PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp
IT has been a ball speaking with Sharkmuffin…
PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp
about their sound and the vibe in camp. They have a new song, Your Stupid Life, out but I speak to them about their previous cut, Liz Taylor. The band discuss their tastes and which new artists we should keep an eye out for – they reveal some U.K. dates and talk about their love for the country.
I ask Sharkmuffin about their early musical experiences and whether they feel women in modern music are told how to play and look; how they all unwind away from music; if they have any advice for artists coming through – the band each select a song to end things with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Tarra Thiessen: Good! I was at the Jersey shore for the fourth of July and ate some Taco Bell on the way back from the beach - and my insides are feeling a little weird now.
Natalie Kirch: Great! Very full! I finished teaching for the year and pretty much went straight to the beach to relax with my family and BBQ; then, hopped to another beach to spend some time with friends and listen to some music.
Jordyn Blakely: I’m good. Drinking my first coffee of today, which is one of my favorite moments of the day! I went to the beach a lot last week with a friend, and my mom visited me over the weekend. I love summer because I get to see friends more often.
IMAGE CREDIT: Cult Days
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
TT: I'm Tarra - I sing and play guitar.
NK: I’m Natalie - I sing harmonies and play bass guitar.
JB: I’m Jordyn and I play drums! I sing backup vox sometimes, too.
Can you talk about Liz Taylor and the song’s origins? How did it come together?
TT: My mom has been wearing Liz Taylor’s white diamonds perfume since I was a child and it’s impossible to wash that smell out of clothing, so everything always smells like that when I go home. But, she actually she texted me the other day and said she’s going to start wearing less of it! So, that was an unexpected result of the new song.
When did Sharkmuffin get together? How did you meet? Is there a story behind the band name, too?
Natalie and I met and began playing with each other six years ago and we met Jordyn while she was drumming for a band called Butter the Children in 2012. Sharkmuffin has had a very colorful cast of drummers over the years (you can find all of their faces, including Jordyn’s, on the cover of our first record, Chartreuse) and we’re so happy to be playing and touring with her again!
NK: Tarra came up with the band name and since we have heard of many associations and rumors that came along with it. Even if none of them is true; it’s fun to hear what our friends, fans and critics come up with - so I don’t want to burst any bubbles! Tarra and I are about to celebrate the sixth year since our first show together (and my first show ever) on July 14th, 2018. Jordyn was one of the first few friends to drum for us and we are thrilled that she’s back in the band and able to tour and record with us now.
JB: I’ve played with Sharkmuffin off and on over the years and have been friends with them since I was new to the music scene in N.Y.C.; so it’s exciting to be more involved with them musically and get to know them better!
It seems you have plenty of ambition, drive and spunk. Do you think too many female artists are told how to play/look? Do you think changes need to come in?
TT: I don’t have any specific memories of anyone directly telling me how to look/play but I feel like social media, in general, can breed an anxiety that everyone else is doing better than you – which can seep into your unconscious and influence your aesthetic in a way that it may not have gone. But, it’s definitely positive to be inspired by your peers and to feel like we’re all in it together.
We’re the first generation of musicians to have such a direct way to promote our shows and music and create a community around it - and that change in the music industry itself is really positive and leaves room for everyone to have a unique voice. Everyone in the music community we’re a part of has been super-supportive of us and I’m really grateful for that!
NK: I agree with Tarra! I think that, being a woman, you will most likely encounter some subtle attempts to subdue or reconstruct your ‘image’ or tone. However, we have been lucky enough to perform how we want to and create what we want to and, for the most part, we have been surrounded by positive and proactive people.
JB: Totally. I feel there is intense pressure for women to be ‘hot’ and that that is more important than their talents, thoughts and feelings they’re trying to communicate through their work. In the entertainment industry, this is especially emphasized but I think you just have to believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing and know that what you’re creating is more important than how much you appeal, sexually, to a group of people. If the right audience is listening, then your appearance shouldn’t be the most important thing.
PHOTO CREDIT: @mixtapemyheart
I get a sense you mix a love of the West Coast sounds of the 1960s; bits of Riot Girrrl and the Grunge movement of the 1990s. Is that a reflection of the artists you grew up around?
TT: Yes ! I grew up listening to The Ventures, Dick Dale; Nirvana, Bikini Kill and The Beach Boys. I also love '70s classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Garage-Rock bands in the early-'00s like The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
NK: Definitely! My parents played a lot of Classic Rock like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles; Beach Boys and David Bowie growing up but also Motown/female-fronted Pop acts like The Supremes or The Shirelles. I discovered a lot of the Grunge and Punk-era bands like Nirvana, Bikini Kill; Blondie, Hole; Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth; Pixies, The New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders (and so forth) on my own.
I don’t like listing bands like that because I always forget some huge influences, but oh well! I also really like The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Tarra and I realized early on that we had very similar tastes; although I think she adds more of a surf tone to the guitar inspired by some of the Cali acts - and I add a lot of raw simple sludge like the East Coast Punk artists.
JB: I also was obsessed with Nirvana and Led Zeppelin when I started playing drums and loved Classic Rock stuff like Jimi Hendrix, Queen; The Doors, The Beatles; Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath…I also loved Punk and Pop-Punk when I was new to playing music like Rancid, Operation Ivy; The Distillers, The Casualties; NOFX, MXPX and Minor Threat. It’s been fun to revisit these earlier influences in my playing – plus, Sharkmuffin introduces me to new music and bands that I wasn’t aware of back then.
PHOTO CREDIT: @mixtapemyheart
Is there a pretty varied scene in Brooklyn right now? How does it compare to the other New York boroughs in terms of sound and tone?
NK: I think it’s varied in terms of genre but we would like to see some more of a convergence between different types of music and more cultural diversity within the genres.
JB: It’s such a large environment with so many participants, so it’s kinda like a lot of smaller circles that Venn diagram into one another and all connect since we’re all in the same place, sharing the same venues and audiences. I like that because it gives ‘the scene’ some diversity and it feels like there is a sense of togetherness. I guess it varies in terms of different genres or instrumentation. I’m not around there enough to know, but it seems like Manhattan has a more D.J.-oriented scene with less prominence of live performance.
What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?
TT: Write and record our third L.P.!
NK: Ditto that!
JB: Yay. I’m down!
Have you all got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
TT: It was really amazing playing last year at Mello Fest in the U.K. and we met Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin backstage. That was nuts! Also; our first record release at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn was one of my favorite shows ever.
NK: Both of those times were incredible moments for me! Also; recording at the Record Plant (everyone treated us like queens there) and with Patty was a definite highlight. She was a big inspiration to us growing up, so it was cool to play with her. She was also very down-to-earth and easy-going.
JB: We played a show opening for HINDS earlier this year and it’s always exhilarating to play a big show like that; it still feels new. The audience was really fun and welcoming. I love meeting new people. It was a learning experience for me to be in such a different setting. Also; playing Brooklyn Bazaar with Gym Shorts was cool. I got so hyped on that band after seeing them! There was someone giving free tattoos during the show, which was hilarious and weird and I love playing shows that are weird.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
TT: The Breeders. I just want a bowl of unwrapped fruit punch Starbursts to eat after our set.
NK: The Breeders, for sure! Lots of sparkling water, chips; hummus and hot sauce to add to that.
JB: The Breeders would be amazing! Autolux would be a dream come true. Lots of candy, beer and cheese backstage, please! That sounds kinda gross all together - but I love those things individually.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
TT: Do not take anything (criticism, inter-band drama etc.) personally. Appreciate everyone’s time and energy involved in your project, no matter how small.
NK: it sounds cliché but clichés exist for a reason - believe that you can do it. Always be grateful to the people that support you, both within your band and in the wider scheme of things.
JB: Yes I agree with those! Try to keep going even if you feel discouraged or encounter rejection, which will happen. Listen to yourself regarding what you want: you won’t please everybody and you can’t control what people think of you.
IMAGE CREDIT: Megan Mosher
Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?
Our U.K. dates are:
7/27 PORT ELLIOT FESTIVAL
7/28 THE COTSWOLD INN, CHELTENHAM
7/31 GWIDHW, CARDIFF
8/1 AL'S DIME BAR, BRADFORD
8/2 THE CRYPT, NORWICH
8/3 THE GREEN DOOR STORE, BRIGHTON
8/4 THE ANGEL, NOTTINGHAM
8/6 THE UNDERGROUND, STOKE
8/7 THE LOCK KEEPER, CHESTER
8/8 NIGHT & DAY, MANCHESTER
8/9 THE PARISH, HUDDERSFIELD
8/10 SEBRIGHT ARMS, LONDON
8/11 THE SWAN, IPSWICH
I believe you are coming to the U.K. to perform. Are you quite prepared for our stiff upper lips, weak beer and dissolving Government?!
TT: I like whiskey. Do you have whiskey there?! You know who our President is so I think we’re ready for anything!
NK: We love the U.K.! Everyone was so kind to us our first round there and the country is really beautiful.
JB: I’m really excited to explore new cities in the U.K. I haven’t visited before. I feel I have a lot to learn in regards to the mannerisms there; British are always so polite but I can’t tell if they just secretly hate you. Haha. But, I can understand why everyone would hate Americans right now, sadly.
Have you performed over here? Do you like British sounds?
TT: Natalie and I came last year with a different Sharkmuffin line-up and we loved a lot of the bands we played with. We played The Great Escape last year in Brighton with PINS and played again on our last night of tour with Pussy Liquor at Green Door Store. We’re playing at Green Door Store again on August 3rd!
NK: Yes. We had such an amazing time meeting everyone over there and traveling around the country.
JB: I’ve played in the U.K. with a band called Wardell and another time with Kino Kimino. My favorite show was at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh (with K.K.). The bands were all great and the audience and the venue were so friendly! This is my first time with Sharkmuffin though. It blows my mind how ancient some of the castles there are; they were so well-built!
IN THIS PHOTO: Lola Pistola/PHOTO CREDIT: Kaya Yvsi
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
TT: There are so many great bands in N.Y.C. right now like Def.Grls, Tall Juan; Lola Pistola, Sloppy Jane and Fruit & Flowers (who just came to the U.K. last month as well).
NK: All of those bands are great. Also; Lost Boy ?, Kino Kimino (that Tarra and Jordyn also play in); Haybaby, The Big Drops; THICK, Grim Streaker; Holy Tunics, Sic Tic; BIG UPS, Gustaf; New Myths, Dentist; The Off White. So many more. SO MANY!
JB: Big Cheese, The 94 Knicks; Poppies, NOICE; Free $$$, Yazan; Ovlov, Sean Henry and Anna Altman!
IN THIS PHOTO: Kino Kimmino/PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Ignatius
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
TT: Natalie’s family has a really lovely house at the Jersey Shore. Last time I was there I found a baby praying mantis on a donut pool tube and that was magical. I drank a glass of wine while floating around the pool for like an hour after that.
NK: Yes. That house is our place of zen. My cats and my parents’ cats also roam free on the lawn so there’s also adorable fluffies in addition to the water. I saw a baby seagull today - he was really cute and I was worried about him but then he made his fledgeling flight. The original house was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but some of Tarra and my first collaborations were in my old room at the original house.
JB: Not lately, but I’m really enjoying everything I’m doing musically! When I’m trying to tune out I watch movies or T.V. with friends, go on walks; cook with my roommates, play in my backyard with my cat; read books, color in coloring books. Going to shows and jamming with friends is a big way that I unwind, so, maybe I need more hobbies. Haha.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
TT: DRINKS - Real Outside
NK: Lost Boy ? - Taste Butter
JB: Cleaners from Venus - Only a Shadow
PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTO CREDIT: @mixtapemyheart