Tarah Who? is a power duo masterminded by grunge-punk sage Tarah Carpenter, a firebrand frontwoman who channels explosive emotionality into rousing anthems.
When did you realise that your project/band had the potential to be a career, or long-lasting idea?
TGC: I am not really sure.. I started playing music and this was my escape as a teenager. It made me feel good so i kept doing that. I had this sense of family with my bandmates and I loved being in the moment by playing drums and bass. The writing and guitar playing came later. I had a lot of emotions and feelings i was keeping inside, i started writing them down like a journal. Then I was in KY, when i was 15 and i could not be in a band there, i didn’t know anyone to do so, so I taught myself the guitar and started writing songs. I never really had in mind to start a band or anything like, in my head, I was still a drummer or a bass player for a band. When I came back to France I was looking for a singer for those songs I wrote while i was in KY. Even though everyone had a nice voice, It just didn’t feel right to me that someone else was singing or interpreting my story, that is when I started “singing”. To this day, I don’t consider myself a singer, I just tell my stories. I tell my message if you want. Over the years, going through bandmates and trying to get my message across, is when I realized that a band was actually a brand and a business. This is when it got more serious. Today, with a better understanding and interest in the music industry, and the history of women in music, this business has acquired new goals, I would like to reach.
When did the first glimpses of your latest release come together?
TGC: I wrote “Toast to the brave” in May 2021, and all the verses are inspired by true stories and events about people facing death. I think that it is something that is very brave and it also makes you think and reflect about your own life and what really matters to you and how to appreciate your health among other things in life.
What really inspires your music?
TGC: topic-wise, I like to talk about my experiences in life, thoughts, and feelings. Musically truly resonates with my body. I can’t really explain what I like and do not like but there are sounds that truly vibrate with my core and I pay attention to that. When I write a song, I need to truly enjoy and have a good feeling in order to keep the idea. If it doesn’t feel good or fun to play, I move on. Another sign is if I. forget the riff, then it wasn’t the one to keep for this song.
Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical process for a song? How does it normally work?
TGC: Lyrics and music usually come as a flash. it’s almost like a burst of emotions that i NEED to let go of. I like to write down on a piece of paper because it is the fastest way to write down every single thought i have. I also need to feel the burn on my hand. As I write there is usually a cadence and a melody that start playing, there’s a natural flow and it all comes out as a story. I time stamp all of my lyrics and I leave them. Sometimes, I come back to it right away and start composing the music, sometimes I leave it for days, weeks or months, but I don’t change any words because that’s how it all came out. I try to stay as authentic as I can be to the emotions I had when I spilled out my guts!
What’s the most rewarding moment in your creative process as a band, and why?
TGC: As an independent artist, there are a lot of rewarding or satisfying moments that no one can really understand unless you are in it, or an independent artist yourself. It’s those little victories such as, you wanted to work with someone and you finally got their attention, or you were trying to be a part of a line-up and you got it. You sold all of your merch at a show when you didn’t expect to make any money! A lot of people came out, in a town or city you do not know anyone in, YOU GOT PAID!!!! that s a big one!, A magazine got in touch with you for an interview, you got a review, you contacted a band to play a show with, and they said YES! this is an endless list that doesn’t mean anything to anyone but another independent artist. You keep setting up little goals to keep yourself motivated and innovative, so you can get to the ongoing “next step” to “make it” whatever definition you give it. This is personal to each band or artist. The bigger the goal the more difficult the path is. So I feel like we have had a lot of rewarding moments but the reality is that unless your name is not Dave Grohl or anyone from the 80s Hard Rock era, you haven’t had a few Grammys or whatever music award… no one will see you as successful. So I keep my little successes and accomplishments to myself because I am the only one who truly knows how hard it has been for me to make that happen. Financially, and networkingly!
Who produces your music, and what are they like to work with? (If you produce the music yourself, what do you love the most about working that way?)
TGC: We have been working for a few years now with Jason Orme who plays guitar with Alanis Morissette, we met about 20 years ago (oh geez..!) I was giving him demo tapes after Alanis’ shows! (to be young…) anyway.. we kept in touch and a few years ago, I asked him if would be interested in recording us. It was a great recording experience and I love Jason’s guitar playing so all of the lead guitars are his. Over time, Jason became our producer, and got more into the recordings as well, coming up with arrangement ideas, and percussions, adding little sounds and essentially making our sound unique and giving it an identity. What I also can appreciate, in working with Jason is his knowledge of guitars sounds. He has a collection of vintage guitars and vintage amps. (address not to be disclosed!) When I send him demos and we show him the new songs, he knows which guitar I should use with which pedals and amps, which saves us a lot of time.
On this last album, we have also worked with Norm Block (L7, Girl Friday). Norm is another great person to work with. For Tarah Who?, he is mixing the new album and i really like how it is all coming out. He is just a cool dude and only if you met him, you would understand what i actually mean. He just gets Tarah Who?’s sound and i think we come from the same type of music anyway so i feel like i have my music in good hands. 🙂
I have recorded drums with Norm for another project and it was a really nice experience, super laid back but on the ball. I felt really comfortable so i was able to work! We are going to record some new Tarah Who? songs with Norm when we come back to the US from our tour and i am really excited for this new experience as well. who knows what can come out from working with different people and studios? 🙂 it is as exciting as nerve wrecking for me to try something new. It took me years to get the confidence i have today about my music and how i am hearing it. I am really glad that things are chaging because when you are a woman in a male dominated business, in rock music and most of the men you work with are also older. I have had a lot of experiences where it wasn’t about knowledge, but about respecting what i wanted. Meaning, i get it, you have more experience, but i am not trying to sound like so and so and i want to actually make my own music. I am actually pretty shy so i didn’t dare to say anything and i ended up with products i wasn’t 100% happy about because i didn’t dare to speak up and i didn’t know to speak up. Also, when you are young and you really want to make it in the music industry, you believe that this advice is for the best! So trusting the people you work with is the most important thing in my opinion. It is not he big name and the big studios. I am sure it helps on a certain level but when you are on your own, you find the people you feel good working with. I really like my team today. Those are some of the successes i was mentioning about in the previous question.
Finding your people to work with, who actually care about your music, not because their name is on it or because they re getting paid but for the love of the project or just the relationship you have built together. I find that it is really important…
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your live show?
TGC: the best shows i have is when i feel one with the audience. When i am so comfortable that it feels like a big party with friends. It is really something to look out to the crowd and see smiles, and people really losing it to your music. It’s better than any drug. (Well.. depends;) ) but it is a pretty good natural high. Each one of our shows are so spontenous that they are completely different. I feed off of people’s energy so the louder and crazier people are, the more pumped i get as well. So… don’t be shy, people!;)
Particular memories that stand out to you?
TGC: we have a lot of memories. We have an inside joke with Coco about that. We do so much And it is hard to tell people what we do! You really have to live it. One evening we were talking and j was laughing at us getting old thinking “ imagine when we re old and we’re like -“remember when this and this happened “ then Coco immediaty told another story and i told another one and so on and so forth. We laughed soooo hard!
So yeah we have a ton of memories, but they re really hard to tell and some are also private;) but trust me we do have fun!
What advice would you give to another upcoming band/act?
TGC: if you want to do this, be you. Surround yourself by people who actually care if you can or at least they have to defend your business. And you have to be strong. Very strong. Because the only person who believes in you as much as you do is you. No one else sees or feels the music that you make the way you do. Unless you are a product of the music industry and that s cool too. But if you are an independent rock artist, make sure that your band knows your vision and be prepared for a lot of ups and downs . Support other bands because there s truly no competition if you are original. There s only one you. Don t be a dick and remember that you re not that special. Oh And good luck!