Underground Diva Tamaryn and the Art of Spontaneity
Ten years from now, we'll be saying we were hip to 'Cranekiss' all along.
Shoegaze goddess Tamaryn and I met a few years ago in the midst of fleeing impending legal action from one of America's wealthiest families. At an Art Basel after-party, a mutual friend got into a violent, silly altercation with a terrible young Barron of American royalty in the Star Island mega-mansion where we were staying. Within 24 hours of our introduction, Tamaryn and I had traveled 170 miles down the coast of Florida, from Miami to Key West, slept on a yacht that wasn't ours, drunk 500 rum punches, and tried (failed) to go to Cuba illegally.
Tamaryn, to me, will be forever defined by a fabulous spontaneity. We have both recently traded New York's towering edifice for the starry-eyed hills of Los Angeles.
"I've alway lead my life by picking up on the energetic frequencies of where you are at any point in time," the singer/songwriter/underground diva tells The KIND in a recent phone interview. "It's not about the city or who's in it as much as how things are going and living off the language of synchronicity."
From 2015's Cranekiss, her third studio album, and a subsequent US/EU tour, to the new single, "Sugarfix," and self-directed video slotted for later this April and an upcoming West Coast tour with Lush, the relaxed synchronicity of California living seems to be working for her.
With a self-described style of "metallics, beading and torn lace," Tamaryn's resistance to all that is stagnant translates to a sound inhabiting a unique space. Her voice acts as a pendulum, swaying from danceable goth to ethereal pop and back again, weighted with an inclination to change.
A wild upbringing informs her current path. "I was born in New Zealand, but only lived there till I was seven. My mother and godmother, who raised me, were just two feminist, psychologist freaks. They had a homeless shelter for street kids in New Zealand called Hope Town. It was run in a really unconventional manner; boys and girls weren't kept separate. You know, they were hippies. Eventually we were run out of New Zealand for being called a cult; so we moved to the states."
As a teenager, making her way from Washington toward Vegas, she landed in San Francisco. "I was dating a guy who was a DJ and got really involved in the rave scene in the '90s in San Francisco." She laughs. "But I was also going to a lot of indie shows. It was the dawn of math rock and post rock. Everyone was listening to Tortoise and Don Cabbalero, stuff like that. Bands like the White Stripes were just coming out."
After moving to New York at 18, Tamaryn met her longtime collaborator Rex Shelverton, of Bellavista. Musical inclinations crystalized into The Waves, their first studio album. "Rex and I have a really special connection. We've made two and a half albums together."
Image via Alexandra Gavillet
However perfect a union, when it came to the third studio album, Tamaryn found her tastes expanding. "Cranekiss was the product of me wanting to do something outside the sonic soundscape I had been working in with Rex, which I really loved and have always been super proud of. But my palette of what I had been listening to changed. I wanted to integrate some of those influences. The idea of bringing in different people and trying to do different types of pop songs, to Rex, seemed really uninspiring. Just not what he was trying to do at the time."
Tamaryn pauses to reflect, then continues cheerfully."So I found other people that I really had things in common with at that moment."
"I've gotten to many points where I'm like, Why am I doing this? At this point, I just want some money."
Those other people ended up being Jorge Elbrecht and Shaun Durkan. "Jorge is a huge inspiration to me," says the singer. "I've followed and admired his work for a long time." Responsible for an incredible amount of music, Lansing-Dreide, Violens, working with Ariel Pink and No Joy, Elbrecht is credited with production on Cranekiss. Durkan, of the San Francisco pop fuzz trio Weekend, was instrumental in more ways than one. The album was well received by everyone that matters.
Asked about the financial realities of being a musician, she gives the honest truth: "It seems very strange to be in a magazine and then not know how you're going to eat the next day. I don't think people really understand that. I've gotten to many points where I'm like, Why am I doing this? At this point, I just want some money. I just want to work anywhere. People don't really understand that. They're like, 'Oh, you just want money?' And it sounds so shallow, but they don't understand… I have no money, like none, and I just haven't for years. I've been living off a dream. It would be nice to be making enough to pay the rent and get health insurance, basic human rights."
The fog of financial insecurity is bleak, but Tamaryn's spring is looking up. "I have a single and a music video coming out that I directed myself. I'm going on tour with Lush. Also, I just recorded in Jamaica with this band Collapsing Scenery where I sang on a back up track with Ninjaman, the Dancehall icon. It was a huge honor."
When asked if future releases will continue the sonic transition begun with Cranekiss, the artist shows her quintessential disposition. "I don't think I'll be able to create that again. Next time, I'll just have to do something different."