Frontwoman Emily Nokes of our favorite modern riot grrrl band, Tacocat, chats about the evolution of feminist influences on new album, Lost Time.
Is there a person on Earth who wouldn’t have endless love for a band named Tacocat? From their gloriously rainbow-haired frontwoman Emily Nokes, to the catchy '60s styled punk pop tracks and fun and fancy-free music videos, it’s refreshing to see such a twee aesthetic for a feminist band, especially when it’s paired with a smart, sassy attitude.
Although they take more than enough influence from the raw anger of '90s riot grrrl (not to mention their shared birthplace), their soft melodies and tongue-in-cheek lyrics allow this feminist band to drift easily into the impressionable heads of young girls, meaning their first impression of feminism is in stark contrast to that overused stereotype of the unshaven and violent man-hater we are so tired of hearing about.
Their music may compel you to boogie, but it does anything but dance around the subject, so while the taste is sweetened by their ability to master surfer styled rock, the lesson they are giving isn’t so easy to swallow.
While the band’s last offering, NVM, tackled the idea of street harassment head on and outwardly mocked white supremacist skinheads, with their latest record, Lost Time, they show a less hard-hitting approach to dealing with feminist woes — but they assure us, there ain’t any less grrrl.
Tacocat's blend of powder-pink pop and feisty-fierce punk makes them the obvious choice to record a brand new theme song for the reboot of '90s girls favorite, The Powerpuff Girls. After Tacocat opened for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ Seattle campaign rally and with a European tour on the horizon, we caught up with frontwoman Emily Nokes to discuss the new album, the influence of the X-Files and the excitement of immortalising their music on a cult classic cartoon.
BUST: Was having a less definite feminist angle on Lost Time deliberate or just down to varying and changing influences?
Emily: The songs on Lost Time are less “hitting you over the head” for sure, but over half the tracks are still fully about feminist topics, perhaps just more nuanced than our last two albums. The execution has definitely evolved (less shouting, less rough around the edges), which has a lot to do with the fact that more people seem to be listening to women and their allies these days. When we first started, it seemed like the only thing that could be effective was yelling or having these really didactic lyrics. Screaming is still important, it’s just that you don’t have to scream as much when people are right there with you!
BUST: The album title Lost Time and the first track ("Dana Katherine Scully") are both X-Files references. Are you all big X-Files fans and how did it shape you?
Emily: I was re-watching all the old X-Files around the time we were writing the album and was reminded how great the character of Scully is (see also: “The Scully Effect,” which is the correlation between her character and the rise in young women choosing to pursue careers in science, medicine, and law enforcement). Bree and Eric also started re-watching the series, although I think Bree cheated and skipped all the monster episodes.
The pilot episode of the X-Files touches on the “lost time” phenomenon, but I was also reading a lot of science fiction and it kept coming up there as well. We all really liked the sound of it and the various meanings that could apply.
BUST: Were these X-Files references injected into the album prior to the news that it was returning for Season 10, or after you heard the news?
Emily: Oh yeah, I had zero idea that was going to happen until after the song was written. I was excited to hear the news, but didn’t really know what to expect, like, this could rule or be really bad. It turned out to be both...
BUST: What were your main influences for this album? How have they changed from NVM?
Emily: Every album is a progression, and Lost Time feels more complex, more personal, more moody... more purple, less pink. I’m influenced by what’s around me, and the world has changed so much—in both great and terrible ways—since we wrote NVM. Erik Blood (who recorded and produced) was also a big influence on the way the songs came out. He’s a wizard!
BUST: How do you feel you have developed as artists since NVM?
Emily: Lo these many, many shows later, we’re better definitely better, more experienced musicians. We’ve also been able to streamline our songwriting process and explore more visual ideas for our stage shows and merch. It feels like we have more creative energy than ever! On a personal level, I feel more confident and sure of my role as a singer and as a human female. I used to be really self-conscious about standing up there, singing about these personal issues in front of crowds that could be really sour or masculine. Now it feels like we’ve found our people, which is one of the best feelings ever.
BUST: How do you first approach writing a song? Is it a conscious act or something that just pops into your head with a wave of inspiration?
Emily: A bit of both. For the lyrics, I jot down words, phrases, and ideas as they come to me, I have a lot of conversations that help me flesh out ideas and feelings. When it’s time to put words and melodies to music, I just comb through everything and get to writing.
BUST: You have covered some very interesting topics on Lost Time... including horse-loving girls! Where did the inspiration for this song come from?
Emily: Oh man, this one comes directly from Bree (bassist), who wanted a song about adolescent horse girls. She was a horse girl in high school, which is super funny because she grew up in LA and I grew up in Montana. I was not a horse girl, but I definitely appreciated them. All those books and figurines!
BUST: Tell us about recording the Powerpuff Girls theme! How did this opportunity come about?
Emily: Cartoon Network emailed us, and of course we jumped at the opportunity. I have no idea how they knew about us, but we were super excited. The process started with a few rough song ideas we sent them via cellphone recording and ended with us recording the track with a composer who flew from LA to Seattle for the three days of recording. I don’t think I’ve ever done so many layers of harmonies in my life!
BUST: Were you fans of the original series?
Emily: I was! I didn’t really grow up with a TV, but I would watch it at my grandma’s or at other friends’ houses whenever I could. I also had a buddy in high school whose entire car was decorated with Buttercup gear, which I thought was really excellent.
BUST: Do you think cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls and seeing other heroines in the media is important for young girls growing up?
Emily: Yes, of course! I think young people need as many good examples in media as possible, starting with cartoons all the way up through television characters and movie scripts. We need to demand more from everything all the time—for women, for queer folks, for trans folks, for people of color, and for everyone else who lives outside of the standard-issue, mostly-white/mostly-male representation across all platforms of expression.
Follow Tacocat on tacocatdotcom.com, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. See their European tour dates below.
2 May UK, Nottingham / JT Soar
3 May UK, Edinburgh / Electric Circus
4 May UK, Glasgow / Broadcast
5 May UK, Cardiff / The Moon Club
6 May UK, Brighton / Sticky Mike's Frog Bar
7 May UK, London / The Lexington
9 May FR, Paris / Le Mecanique Ondulature
11 May CH, Luzern / Schüür
12 May CH, Geneva / Kalvingrad L'Usine
13 May DE, Schorndorf / Manufaktur
14 May NL, Tilburg / Extase
15 May DE, Hamburg / Aalhaus
18 May SE, Stockholm / Lilla Hotellbaren
19 May NO, Oslo / Internasjonalen
20 May SE, Lund / Mejereit
21 May DK, Copenhagen / Huset
22 May DE, Berlin / West Germany
Alice Patillo is a UK-based music, arts, and culture journalist. See more of her work on whothehellisalice.co.uk.