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September 2019

Tacocat singer Emily Nokes talks politics, mental health and staying positive

“I just needed to find the fun and humour and power again!”
Published: 9:49 am, April 25, 2019Words: Sam Taylor.
Tacocat singer Emily Nokes talks politics, mental health and staying positive

Seattle band Tacocat are as down as the rest of us about ‘the state of things’, but they’re figuring out a way through with a new album filled with wit and charm. ‘This Mess Is a Place’ is their first for local heroes Sub Pop, too - they’re moving into the big leagues.

Hey Emily, how’s life in Seattle?

Hi! Seattle is looking fine at the moment — the sun is out, and things are starting to look alive again.

Your new album ‘This Mess Is A Place’ is out soon via Sub Pop, how did the label move come about?

We have loved being on Hardly Art so much, we grew up on that label, but it felt like the right time to migrate over to the big-kid table.

What was your state of mind like going into this record?

I was feeling pretty dismal if I'm being honest. I get seasonal depression, but this was much more acute, so I was trying to dig myself out of that hole, while at the same time just feeling the world, my friends, my community, absolutely reeling from the election. Processing that was so extreme. I was feeling bad for everyone, feeling bad for myself; it felt impossible to express anything that anyone would want to listen to. I knew I didn't want an overly sad or angry album — even though those are such valid emotions — so there was anxiety around that as well. But after taking a lot of time and space to just think and thaw out, I started being able to write more. And, I think, write better. I just needed to find the fun and humour and power again!

What are your best tips for remaining positive when the world is difficult to deal with?

Watch the Blue Planet and Planet Earth series. Talk about your feelings. Donate your time, money, or available resources to good causes (Black Lives Matter, Trans Lifeline, and RAINN are all great options). Take lots of baths or long showers. Watch TV and smoke weed and don't feel guilty about it. Look for news sources that aren't all politics. Let yourself have really slow days if you can. Make lists. Throw away your worst old socks and underwear. Get a new toothbrush. Teach yourself something new — bread and candles are fairly easy to make and are both wildly satisfying. Have friends over or invite yourself to their place and have a night of crafting or drawing or wine-drinking or tarot or bitching. I hesitate to say this one because I don't like sanctimonious anti-phone stuff, but truly taking regular phone timeout time — like for real locking it up and setting an alarm — really helps me feel more positive. Also deleting Facebook off my phone was a game changer.

Has your take on politics and the like changed over the course of your albums?

I want to always be learning and growing, so there's definitely been a lot of refining, calibrating, and self-education over the past 11 years. Being a radical or a liberal or identifying as a feminist just isn't going to cut it these days unless you're constantly learning, listening, and regularly examining your thoughts/ideas/understanding of the world.

“I knew I didn't want an overly sad or angry album”
Emily Nokes

Do you think you’ll be writing your next record in a different political climate?
I really, really hope so.

Which song on ‘This Mess Is A Place’ are you most proud of?

Oooh, that's a tough one. They're our children, and it's so hard to pick just one, but I think the single 'Grains of Salt' is the current fave.

Did you try out anything new in the studio?

My parts are sort of boring to talk about because it's just different harmonies and layers of vocals and other voice dork stuff, but I did play a tiny bit of keyboards for the first time! I was a tipsy and very stoned, and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision that I then had to do IN FRONT OF PEOPLE without having practised anything — I'm really bad at being put on the spot and am not necessarily good at "jamming" — but it was fun and liberating and made me want to play keyboard again.

The album’s artwork is fun, how did that come together?

Thanks! We wanted to do something with group artwork again, which was how we did the Lost Time cover. Lelah (our drum wizard) and I are the resident designers — we actually met in art school in a graphic design program — so we just had an evening where we forced Bree and Eric to draw themselves and each member of the band a couple of times until we had a huge stack of drawings and paintings that each person made. Then we just kind of stitched it all together. The back was the same concept with objects and pets, though that was more just mine and Lelah's art all mashed together. I love it so so much; it's my favourite album artwork we've made yet.

Anything else we should know?

I'm reading this book about the metric system — did you know that France briefly had a 10-hour day? Each hour was 100 minutes long and each minute was 100 seconds. It's so nuts that there was just this wacky time in history when a bunch of dudes were trying to figure out how everyone should measure time and distance and weight and stuff. There were so many bad ideas.

Taken from the May issue of Upset. Tacocat's album 'This Mess Is A Place' is out 3rd May.

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