Tamaryn make music to listen to when you're feeling sexy in a post-apocalyptic kinda way; a slow-motion bloom of coruscating, shoegazey guitar work and darkly entrancing vocals. Comprised principally of vocalist Tamaryn (from which the band takes its name, rather than the other way around) and guitarist/producer Rex John Silverton, we must be a hundred listens in to The Waves - the San Francisco outfit's debut LP for Mexican Summer - and still we can't see the bottom approaching.
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You're from New Zealand originally, why did you end up moving to the States?
I was sort of living between (New Zealand) and the Pacific North West of the United States until I was seven. I was raised predominately by my mother and my godmother, they were both Jungian psychologists and they started a halfway house for street gang members in New Zealand. But we were always back and forth. Then I moved to America and travelled a lot. I was raised in a very unconventional way. They're very 'on a whim' kind of people, I would move maybe three or four times a year.
Was the wanderlust contagious?
Well I moved to New York when I was 18 and stayed there for nine years, and that was the longest I've stayed anywhere. I definitely think all the Jungian psychology, all that symbolism and stuff about archetypes rubbed off on my music and my outlook generally. We always moved to incredibly beautiful places and I was always put into weird situations and different social groups, it was challenging I think. I guess it made me more of a character.
Sounds tough in a way.
I had an awful time fitting in anywhere, I was often miserable. I was never the popular kid. In fact I was the opposite, sometimes we'd move to very conservative towns and here I am, in what to the outside world could look like a cult or a commune. Total freaks, artists... They terrorised me. I remember we lived in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State which is like Hicksville basically, and we lived in one of these really old colonial houses which my mother painted it hot pink with yellow trim and said it was Caribbean. But I also learned a lot, I feel like I could have ended up living in mediocrity but I was instilled with a very strong sense of respect for creativity and individualism as a woman.
How did Jungian philosophy influence your music specifically?
It was more on the first EP, that's really my abstract version of a journey into the collective unconscious. Whereas this one (The Waves) is more based on grand symbolism, it's more integrated in terms of the way the music makes me feel. For me the best music is the kind of thing I can crawl up inside of and lose myself in. I spend a great deal of time on my own, especially where I live, I don't really know anyone. I moved to San Francisco to New York to be closer to Rex you see, so I was quite isolated when I wrote the record. But it inspired me to have an album that's like an old-school experience, where you can go inside and lose yourself. I wanted it to be one complete thought. I love records like Disintegration by The Cure, it's like they really set their parameters and explore one atmosphere to the fullest. It was emotionally draining, making this record. We don't use digital effects, we don't use pedals - it's a very simple set, up but those limitations have created our sound.
Your music often gets described in very elemental terms,
are you a bit of a nature girl at heart?
It's funny, the first question I always get in interviews is like, 'what is your deal with nature? What are you trying to say, are you trying to promote a certain kind of lifestyle?' But it's not really like that. It's more like with Werner Herzog - emotional landscapes. And the music has this vast inner emotional depth that mirrors landscapes in nature or whatever. The desert on the cover is a place near Las Vegas called the Valley of Fire, I used to go there when I was a kid and it was such a psychedelic experience. There's all this red, fiery rock and weird formations with these different faces looking at you, it's like a million years old. I always knew I wanted to use that imagery for something when I got older.
You said in previous interviews that your music became lighter in tone with your move to San Francisco...
Well the first EP is a culmination of songs I'd been writing over five years or so with Rex while we were living in different cities. The thing is in New York I was very much inspired by things like Lydia Lunch, Foetus and Swans - scum rock and post-heroin chic, that stuff really fascinated me. I guess every teenager has that. So there's a duality on the first EP between the darker, angular songs and there's the more beautiful-type stuff. And this record's a bit more restrained, sweeter at times.
You met Rex in New York?
Yes, he was on tour at the time. We became friends and would send each other mix CDs or whatever. I was always in my house with my cheap reel-to-reel four-track pretending to be Nico, I couldn't figure out how to get out of that space. So Rex said he would help me make songs and then told me to put a band together, and the more we worked with each other the more it became apparent that, uh... Finding a band mate is like finding true love, and he's definitely my musical partner. I really romanticise the whole vocalist-guitar player thing, like Morrissey and Marr or Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson! I feel like we have that now, I mean I'm not Brett Anderson but we have chemistry.
How's your working relationship with Rex?
The process of making music has changed with us over the years. In the beginning Rex was always asking what constitutes a Tarmaryn song, but now we're at the point with the next record (which the band is currently writing for) where there's no discussion. And that's new - it just become very apparent what we do.