Words: Simon Opie
A few weeks back, all girl Brooklyn three-piece Sharkmuffin were my FG Sunday Selection. OK, so I admit that I was drawn in by three hot looking ladies playing self-styled slutcore (sic) with song titles such as the excellent 'Mermaid Sex Slave', 'Shit Talk' and 'Femebot' – all off an EP called 'She-Gods Of Champagne Valley'. Well, I’m only human after all. But we also wanted to delve deeper, and have a Q&A with Tarra Thiesen from the band.
The lead single from their upcoming EP release, the one minute fifty one second 'Foul Play', especially caught my attention. The new EP’s called 'Ten Ninety Seven' and its 4 short tracks of controlled mayhem represents a big step forward for the trio of garage punk protagonists who can trace their lineage back to the Riot Grrrl movement and beyond.
We were fortunate to secure an interview with Tarra, the band’s guitarist and songwriter – and it seems somehow appropriate to let Sharkmuffin speak for themselves.
As relative newcomers to the music scene, what do you see when you survey the landscape - a land of opportunity or an overcrowded shark pool?
TT: I believe that good music always will break through. With all our laptops, free/torrented recording programs and platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud that makes shit so accessible for the whole entire universe to hear, of course it's getting overcrowded, but genuine music that can communicate something real in a different and enjoyable way will make it's way through. It just takes more time and a lot more dedication on the artist’s side.
More specifically, the Brooklyn scene feels like a bubble. I feel like I have no idea what popular music is because I'm so busy going to and playing smaller shows 3-5 days a week with some bands that luckily do graduate into opening for more 'popular' bands, and then become the 'popular' bands themselves, or so I am convinced of by the people who talk them up so hard. The thing is it seems bands nowadays can get so buzzy so quick but then break-up within 6 months. I think longevity and sincerity are really the hardest things to attain in the current music landscape. Sincerity in the sense that they aren't just superficial copies of something that had recently caught on and they're just in it for the social climbing aspect of it.
Who are your strongest influences and how do you use them?
TT: I learned my way around the guitar by playing a lot of Led Zeppelin solos and ripping off Van Halen licks growing up. That's where most of my lead guitar technique comes from. I also listened to a lot of The Ventures and Dick Dale, which I think has slightly affected some of our riffs.
'Live Through This' by Hole was one of my first favorite albums and it showed me how to channel my rage through songwriting. I also love old girl groups like The Marvellettes and their more upbeat, poppy take on heart break and moving on, like in 'Locking Up My Heart.'
But I think The White Stripes are really what got me started on the whole garage thing, since they just make it seem so simple and easy. I probably never would have picked up a guitar if it wasn't for Jack White.
For the new EP, we noticed you've dropped the 'slutwave' tag – so does this EP represent a conscious decision to stake out new territory?
TT: That's funny, I usually use the tag 'slutcore' as a joke because I used to be in a band called Slutmuffin in college in 2010 where all our songs were about sex and our lead singer looked like Ke$ha and acted like Courtney Love. I think slutwave was already a thing. Urban Dictionary defines it as "a not-so-commonly used term referring to the 00's phenomenon: the domination of female electro-pop solo artists". So I probably just accidentally put 'slutwave' instead of slutcore, but the new EP isn't even slutcore at all, it's pretty PG in lyrical content this time around. Oops.
So what aspect are you most proud of on the new EP?
TT: I feel the guitar work on this EP is a big step up, at least on 3 out of the 4 tracks. I only had one solo that sounded like piss on the last EP, so that was one of the goals in writing and recording this EP. Also, the recorded debut of my theremin playing is on the track 'Ten Ten', as well as some pocket piano on 'Foul Play' & 'Ten Ten'. 'Ten Ten' is basically an all improvised fake hardcore song and I'm really happy how it turned out. It will never be played exactly that way ever again.
Longevity is an admirable ambition, but do you fear the day when making music becomes just a job?
TT: No, of course not, one of the goals of making music is to be making a living off of it. I would feel like the luckiest girl in the world if that could happen for us someday.
Any chance of seeing you in the UK any time soon?
TT: Yes! We would love to come to the UK. I'm still trying to figure out how to make that happen.
And finally, Power of Flight or Invisibility Cloak?
TT: Power of Flight.
Good answer and good luck with the EP. Thanks for talking to us.
Find more info at sharkmuffin.com.