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Tacocat: The One Stop Guide To Your New Favourite Band

Thursday, 12 May 2016 Written by Laura Johnson

Summer is finally here, so you’ll be needing a new favourite band to be getting on with. Look no further than Tacocat. Since getting together just under a decade ago, the Seattle pop-punks have put out three albums, four EPs and two tapes, culminating in the recently-released ‘Lost Time’.

That record may have been the first you’d heard of the feminist four-piece unless you’re a fan of the Powerpuff Girls, in which case you probably have the new theme song they recorded for the Cartoon Network show earlier this year down already.

You might also have seen them pop up on MTV last year discussing the similarities between their video for ‘NVM’ cut Crimson Wave and Katy Perry’s meme-goldmine of a Super Bowl half-time show (Katy, they’re still after that sleepover btw), heard grumblings about their unabashed period-positive tracks or seen the video for Dana Katherine Scully, the band’s homage to Gillian Anderson’s iconic X-Files character.

We joined singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Eric Randall and drummer Lelah Maupin prior to their show at the Moon Club in Cardiff for a Wetherspoons Curry Club and a few cheeky vodkas with one aim: finding out exactly what it is that makes this cat-loving group of individuals tick. See below for your one stop guide to the colourful world of Tacocat, from Kevin Costner to Bernie Sanders.


Emily: I did not grow up with a TV but I loved to witness television because of that. At friends’ or a grandparent’s house I was really drawn to it because I didn’t have it all the time. It was sort of like [that] with sugar too. My mom was like: “No sugar.” Now I’m just like, any sugar I can get! I was just a consumer of pop culture from young age.

Eric: Lelah and I really grew up on MTV. From the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. My earliest memories of TV are MTV.

Lelah: I remember watching the Sledgehammer video when I was like five.

True or false: you bonded over a mutual love of Waterworld.

Lelah and Emily: Fact!

Bree: So, we wrote a song called Dry Land Is A Myth about how Kevin Costner actually dies in Waterworld.  It’s a bit muddled, because I remember that song started out about Princess Di. “Why, why, why, Kevin Costner did you die?” originally was “Something, something, Princess Di, Princess Di.”

Emily: We just didn’t wanna rhyme Di with die.


Emily: Lelah and I met in visual arts school. We went to school for graphic design. I do feel when we’re designing the album cover and stuff that it ties in with the music. It’s like: “This feels like this colour.” I always talk about the albums in terms of colours. Our first album was bright yellow and our second album was pinkish, this one’s definitely darker purple with glitter in it.

I feel like it’s a huge part. It’s really important to us. We couldn’t really have anyone else execute it quite right I don’t think. We love to be involved in the music video part. Lelah and I are actually trying to learn how to do it ourselves. We made the Scully video ourselves on our iPhones. It was our first time doing anything like that. Lelah totally got into the editing of it on iMovie.


Emily: I think it comes from our feminist sensibilities. You have to care, I guess. In this day and age there’s things like abortion coming up, and all sorts of people trying to take away women’s rights, so it’s hard not to have a political bent, or feel like: “Oh, it’s OK. I’m privileged enough not to care.”

Bree: Black Lives Matter in the US is a really big deal and all that stuff is sort of aligned with what Bernie has been doing in America. We ended up getting asked to play his rally [at Seattle’s Safeco Field] and we were really excited to do it. It was awesome.

Emily: They emailed us 48 hours in advance and were like: “We have to clear you with the secret service.”

Bree: It was a big deal, there were like 15-20,000 people there. We definitely didn’t volunteer. We were really busy getting ready to go on this tour. We were like: “We absolutely don’t have time to do that.” They were like: “This is the Bernie rally at Safeco!” OK, we have to do that.


Bree: For me it was when I was a teenager. I started reading stuff about it and it started clicking. But I discovered riot grrrl by listening to shared streaming services like Napster and Kazaa, and that really clicked with me and was more my real interest in music. I was not very involved in it until I got into that.

Emily: I remember not knowing that there was a word for that feeling of “why does it have to be like this?”. I grew up in Montana, which is more conservative but also very sparsely populated. It was old fashioned and I remember thinking: “This doesn’t make any sense.” When I read essays by women about feminism I was like: “Oh, my gosh!’ It was definitely not taught in school. After that I was seeking it out.

Bree: We’ve seen incredible, massive change. Especially in the last three years. We’ve been a band for nine years, and nine years ago we were getting a lot of people being like: “Oh, I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” Which is not what it means. Or how men in the industry would treat us, which is pretty disrespectful and not OK.

The mainstream way to write about women in bands was something that really bothered me, which is way less prominent now. Talk about what they look like, or their hair, or kept saying girl-fronted, or compare you to other women in bands who don’t sound like you but you all have vaginas so it’s the same. And then just men that we would play with or men in clubs we would work at, it was just small things that would feel really degrading.

Eric: A lot of people assume they need to talk to me about everything. They wanna pay me. And I’m like: “No, I don’t touch the money.” If I had the money, that would be gone real fast. It’s weird when someone asks me a question that relates to everybody else and not me. It’s like I’m a translator, I speak women I guess.

Bree: I know other bands don’t like to talk about it a lot. Some bands maybe have a different experience than us. I like to talk about it because I think it’s important. I feel genuinely that we’ve been part of the process of changing things, especially on our circuit in America, on the DIY punk scene. It’s part of a bigger conversation of community and change. And you can really change things by talking about them a lot.


Emily: I think it just comes naturally. We couldn’t be that serious if we tried. It’s how we operate in the world anyway. It’s hard to strike that balance though, between joke band and serious. It’s always kind of a struggle with lyrics and things.

Eric: It’s amazing how few people understand satire. It’s like you said, make fun of it to make it seem ridiculous. It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life.

Emily: And it’s so much more powerful than screaming.


Emily: It’s a little bit love-hate, because right now it’s getting taken over by tech rich people building condos and tearing things down.

Bree: Everyone’s getting priced out. We live in a queer artist neighbourhood that got super cool to people in the tech industry and everyone wants to live there now. It’s sad to watch it go.

Eric: They’re tearing down everything that’s fun about it.

Emily: But Seattle made us who we are. We always thought maybe we’ll move to New York, or maybe we’ll move to LA...but it was cheap enough for us. It was a small enough community to be able to change things around us, I guess. When we first came up there was a lot of men, a lot of dude energy everywhere, and it did feel like something that we could actually have a say in.  

I think in a bigger community it’s more competitive. You sort of get lost in the shuffle. Seattle has always been good to its artists. It’s a little smaller, and it’s beautiful, and it rains all the time, and it’s depressing, but then you get to stay inside and come up with ideas. You’re not at the beach every day, you’re inside and that’s fine. You’re watching The X-Files.


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