It's difficult to describe Tamaryn. Not just because it's the name of both a person--the New Zealand-born, US-based vocalist who dresses like Stevie Nicks' long-lost sister--and a band (Tamaryn is joined by longtime collaborator Rex John Shelverton), but because the music is constantly evolving. What started as shoegaze rock on their debut album, The Waves, morphs into something Tamaryn dubs "epic festival rock songs" on their new sophomore album, Tender New Signs. But for all of the band's shift-shaping, one thing remains the same: The songs are as gorgeous as ever. NYLON caught up with the single-name frontwoman days before she embarked on a fall tour (see their full list of shows here) to find out what inspired the change--and why a good fabric trumps all when it comes to vintage shopping.
Has Tamaryn evolved musically over the years? [The last record is] more upbeat songs and it's almost verging on a Stone Roses type of production. So it's a little bit different in that way. There are a lot more pop songs than before--pop in terms of what i consider pop structures, but not pop in the way americans think of it.
Did moving to L.A. from San Francisco inspire you to make a "pop" album? Moving to L.A. had nothing to do with the structures of the song; it was just a matter of touring, and i really wanted to make a record start to finish that you get lost in. The band is my name, [so] there are a lot of different ways that it can go. It doesn't have to be one thing: It doesn't have to be a shoegaze band, a straight-up rock band, a female vocalist, a dreamy thing…it has a lot of room to be whatever I want it to be. And i wanted to do these big, epic festival rock songs.
So do you need to see the band live to understand Tender New Signs? Live we're a rock band. We don't use backing tracks--it's drums, bass, guitar, vocals. If you want to see a really great rock band, that's what you're going to see. With the record it's a little more intimate sounding; even though it's the same instrumentation as live, it sounds like there are synths when there's really not. There's not even any digital effects. If we never played live i don't think that would not validate the record at all…but then as a bonus we're also a pretty cool live rock band.
Has your style evolved along with the music? Like anybody, you have different phases in your style that happen without even knowing--outside influences and what not. We're not the kind of band where I'm able to tell everybody what to wear, but i always have an idea. On this record I'm blonde; that's different! But i generally wear the same thing for a long time. I wear a lot of black and crop tops and high waisted stuff and chiffons and silks and flowy short skirts and things like that…things i'm comfortable in onstage.
What was behind the decision to go blonde? i had black hair for a long time--since i was a teenager. When i moved away from New York I grew out my hair to my natural color, i had really, really long hair for a while,, and then i just started messing with it. i did the bottom of it semi-bleached, and i got a little blonder, like people to do. i've been living in Los Angeles and I'm not blonde because i live in L.A., but when you live in L.A. everybody's blonde and you get this obsessive compulsive thing where you look at what type of blonde everyone is…and then it's white!
I hear you're a big-time thrift shopper. What's your secret? Because i wear all-black, it's really easy for me to shop. The rule is fabric is the most important thing. I'm all about fabrics and prints--I'll cut things, I'll sew things. Also, [try] to not be afraid to put things together that you normally wouldn't imagine to go together. I don't follow new fashion because I don't have a lot of money. You can also have a horrendous wardrobe that costs a lot of money…you can't account for style. I'm all for young girls developing their creativity, and not just going to one store and buying one brand. And I believe in thrifting karma; some people have this thrifting luck where it's almost like getting a parking space. It's a certain head space where you have to be relaxed and see what comes at you…and have a short attention span!
Visit tamarynmusic.com for more info.