This LA trio make music that both amplifies and soothes feelings of sadness and gut-wrenching despair, which is a much more pleasurable experience than it sounds.
Rocky, Dora, and Lucy.
Here are some things you should know about LA trio Tashaki Miyaki:
1. They’re made up of Lucy on drums and lead vocals and Rocky on guitar, while Dora provides bass and harmonies.
2. Their songs are cushioned in reverb and swaddled in gauzy, girl group harmonies, which seems to both amplify and soothe feelings of sadness and gut-wrenching romantic despair.
3. During a recent dinner meeting with a record label, when the execs started talking about BPM, Lucy switched off, and ordered more food. Smart girl.
4. Their name comes from Lucy’s accidental mispronunciation of Japanese director Tashaki Miike. Of Miike’s oeuvre, Lucy recommends 13 Assassins, Rocky suggests Ichi the Killer, and we say: if you want to be totally shit-scared, watch Audition.
5. Lucy and Rocky are not their real names. Mysterious.
We met up with them recently to talk stalking Snoop, skipping school, and the state of modern pop music, among other things.
Noisey: As is often the case, you guys were first picked up on in the UK…
Dora: They have alcoholic ginger ale over there. Crabbies! I’ve been waiting for it to come to America. It’s supposed to happen in 2013.
Rocky: They’ve gotta have booze ginger ale in America,
Dora: They don’t! I’ve looked it up!
Rocky: England is fun. There’s too many British people there though.
Lucy: It was so hot. We call it the sweaty tour 12. We were traveling in a van with no windows.
Dora: A lot of the bars were built in the 1800s and have no windows, or they’re underground. At one of the shows there was so much condensation on the ceiling it was dripping onto our heads. Lucy had a waterfall of sweat coming down on her. Condensed sweat.
Yeah, the UK is not really au fait with air conditioning. Lucy, there was a recent interview where you talk about being taken home by police on several occasions when you were younger, but then the writer failed to ask why.
Lucy: Oh yeah, I used to not go home a lot. I used to escape elementary school. I hated it. My parents worked and I’d be there from 6am till 6pm, so I dug a hole under the fence and left.
Where did you go?
Lucy: There was a 7-Eleven next door. Or sometimes I would go to my friend’s house, but I wouldn’t tell my parents and they would freak out. I would leave all the time and the police would bring me home. I continued to do that in junior high. The worst time was when my parents dropped me off at the movies with my friends and instead I went to a friend’s house and fell asleep playing video games. I think it was 2am and I was 13 and they didn’t know where I was.
Did you get grounded?
Lucy: I was grounded all the time. I was bored at school. I had a high record of truancy. I would go wander by myself mostly. In junior high I had a friend who would escape with me sometimes, but eventually I was told I wasn’t allowed to hang out with her. By the time I got into high school, I’d mastered my mom’s handwriting, so I would just write the notes.
Were you two as rebellious?
Dora: I went to school on a college campus at the Los Angeles College for the Arts. There was only about 200 kids and no supervision, basically. So pretty much free reign to do anything. I remember the first day of school I saw these freshman kids smoking heroin in the library. I was like, “Where the hell am I?” I’d never been around that stuff before. I didn’t know anything about drugs. I was so sheltered.
Who’s Uncle Neil? This magical man who has influenced you?
Lucy: Oh that’s just Neil Young!
Dora: We just feel that he’s influenced us so much that he’s like our uncle! He’s been in our lives for so long, he’s like family. He's uncle we never see, but we want to.
Lucy: I was supposed to go to Bridgefest, but I couldn’t because I was playing CMJ, and one of my friend’s went in my place and was like, “I’m smoking a joint with Uncle Neil! I’m in Pegi’s kitchen talking about cornbread recipes!” And I was like, “This sucks.”
How did that happen?
Lucy: She was with one of our mentors, Benmont Tench, who’s in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He’s been a supporter from the beginning.
Tashaki Miyaki - "Something is Better than Nothing."
You're nearly done recording your debut album. What kind of lyrical themes have you noticed that you keep returning to?
Lucy: I write a lot about heartbreak and pain, which I’d like to get away from! There is a topical song called “Girls on TV” which is about seeing people who are willing to abandon their own identity to take on an identity that the world would respond to. Marilyn Monroe would be a historical example. So it’s about the sadness and loneliness of that. I’ve never written a song from the perspective of another character.
Lucy: There’s also “Out of My Head.”
Rocky: That’s easier to decipher.
Dora: It just says, “I want to be out of my head for just one day.”
Rocky: The original lyric was "all day, every day." “Smoke weed everyday…” Oh wait, that’s a Snoop song.
Dora: We are inspired by Snoop; Doggystyle in particular. I was in elementary school and in dance class, so anything that came out that had beats, you’d hear in class. I’d love to hang out with Snoop one day. That’s on the bucket list.
Lucy: I tried to hang out in his dressing room at SXSW like four years ago. I was out there singing with another artist and I tried so hard to get back there, asking the security “Please I’d just like to meet Snoop!” You can talk your way into a lot of backstage areas, not Snoop’s.
How do you dress for the stage versus everyday?
Dora: I’m really into vintage dresses, that’s my thing. I have hundreds which I’ve collected over the years and I’ve worked in vintage. I just have to be wearing a pretty dress and I feel good. I love the 40s and the 70s. I like the way it’s all very waist-centric. I feel like dresses from those eras fit all body types and look amazing.
Lucy: I like the idea of dressing up for a performance. If we were touring at a Gwen Stefani level—as we often discuss, haha!—I would take things much further. I would be down to get crazy. I saw Destiny’s Child on their reunion tour and it was one of my favorite live show I’ve ever seen. They had so many costume changes and a rotating waterfall. I love that element of performance.
Does it then frustrate you that you’re trapped behind a drum kit?
Lucy: Yes. I love playing drums, but a lot of it is economy. I really enjoy singing and playing drums, but I feel like it limits each thing: I would be a better drummer if I wasn’t singing and I’d be a better singer if I wasn’t drumming. We’ve also tried playing with other drummers and no one will play simply. They just can’t do it. They have to go on on a jazz odyssey. But also, I really like playing drums with Dora on bass. We have a lock, so it’s nice.
Tashaki Miyaki - "My Best Friend."
What do you each bring to the table that makes this partnership work?
Rocky: I think these gals bring a lot of sass to the table. They have more balls than half the male musicians I’ve played with in my entire life.
Rocky: It’s just something with some guts.
Lucy: Luke is funny and he brings some levity to the table. He’s very professional.
Rocky: Professional? Wow.
Dora: Really? I wouldn’t use that word.
Lucy: I mean, because he’s traveled a lot and been in a lot of bands.
Dora: He’s more like a Hollywood hotshot.
Like who? Johnny Depp?
Dora: Like the guy who’s been around the block for years.
I think she’s saying you’re a slut.
Dora: Not sexually! I mean entertainment business-wise!
Lucy: He’s played with professional musicians since he was 10 years old. His dad was a musician too. He understands the language of touring and being in studios. I’ve learned a lot from that.
Dora: He’s a master of comedy.
Lucy: Nah, I’ve just seen a lot of sitcoms.
Dora: He knows every episode of Seinfeld by heart.
Lucy: He fills me in on a lot of pop culture. I’m very disconnected. Remember when I didn’t know “Call Me Maybe” for a like a year?
Dora: I know! I was like, “What’s wrong with you?”
Rocky: Actually, I only heard “Blurred Lines” recently.
Everyone can do without “Blurred Lines." It just sounds like four different songs that were made 30-plus years ago. Have you seen the video?
Lucy: There was some controversy, right?
People have been largely concerned with the many, mostly-naked women.
Lucy: Like that’s a new thing in music!
I was more bewildered by the silver balloons that spelled out: “Robin Thicke has a big dick.”
Lucy: What! I didn’t see that. Someone who has a big dick doesn’t need to say that…
Lucy: Exactly. It’s about giving people something to talk about, which I think has gotten really extreme in pop music, this thing of no press is bad press. I don’t want to call people out, but there’s a lot of women in pop music who have really extreme looks.
It seems exhausting. Such a rigmarole to walk down the corner to get some milk.
Lucy: God bless them, I guess. I don’t have the energy.
Dora: Anyway, Luke brings to the table a lot of wacky energy, he’s like my own little alien. And he brings a lot of fuzzy guitar sounds to the band.
Lucy: Dora is very inspiring. She’s like my muse. I can’t make music without her.
So your dad was a musician?
Rocky: He played in weird country bands in the 70s. He never really made it or anything, but he knows a lot of weird, old timey pedal steel guys and they used to get on my case and tell me that Ozzy was stupid. One of his buddies who taught me guitar was a real blues folk purist and I would make him and teach me Metallica licks. I would play him a tape of Megadeth or something and he would be so mad. But in a way we bettered each other’s lives.
Lucy: You brought him Megadeth and he brought you JJ Cale.
Takashi Miyaki play Pianos tonight—August 21. Go.
Or if you’re in LA, they’re also playing the Warehouse Venue on Sept 7.
Kim thinks Japanese horror movies are leagues ahead of any other nation's scary efforts. She's on Twitter - @theKTB.
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