Tashaki Miyaki Returns with Castaway Album: Ten years into their band-life, four years after the release of the debut full length album The Dream, Tashaki Miyaki are back with Castaway. The sophomore album is a stunningly beautiful body of work and a glorious mass of contradictions – in turn esoteric and accessible. Always thought-provoking and emotion-stirring, yet spatial and relaxing. Lush and orchestral, yet somehow wonderfully sparse. Essentially, it all works.
They’ve come a long way. The band formed in 2011, the same year as the Tashak it to Me debut EP, though initially it was simply a recording project for singer, drummer and producer Paige Stark. She had been left frustrated by her former band, Stone Darling, and the lack of cohesiveness over an agreed sound.
“I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted things to sound like and they just weren’t coming out that way,” Stark told us by phone. “So I started learning how to play drums. In that band I played guitar. I was writing songs with a simpler drum beat, inspired by Moe Tucker and that early Velvets stuff with the glam rock shuffle. We weren’t trying to start a band, I just wanted to make recordings that sounded cool. I put it on Bandcamp as a way to share it with my friends and it got picked up by blogs in the UK. Suddenly we were being flown to the UK to play shows. To be honest, we weren’t ready to play shows but I was super young and excited, so I just did it. The first time we went to the UK, we had no bass player.”
Words such as “dream pop,” “shoegaze” and “psychedelic” have been used to describe the band over the years, but to Stark they are simply a rock band.
“I feel frustrated that, in music now, everyone is like, you have to be in a box of a genre that someone else understands,” Stark says. “I don’t like that. To me, we’re a rock band with a lot of different influences.”
In ten years though, the sound has evolved. Initial desires to sound like a blend of My Bloody Valentine, the Jesus & Mary Chain and Mazzy Star gave way to ambitions for something more unique.
“Now I’m trying to figure out how to have those influences plus the myriad of other influences I have, and still make it unique to me and have it not be in a pile with other stuff,” Stark says. “I want to be my own thing. We dialed back the fuzz and reverb on this one.”
One thing that definitely has influenced the Tashaki Miyaki style is geography. All of the band – Stark, bassist Sandi Denton and guitarist Luke Paquin – are from California. Stark and Denton are specifically from Southern California. They refer to themselves as “children of California.”
“Geographically and quite literally we’re children of California,” says Stark. “My parents were both born in L.A. I think when you grow up in California, specifically Southern California, people are laid back. Because the weather isn’t very extreme here, there’s a thing that happens where you start to not have a concept of time passing because there’s no marker. It affects everyone and your sense of being in the world. I’ve started expanding into doing our visuals, and people say to me that my stuff is a love letter to L.A. This is the world that I know. I’m inspired by what’s around me, and I think Luke and Sandi are too. We’re eating tacos and are very much into the music of California.”
That’s all very much on display on Castaway, which is due out on April 24 (subject to COVID-related delays with the vinyl). We ask Stark if she’s pleased with it, and her answer betrays her artistic, perfectionist personality.
“Yes and no,” she says. “I’m one of those people that, everything I do I’m super aware of the mistakes I made and what I want to do differently next time. I think that’s a standard way to work so I don’t judge myself too harshly on it. But I’m proud of [the album]. At a certain point, you have to let it go and not be a perfectionist.”
While most of Castaway was written prior to the pandemic, Stark says that the songs have taken on new meaning given the current conditions that we’re living in.
“I think the pandemic happening as I was finishing the record kinda changed the record in a way,” she says. “Everything had a different feeling. Like, I was writing about being isolated and stuck before we were literally isolated and stuck, so then when we were actually isolated and stuck, I was like oh my god, this feels heavy. I think that’s ok because everyone experiences things like that in their lives. A lot of the songs are about those things – growing up and looking at things differently.”
The band’s name is worth a mention, if for no other reason than it doesn’t mean anything at all. In fact, it’s an inside joke.
“I was telling a story about the director Takashi Miike, and I said ‘Tashaki Mike’,” she says. “Tashaki is not a real name or a place. I kept saying the wrong thing over and over again, and my friend thought it was really funny. It was about a moment of time that nobody else experienced.”
Stark, who has also helped local female artists LA Witch, Cherry Glazerr and Poppy Jean Crawford with production and general guidance, has a lot to be proud of with Castaway. And plans are afoot for 2021.
“We’re setting up some live things as much as we can,” Stark says. “I don’t know if it’ll be streaming or prerecorded. It’s still to be figured out. I’m gonna keep making videos for as long as I can. That’s a way to connect with people on the interweb. Different outlets are reaching out to us about some streaming stuff. So there will be some of those. Maybe a livestreamed concert, but I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep.”
Tashaki Miyaki Returns with Castaway Album: Out July 2.