After accidently catching one of their sets at SXSW this year, I fell in love with Seattle feminist punk band Tacocat. Their third album Lost Time was released back in April, featuring songs that are impossibly catchy and fun, but also have a message. I was very happy to have the chance to sit down for a chat with the foursome of Emily Nokes (vocals), Eric Randall (guitar), Lelah Maupin (drums), and Bree McKenna (bass) at Spice House Sound in Philadelphia, PA, where they also recorded a live performance for another FMQB SubModern Session.
FMQB: You’re certainly not a new band, but I think it’s fair to say that Lost Time is breakthrough for you in that a lot of people, myself included, are just becoming aware of Tacocat now. Do you think it’s also a breakthrough in your sound and music accomplishment.
Emily Nokes: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s the best we’ve ever done.
Bree McKenna: I think all our albums progess off each other as we grow as musicians. We’re definitely not doing the same thing over and over.
Lelah Maupin: But this one definitely has a sound quality that I could tell when we first did the recordings. I was like, “Whoa! Well, that’s different. That’s the next level!”
Eric Randall: Which has to do with our friend Eric Blood who produced it. It was the first time that we ever had a producer. Somebody who had input into stuff like backup vocals and things like that. We wrote it all over the four months before we started recording it. So we kind of came in as we were just finishing up a lot of these songs and we gave him demos with no vocals. He had very little to go off of. We kind of brought a pile of songs and threw them on the floor and were like, “Alright, sort this out.” Some of my favorite songs were songs that I wasn’t necessarily excited about, that I thought were maybe weaker tracks, and his production really brought a lot to the table.
EN: Yeah, for sure.
FMQB: A question that I have about the band relates to the progression of my experience with Tacocat. I saw you at the show, and it was a lot of fun. You’re very lively and colorful, both figuratively and literally. And then you listen more and start hearing in the lyrics that you’re singing about issues. Is that a goal of yours to not make it overt? You draw people in with the experience and then they get it?
EN: Yeah, I would definitely say so. When we first started our lyrics were pretty straightforward, or just almost like joking. It was kind of like, “I’m just gonna scream about this,” but as we’ve progressed as songwriters, it’s become more of a nuanced process, and less of like “I’m just gonna write a punk song that’s funny.”
FMQB: I saw somewhere, and I don’t know if it was you who coined the term, “fun feminism,” which I think is a perfect description.
EN: Oh yeah!
FMQB: One of the songs you played, “The Internet,” is a good example. Is that coming from a personal experience of having to deal with people like that [internet trolls]?
ER: Bree got it the worst.
BM: Oh yeah, my other band Childbirth got really extreme internet comments. It was like rape threats and really graphic stuff that you just can’t ignore. That band is a little more sexually explicit and I think internet trolls find that as an invite to make extreme threats and that kind of thing. It’s really gross and terrible how internet culture can be this unmoderated, nasty playground for trolls to make threats against women and queer people. It’s just really scary.
FMQB: Ugh. Yeah, there are horrible things and horrible people on the internet. But there are good people as well! I saw that the other night you did an Twitter Q&A, and I hope the good people came out for that.
LM: Yeah, good people did come out for that!
EN: That was so funny! It was really cute!
LM: We did not get trolled on the Q&A!
FMQB: Let’s talk about another song that you played – “Dana Katherine Scully.” Obviously it’s based on The X-Files character, and the album title Lost Time is also an X-Files reference?
EN: Yeah, we like The X-Files. I had just started re-watching all of the old ones around the time that we were writing the album and I just thought, “What a fantastic character!” I didn’t really notice when when I was younger, I really liked her, but I didn’t pick up on how she’s a very feminist badass in the math and science departments, which is not a common 90’s feminist role model. Yeah, she’s amazing.
FMQB: A while ago I saw that Mitch Pileggi [Skinner] tweeted about the song.
EN: He did!
ER: So did Gillian Anderson!
FMQB: Oh she did?!
EN: Yeah she tweeted, “Scully got her own song!” It was the best day of our lives!
FMQB: Somewhat related, you also did the theme song for the new Powerpuff Girls cartoon. I feel like their positive message to young girls ties in to what your band is all about.
EN: Totally. They said with the new one, it has an even more feminist bend, and that was some of the ideas they were throwing at us at the beginning. And we were like, “oh that’s cool, we can sign on for that.”
BM: It’s funny because we ended up going to San Diego Comic-Con and we got in a Powerpuff Girls comic book. My niece thinks I’m really cool now. She’s five.
FMQB: Does that bring a lot of younger kids to your shows?
ER: We’ve been playing more all ages stuff and it’s cool. We played a festival in Seattle recently and there were two ten year old girls and they were adorable. Emily brought them on stage and they started doing the dance from our “Crimson Wave” music video. I almost fell over, it was so cute!
EN: They were wearing handmade Tacocat shirts! It was sooooo cute!
By Josh T. Landow