethereal voice still looms throughout the three singles that have been released so far, something’s different this time around. Tamaryn’s no longer blending into the landscape, or hiding behind her hair, as she’s done in the past. She’s taken her shoegaze tone and fiery spirit to new lengths and new domains, becoming the bona fide pop star we’ve all been waiting for.
The empowered red-head is not one to stray from the truth or speak with her tongue in her cheek, which makes interviewing her all the more interesting. With only a month until the release of her forthcoming album Cranekiss, the songstress stops by Milk Studios to talk about her evolution as a performer, her obsession with Depeche Mode, and tripping on shrooms.
Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming album. Is there anything you’ve learned since your last album?
In the visual sense, yeah. I’ve definitely been exploring more of a pop sensibility and being less shrouded in mystery of sorts— kind of kidding [laughs]. I think on my first two albums I was really interested in just sort of using myself as a vessel of creativity that wasn’t necessarily about me. It was more that I was this feminine archetype that was contextualizing everything we were doing musically, so I always felt really inclined to be small in the photos, or in a big landscape, or have my hair in my face to make room for people to fill in the blanks because I always thought that great art left a little bit of questions for people to answer themselves. This time around, though, I think I’ve decided that I want to explore territory I’ve never done before, which means putting myself out there more and having more of a synthesis between my personal life, my personality and the art that I make. Now there’s no divide. There’s no where to hide which is a little bit scarier, but it’s also a lot more fun for things visually, like performing live or doing fashion shoots and things like that. It’s more exciting.
Do you think that sense of liberation has changed the direction you want your music to go?
I’ve always been interested in the visual side of being a performer, being in music, but that the music I was making previously warranted more of a mystery, but this record is I’ve always wanted to make, so it’s not like it’s a new idea that I just came up with suddenly. It’s been a natural evolution of writing the best songs that I can and integrating all of the emotions, aesthetics and sounds that I’ve always loved since I was a kid. Just getting better at it and curating people in a way to make a different kind of thing. So now that the music is so different, it just warrants a different imagery. If I had done this before, it wouldn’t have fit.
You talk about this ‘Girl in Band’ persona. What does that mean to you?
I’ve noticed that a lot of my peers get put off by the question of ‘What it’s like to be a girl in a band?’ because inherently, the nature of feminism is about equality so you want to be considered what you are — an artist, a performer. But for me, particularly with my music, I’m super focused on what it means to be a woman and speaking from a woman’s point of view. So I find that super inspiring, I’m tired of hearing guys say the same things for thousands of years. Their time has been spent repeating some pretty similar stories and I think that now it’s a whole new era for women to have a voice and I think what they’re saying is much more interesting. You have to own it. It is different being a woman. It’s not lesser, it’s just other.
A bunch of your older videos have this super psychedelic vibe. Do you have any funny experiences with psychedelics?
It’s funny I actually get this question a lot. I went to a cabin in the Catskills last summer, took a bunch of mushrooms. I took a lot more than I would have because I discovered that if you take a lot more, there are all these other levels that you can get to. The last level is ego death where you have no sense of being a body of mass at all. I wasn’t there, but I did get to the step before that. I had a kimono draped over my chair and it turned into my dog and started talking to me. I was seeing these 3D kaleidoscopic reptilian designs, I was like in the matrix. But the one things that bums me out psychedelics or particularly mushrooms is why do you have to see the Haight Street poster! I’m always like why do you always have to see that cheesy sticker that’s on the dead heads truck? Isn’t my own mind gonna come up with something more interesting? But I think there’s some sort of message encoded into mushrooms, and it seems to be about aliens and reptiles. It has something to do with outer space. I don’t have any interest in those things, so when I take psychedelics I completely lose my mind and enjoy being completely insane [laughs]
So you said a few years ago that you weren’t very into touring. Do you think that’s changed at all since with this new kind of evolution?
I definitely want to tour more, I want to work more in general. As far as I can see, everyone that came into the situation, as far as record labels and the business side of it, they were the ones who wanted us to tour. I never really cared about it, I was much more interested in the records. But we toured a little bit, and I didn’t have the best time on tour. It took me a little while to figure it out. But this time around, it’s pretty much the opposite. I want to tour as much as possible. I want to make as much imagery as possible. I want to fully commit to the experience of what I’ve created with this album.
What’s it like being in a music collab? Is it ever challenging to meet both of your tastes?
For the most part I think collaboration can be really challenging. Up until this album, nothing I’d ever done has been was easy or really even that fun, but I’ve been really proud of it. I’ve always been that kind of person that stresses out a lot and feeds off of stress. I was inspired by fear, and painful emotions and things like that. This experience of making Cranekiss was the first time I’d ever done anything that was pretty easy and flowed creatively. Although it can be really challenging, I think collaboration is what interests me and inspires me the most. I think the road to doing a great work is by bringing a combination of even 2 people to take you outside of yourself and break your own rules. Seeing what you do through someone else’s eyes can be so magical. It can help you create something you had no idea you had the ability to do so, which is what happened in this situation.
Is there a dream musician you’d love to collaborate with?
Yeah, Martin Gore from Depeche Mode. He’s my favorite songwriter and I actually just interviewed him for a magazine and I’m trying to lay the groundwork to convince him one day [laughs]
Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
Well right now I’m in a major Depeche Mode karaoke thing, where I get my friends together and we go to karaoke and I militantly enforce that only Depeche Mode can be sung. And I like to do songs from Songs of Faith and Devotion, particularly ‘Condom Nation’.
Are there any crazy memories you have from being on stage?
Not particularly. I mean I’ve had plenty of onstage experiences where I was ill, sick, hungover and had to have a bucket on stage in case I vomitted, but no JFK assassinations or anything like that.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Just stressing the fuck out.
Cranekiss comes out 8/28
Tamaryn photographed exclusively for Milk Made by Carlos Santolalla