Signed to Metropolis Records, Tashaki Miyaki offered us past April their debut album ‘The Dream’. As Dazed & Confused mag describes: “Menace and mystery surround this female Jesus and Mary Chain, whose vocals cut like honey-coated razor blades. The vocals are from the Debbie Harry school of sounding sweet and then kicking your face in. They put the ‘psycho’ and ‘candy’ into Psychocandy.” 1,2,3…. Go!
Thanks so much for the interview. I have to confess that in a period of my life when I bought every vinyl around, out of my girlfriend’s despair, I was quite impressed by your first two 7’s, plus the amazing and unusual choice to cover the Everly Brothers and that Japanese name (that I’m still continuing to mispell), a mix between my beloved movie director and a perfume, did the rest; then unfortunately you disappeared from my radar until last January… So let’s start from that time, your early days, when and where did you first encounter? Your early influences and inspirations…
I met Luke walking down the street in Hollywood in 2004. He was with a guy I went to high school with. We started talking and almost instantly agreed to make music together. There were various experiments before we arrived at Tashaki Miyaki. Tashaki Miyaki was the result of a jam that took place at Joel Jerome‘s studio on 24th and Normandie in 2011. I had just taught myself drums and had been writing a bunch and wanted to hear what the songs would sound like recorded. There wasn’t a plan for a band or a name or anything. Those recordings became our first EP. Sandi joined the band in 2014 or 2015 (I’m so bad with time) after our original bassist Dora left to pursue other interests. I met Sandi at Echo Park Rising watching Cherry Glazerr.
As for influences and inspirations….I’m influenced by so many things both musical and non-musical it’s really difficult to make a list. But some all time musical favorites are Neil Young, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana and just anything really beautiful like Harry Belafonte or Sam Cooke or Eric Satie. I love beautiful singers and strong, singular expression. I love art and writing too. I love things made in or about LA…David Hockney, Joan Didion, Eve Babitz….and I love Agnes Martin and James Turrell. And we also collectively love films… every type of film really. We watch everything.
What do you most admire about each other?
I am answering these questions alone so I will tell you what I admire about my bandmates. Luke is hilarious and very jovial and can make anyone crack up. He’s also rather serious about professionalism and performance which keeps us on our toes. I appreciate his affinity for onesies. Sandi is very sweet and sensitive and she works really hard and is always challenging herself as a musician. She has excellent taste and style and is just an all around lovely person. She’s also really into health with I love. Both of my bandmates are very supportive and encouraging and we have a very safe, open space with each other creatively which I am super grateful for. I feel like they will support my leadership and creative decisions-even if I make really left field decisions.
When you look back at your childhood/teenage years, can you discover any early examples of being interested in what concerns your art at the moment? Do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music and other forms of art and your early inspirations?
I was always interested in art. I thought I was going to go to art school to do fine art- drawing, painting, & mixed media. I had a portfolio together and was interviewing with schools when I realized I wasn’t that good. I would see other people’s work and be blown away and I realized that wasn’t my calling. After some time I realized I was more of a performer and I also wanted to write. I didn’t really know how those things would come together. I have always been very interested in minimalism and space. I started writing poetry, plays, and short stories and went to school for theatre and play writing and music. I was really into the idea of experimental theatre and the place where performance art and theatre intersect. After college, I was working as an actress and taking acting class when this band started. Suddenly, I became very distracted from that work and only wanted to make music. I left class around the time this band began to tour. I still am very interested in minimalism and space within a rich sonic landscape. I am interested in filling space and leaving space. I was at the Whitney a couple years ago when the Jeff Koonz retrospective was up, and after you walked through that it lead to a room that was filled with Agnes Martin‘s paintings. The ones that are all white and cream. I sat down in that room and cried and realized at that moment, she had created in a painting the exact feeling (for me) that I wanted to express in music. I don’t know how else to describe it. Her work is intricate and simple and beautiful and soft. It feels connected to nature and the sky. It fills the canvas yet is sparse and gentle but still powerful and rich. I am still chasing how to capture this feeling sonically.
Do you feel part of the current L.A. underground music community? What are its essential reference points as DIY labels, venues, record shops, areas? In this respect I’ve recently read about the importance of the Albini-alike recording approach by producer, musician and your good friend and collaborator Joel Jerome for a lot of bands.
I don’t really feel part of a scene. I don’t really know what the scene is to be honest…it feels fragmented to me. There’s a lot of people I see pushing their work like really pushing it, but I don’t feel part of an exchange of ideas or a movement. I don’t really see that happening in greater sense. I am very close to Joel and he’s a regular collaborator of mine and of the band. We will be working together again in the near future. I like that there are lots of DIY labels and record shops. DIY is mostly very pure and I like that. We have put out 2 tapes on Burger Records and I appreciate their DIY vibe. It speaks to my punk rock spirit. I find most of the music industry quite negative and very limited in its thinking. It’s corrupted. It’s full of exploitation and greed and bad ideas. My desire is to be sustainable as a band. To be able to keep making records and sharing them. It’s difficult to find sustainability with DIY since now everyone wants everything for free, which is a great problem- it seems people don’t value music anymore. It costs money to make music and record, and the time invested is very great. I wish more people would understand that. Ideally, you don’t have to have a second job, you can just put all your energy into music. But for most of us that’s not the case. You have a second or third job to pay your rent and support yourself and put anything extra into recording music and buying gear, etc. Sometimes bigger labels are needed since they help reach a larger audience and can help artists find sustainability.
For many youngsters you’ll be regarded as ‘old school musicians’ to be taken as a reference point, did any bands and artists, who are just starting out in music, ask you for any advice or help? What are your favourite new young talented and promising bands/artists you’re looking closely.
I don’t really know what it means to be an ‘‘old school musician’’. Does that mean we play real instruments? To me our band is still pretty new as we just put out our 1st full length record this year and we only started playing live in 2012. But I guess for really young kids and teens that’s like a large chunk of their life. I haven’t really been asked for help per say, but I spent some time working with Clem Creevy from Cherry Glazerr. We met when she was super young, like 13 or 14 and she would come to my rehearsal space and jam and show me her songs. I taught her some technical stuff and took her into the studio and played on her early recordings and recorded them with Joel Jerome. I was a mentor of sorts, a musical big sister. I’m currently producing a yet unheard artist, Malcolm McRae. He’s more of a singer-songwriter in the classic sense. He sings like the angel of Sun Records. I don’t know many newer bands but we recently played some shows with DIIV, and the other opening band The Paranoyds– I think they are a newer band- they are great.
A few months ago you had a monthly residency at the Echoplex, you seemed so excited about it like an endless party time. In Europe we’re not used to it, we just copy the worst things from your country, can you explain what does it mean a residency for a band? Does it could be considered as a training for a next proper tour?
A residency is playing in the same space repeatedly. You could do it for a month or if you wanted you could do it endlessly. Jon Brion has been playing in LA at Largo on Fridays for like the past 20 years. Another friend of ours Austin McCutchen has been playing with his band locally at the Griffin on Tuesdays for something like 2 years. I think a residency can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a preparation for a tour, a showcase, a celebration of an album release. In our case it was both to celebrate our record coming out and to do something we could only do in our hometown. We hired a string quartet and expanded our band to include backup singers, keys, percussion, and a second guitarist. We essentially played the record live. At the stage we are in our career, we couldn’t afford to tour with such a large band, so it was special.
You often talk about your real (effectively known) and ideal mentors, which are they?
I am lucky to have real life mentors and I think that’s essential for creative people. It’s so nice to have someone older, that’s been there to talk to about struggles or challenges or questions and to celebrate good things as well. I’m not going to list my real life mentors because that seems weird. My imagined mentor is Neil Young. I admire his body of work and the way he has transitioned through the different ages of life and times. He’s poetic and lovely and true to himself. He still slays live. Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Jim Jarmusch, John Cale, David Lynch are also very special to me as imagined mentors, but Neil is my guy. I call him Uncle Neil. He’s like the best Uncle I’ve never met.
What was the gig that had the greatest impact on you and changed your perspective of how you saw rock & roll?
Probably seeing The White Stripes at the apex of their moment. Jack White is such a magical guitarist. He’s fearless. I saw a person who was so free with his instrument. I love all the different ways he can make the guitar sound. The White Stripes were exciting and raw. More recently… I saw Nick Cave play at Greece and I’ve seen him many times but this show was incredible. It really moved me deep in my guts. I cried throughout the whole show. It made me want to find a drummer so I can saunter around stage like Nick Cave. What a powerful man. A true legend.
Most of mainstream music on the radio, television etc. is so bloody awful and unlistenable nowadays. It’s also been a long time since a high energetic wild band breaks into the mainstream, maybe the last ones were Nirvana… Do you think the threat and the relevance of music has been lost in these frenetic, liquid and superficial days?
I agree that Nirvana was the last band to be that huge and break through on that level, The White Stripes were close. I think even in great moments of culture like the 70’s or the 90’s when the popular things were actually good, there were still superficial garbage things. Culture is cyclical. If the pattern repeats then we are just about due for the next band that’s going to surprise us. Things do break through that are actually good sometimes. Björk, Beck, Nirvana, Mazzy Star, The White Stripes, Nick Cave- these are all examples. It can happen again.
Can you talk about your need to slowly develop your sound organically and naturally without forcing it? Did you also have moments when you felt the pressure and wanted to give up on music?
I don’t know what other way there would be than to develop your sound naturally. To me that is the only way to do something. I don’t know other ways. I never want to give up making music, but I definitely feel like not publicly making it sometimes. I ran into an old friend the other night at a party. He used to make movies and music for the public. He told me he doesn’t do that anymore because he’s found other ways to make money. He still makes movies and music all the time but he doesn’t share them. I understand. The public is often quite awful. Especially this moment in America. Look at us. We collectively elected Trump. I will probably always release music, but I long to find a way to do it on my own terms without the business involved.
Finally your beautiful, not just my humble opinion, long-awaited debut full length album came true appropriately titled ‘The Dream’. Please, could you provide to our readers a deep insight into it? How and when the songs took shape and were they written and developed in the years? Did you have an all-encompassing vibe/building feeling you wanted to portray?
I wrote all the songs on the record from 2010-2012. I was just writing about my life and feelings. We recorded the basic tracks in 2012 and then I added overdubs and strings in my spare time from 2013-2014. The record was completely done in 2014. We toyed with mixes a bit but it was done. It sat for a while because we struggled with what to do with it. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this interview, I’m pretty nonplussed with the current vibe of the music business. We ultimately decided to put it out on a label. As far as the feeling of the record-I tend to let the songs speak for themselves. They call for what they call for. The sound of the band is essentially what we sound like playing together. We don’t over think things or talk much about it. For the arrangements, I knew I wanted strings on the record and I knew I wanted it to be my version of wall of sound. I often arrange on the spot, and that’s what much of the arrangements are, ideas I came up with in the moment. I also take the roughs home each night and listen to them and that’s another time I think of what needs to be added. I make lists and go back the next day and add stuff. Some of the strings were arranged by Nate Walcott in a more traditional fashion and the others were improvised in the studio by me and my friend Doc Allison.
My ‘‘quite black & white’’ or sepia view of L.A. has been greatly influenced by the James Elroy, James M, Cain, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson books with its ugly dark underbelly side of existential dread and isolation in contrast with the sheen, glossy and bright exterior one. How much this ‘‘noir’’ imagination and atmosphere is present in your songs and lyrics, along with your cinematographic influences and your own personal struggles and heartbreaks? Please, could you talk about all these elements that making up your art?
I don’t really understand this question. I am often surprised by how other people see/interpret the things we do. I try not to read reviews or press beyond what I am forced to as a DIY artist. I don’t think it’s my concern. I try to make things that sound good to me. The videos are the same… I try to work with people who I relate to. That’s really it. We don’t have a lot of conversations about atmosphere or vibe. I think the only note I’ve ever given directors is, “make it beautiful.” I really like things to be beautiful.
Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the last question about your next plans and if is there anything you want to accomplish in the near future.
I’m currently writing the next Tashaki Miyaki record. We are gonna take a mini break from live shows while we record our next record, and have it out by early next year.