The Waves was once a record that was caught up in an easy, nonchalant irreverence; secured to the ties of the placated lo-fi and shoegaze cliques but now it’s something more, something with an edge and an attitude. Bounding into a Dalston cafe, Tamaryn’s pronounced, black leather and red-lipstick appearance stood out against the cold, November scene; through meeting the woman, the artist behind The Waves, it now had an acrimony, a raven-confidence. Her personal intensity and complex conviction is what makes The Waves and although it took me a 30 minute interview to see that; her debut, the record becomes one of the best releases of the year.
Whether being played over a car stereo or in a dark, New York club; Tamaryn’s voice can be felt piercing the azure; issuing a gothic regality. Alongside musical-partner Rex John Shilverton, Tamaryn (the band and singer share the same name) are advocating a capricious and ethereal sound: ceremonial and densely-pounding- the consequent of much unsettled movement from Tamaryn running away from home at 13 and her relentless state-swapping between New York and San Francisco.
Tamaryn’s austere promotes a New York severity; dressed in black, holding an experienced attitude, but it was Rex’s home ground of California where The Waves was made. Both cities verves can be heard on the record. “Would the record sound different if I stayed in New York? I think absolutely. Rex brought me to a lot of places; like weird catacombs on the beach, old empty barracks with cannons, beautiful places where I wrote lyrics… The beach in San Francisco isn’t like the beach in Los Angeles or where you would imagine it to be sunny… California: it’s grey and it’s wild and these were the places I went to write lyrics. The record is obviously called The Waves and you can definitely hear the oceanic, overcast foggy San Francisco vibes.”
Despite making the record in America; the sound is not a response to an American scene; taking British 80s-alt bands as unflinching influences; Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cranes, The Verve, The Cure. Many reviewers are quick to reel off the bands, the names labeling Tamaryn with decade-old groups. To some extent, due to the constant pigeonholing; the explicit use of the same comparisons would seem to trap a band- stunting where they are heading, where they’re going. “You get a lot of reviews of our record that will say this sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mazzy Star and that it also sounds like My Bloody Valentine. If you think about it, all those bands are completely different from each other and that’s where we’re coming from. What we do is an amalgamation of all my favourite things processed through me and made real. There’s a lot of soul to it. I’m not trying to be an imitation of anything. I don’t agree with reviewers 99% of the time about anything. But thank God they’re not comparing me to some terrible blog band. The bands they’re comparing me to are the greatest bands of all time.”
Tamaryn sips coffee, words fly out of her mouth like she’s never had caffeine before- her passion is evident. Her position, her look is strong but it’s her music which has the iron-wearings; dark-pounding rhythms that fit solidly into a male-dominated industry. Being a woman, conscious of an image and style, post-feminism, is a tempestuous task; her music isn’t as flippant as lipstick or fashion it should be taken seriously, with sincerity. “If you look at the journalist and blogger world- it’s a bunch of guys who love dudes playing music, hanging out. They’re probably like ‘oh Tamaryn, who does she think she is.” Her vexation is evident as someone who’s conscious of the industry: “even though they’ll listen to the record and say ‘wow this is great’ they’ll still be trepidatious as to like ‘oh, she’s a girl, she wears little outfits on stage’. That whole thing…They are inclined to write you off more than if I was to release the same record as a bunch of guys in parkas, sweater vests- the record would probably do better.”
Part of Tamaryn’s attraction though; is this male-female divide the seduction and lust of a female specter amongst the grit and heavy-rock. “I wanted to balance the feeling of what is a traditionally male dominated big music; big, loud, reverb-y, rock bands but then juxtapose that with a really feminine presence- almost if you stuck Kate Bush in front of Ride. I don’t want it to be a vanity project though, just beautiful.”
Tamaryn’s second half, Rex, is elusive. His impression on the record is immense but he seems out of frame when it comes to interviews, photographs. Tamaryn and Rex met back in 2001; a long-runner in the NY music scene of the 90s, Rex has formed part of many bands over the years. At the time they met, Rex had been signed to Subpop in the outfit Vue. Tamaryn spoke of their relationship as an instant, severely intense connection, a cosmic connection. The minimalist, but dense walls of sound heard on The Waves almost represents the two; a nominal duo who have large scope and ambition to voice. Tamaryn talks of her coalition highly; the record may have been her vision but without Rex the tracks would be non-existential she even goes as far as to notion towards the guitar player-singer ties of Anderson and Butler, Morrissey and Marr.
The two seem to push each other, a friendship which certainly carves the best out of one another. Their seriousness is also distinct; both so directly involved, emotionally-tied to The Waves that the record cries in breadth and grandeur. “I think we take ourselves really seriously to the point where we stress ourselves out a lot. We set the bar high and we’re always pushing it; it’s personal stress though, personal pressure; the pressure doesn’t come from outside. We’re never like ‘let’s make a record so we can travel round the world and be famous’. I’m an avid music listener and my ultimate goal in life is to be able to make a record that can be the calibre of the records that I listen to.”
The raw and attested sound they make can be credited to their passions, their emotions but technically the limitations that they set on themselves evidently affects the production, the concept. Shunning digital effects for modern-primitive arcane reverb, space echo and tape delays; The Waves is moulded with a timeless quality. The Waves released in the late 80s and The Waves released now, right now in 2010 would have the same adored response. Tamaryn considers it in terms of fashion; there are existing, timeless pieces of clothing that can be worn across eras, can be worn forever and the same applies for music, it can be listened to forever. “I don’t see the record as a throw back, I don’t see it as retro. It can’t be written off as just derivative. Our music is supposed to be timeless and beautiful. Above all I just wanted to make something really, really beautiful.”
Despite beauty and stunning sound, the bittersweet lyrics and admissions of Tamaryn show The Waves to be derived from a certain melancholic state. Having very few friends in California and a chaotic lifestyle accents the personal vision that taints this record. “I left home when I was about 13 and when you do that you really only have a few options; get married, get a retail job or become your dream. Music for me saved my life- like I’m sure it has for everybody. All the horrible times in my life, when I was younger, I’d listen to Depeche Mode over and over and over again. I wanted to make a record which had that feeling for other people and myself.”
The visions and sentiments of The Waves is personal, its intimate presence is dense with an enigmatic draw. Releasing a record of this nature is difficult but at the same time furiously compelling as to see who listens to it and how they listen to it. “Once you finish a record it becomes public property; you give it to the world and it becomes tangled up in people’s lives and they attribute it to their own experiences. It’s interesting to see who comes to the shows; it maybe somebody who was around in the 80s feeling nostalgic towards it or they could be a teenager who we turn on to more iconic things. When people interpret our sound- it blows my mind as to what people hear that I don’t.”
The Waves has had just two months to permeate into record collections, into people’s lives but Tamaryn is already focussed on the next record inciting new bounds for the band. Her energy is incredible, not for a second does she sit still at the table, sit still with nothing to say. With the next album in it’s first stages and talks of setting up a label and a poetry publishing-house, Tamaryn, the woman and the band, aren’t slowing, aren’t satisfied by just one stunning, vast and comprehensible album.
Tamaryn’s presence, her poise is striking. She’ll talk boundlessly with passion and intensity but at the same time; her own reality is kept hidden under the curiosa of The Waves and the furtive-black of her outfit. “My number one thing, whether it be an interview or a live performance or a photo shoot is to not break the spell- I just don’t want to break the spell. With today and the mass media and the internet it’s so easy to just give it all away- I would really like to keep some mystery to it- that feeling I got when I was younger listening to Factory records. I would be like ‘God! What is this?’, I want to keep that feeling of where did this come from? What is this sound? I think that is very special.”