We talked to Paige Stark of Tashaki Miyaki about their upcoming album and working with James Franco for their newest video.
The first song we heard from TM was a cover of "All I Have To Do Is Dream" which popped up on some blog 6 or 7 years ago. Since then, you guys have released a slew of short EPs and finally have announced a full-length record, The Dream, out April 7th on Metropolis Records. What took so long to get to this point? What makes now the time to go ahead with the full album release?
A lot of people have been asking this question. I produced the record and funded it myself and was ok with that taking time. It took the time it took to get the record how I wanted it. Because I funded it myself and we had no deadline, I kept remixing it or adding small overdubs, small adjustments. At a certain point one of my friends said to me, "You gotta just out this thing out. Holding onto your record this way is unhealthy. " And I realized he was right. I learned a lot in the process and one of the things I learned is I don't want to spend that much time between the recording and release of a record ever again. But that being said, I'm happy with the record and the journey and all the things I've learned. Now is the time to release it because it had been way too long, and I could go on forever making small adjustments. It was time to move forward.
Your EPs have a lo-fi, bedroom, whatever you want to call a stripped down, simple and scratchy aesthetic. Will the new record sound the same or build on those concepts but utilize a bigger production value?
Our early recordings were made quickly and without too much thought about the arrangements. At that time we were a brand new band so we were excited about simply hearing our songs recorded. We were also into the minimalism of the two of us mostly without bass. We pushed that as far as it could go for us. After a while we really wanted to have bass all the time, so that became an organic addition for live shows and on recordings. I think as humans we all respond to low end. It's sexy and we feel the resonance in our bodies. For the full length I wanted to create a bigger sound but not have it feel busy. I was really inspired by the records of John Cale, John Lennon, Sparklehorse, T-Rex, later Velvets, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke. They all have lush arrangements that don't feel busy. There's space left for everything. I also wanted to move away from the lo-fi thing and enter into the hi-fi world where everything is clear and rich. The records I love the most are very hi-fi. The low-fi sound for me is very cool, but it's limited and I like full rich and warm sound. I think the record still feels warm and personal. It has the energy of the early recordings but sounds way better. We recorded to tape and didn't edit the performances so it's really what the band sounds like and what the performances were in the room.
What's the theme of the record? How did the songs come together?
There isn't a specific theme of the record. It's more a snapshot of the year of my life when I wrote the songs...what was on my mind. I am always writing songs and these are the songs I was most proud of and that I felt represented the sound of the band. We even re-recorded some of the songs from the EP because I felt they hadn't been heard right and I wanted people to hear them the way I imagined them and without limitations. When I look at all the songs together there are various recurring topics like heartbreak, love, existential crisis, and culture. A lot was going on in my personal life and the world around me was changing so fast. It seems like everything is speed up now. And that's weird for me, I feel like I exist in slow motion. The songs are a response to that both sonically and lyrically.
Were there pressures or challenges recording a full album that may not have existed for the EP releases you'd done in the past?
Not really other than the pressure we put on ourselves. I guess it was a little challenging doing everything ourselves. I don't know if I would want to self produce again. It's nice to have a co-captain. I think in the future I would like to have a co-producer or just let a trusted producer take over and experience just being the artist. I really love producing for other artists and playing that role but it's tough to do for yourself without another person to bounce ideas off.
You guys are doing a residency in March at The Echo in Los Angeles. What parts of the LA music scene are the most appealing? How does creating music there differ from other cities in the country and what keeps you guys in LA?
I don't really know how to answer this. I don't consider myself a real part of the "LA music scene". Maybe that's my own fault. But I'm not one of those artists that's always included in these local tribute shows or benefits or whatever. I don't play in multiple bands or go to shows all the time. I'd like to be more involved but I'm a pretty shy person and I spend a lot of time by myself. Luke and Sandi are much more out there in the community, going out and knowing all the things going on. Since I've been making music for a long time I do have a lot of music friends that I really love. But with the exception of Joel Jerome, most of my music friends make very different music than me- like in another world- and most are much older so it's not really a scene. I guess one thing that's appealing about Los Angeles is there are lots of interesting and talented people here. The weather is nice, it's not as expensive as places like New York or San Francisco (yet), and it's pretty laid back. I wouldn't know what it's like to make music in other cities because I've always lived here. I was born and raised in Southern California and I'm a Cali girl to the bone. My family and friends are here and I love the vibe and energy of California and never want to live full time anywhere else. I could imagine being somewhere else part time like being bi-coastal but I can't imagine ever leaving for good. Luke and Sandi are also both California natives and I think we all agree strongly that California is the best.
James Franco produced a video for a single from your new record, "Girls On TV." How did this opportunity arise and what was it like working with James? Is he a fan of the tunes?
James and Luke grew up together in Palo Alto so they've known each other since they were kids. We had one meeting with James and he liked the song and had some ideas that sounded cool so we just let him do his thing. This is how we like to work with music video directors or anyone we collaborate with. There's a freedom in trusting people to do their job and it makes for true collaboration. We weren't in the video, so we weren't there for the shoot. Which I really like. We did our part. We made the music. It's fun to see how another artist adds to it with their visual and narrative ideas. It's a treat and a surprise.
You were featured on the Lagniappe Sessions, Vol. 1 record, a Record Store Day Black Friday release from Light in the Attic & Aquarium Drunkard providing a cover of "I Only Have Eyes For You." How did you get involved with that project? What made you choose that song?
I had met Justin who does Aquarium Drunkard several times and he's become a friend. He emailed me and asked me if Tashaki wanted to do a Lagniappe Session a while back and I was super down to do it. We chose two songs, The Replacements "Unsatisfied" and The Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes for You" for that session. He later asked if he could include the latter on the Light in the Attic compilation and again I was super down. I love the work Light In The Attic does. Their reissues are great and it was an easy yes to be part of that compilation.