Tarah G. Carpenter Reveals Her Uncompromising Confrontation with Real Life and Music
Interview with Phil Cartwright, CEO, HorizonVU Music
The mind, soul, rock’n roll heart beat and operator behind ‘Tarah Who?’ is French / American Singer and Multi-Instrumentalist (drummer, guitarist & bassist) Tarah G. Carpenter. Born in Paris, France, Tarah got her first drum set at age 14. After a short stint of coming to the US to be a high school exchange student in Murray, Kentucky, she was unable to play drums & out of boredom she picked up the guitar & started writing songs as an outlet.
After playing in-and-out of bands around Paris on drums & bass for few years, Tarah got the desire to travel to Los Angeles to explore the music scene. With her bandmates back in Paris and on a last minute whim, Tarah answered an ad on Craigslist “looking for an artist to perform original songs at a warehouse Party Downtown”. When she, for the first time performed singing and playing guitar the audience response was so good that she decided she wanted to do her own music and started playing under the moniker ‘Tarah Who?’ immediately.
With true 90’s spirit, anthemic sing-a-long choruses, a punk edged energetic live show and a load of heart to back it up. Tarah’s song live and recorded jump out and grab at you to listen. The fact that she can rock the drums just hard as the guitar is enough to make any audience member or listener pay attention. Tarah’s been compared to everything from the female Pearl Jam to Sonic Youth, but regardless, Tarah G. Carpenter stands on her own and is someone you don’t want to miss.
Tarah’s song ‘In My Mind’ received an honorable mention for the world song contest by Billboard Magazine and ‘Worst to Come’ has had regular spins on WRCR Rockford, IL College Radio, as well as play on 89.4 FM Radio Libertaire. She has also been featured on numerous blogs including Ustream.tv, Revolutionthreesixty.com (’PEOPLE THAT MATTER’) and Thehangoutgroup.com
Tarah Who? has just released their new EP, “Federal Circle of Shame” available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/federal-circle-of-shame-ep/id1083959696
HVUM: You are well-known amongst your peers for having a hard-edged DIY approach to your music career. Tell us what’s behind that.
I started playing when I was 14 and I just kept on going. My approach to music or my career is more of a feeling. Does it feel right to follow this path? Or is it fair?
Things don’t always go as planned but you learn and keep going. You know better.
I have my own definition of DIY. I understand and use it more as Do it… Independently from the big labels that do everything for you. What I believe as an independent artist that may be called do it yourself is that you are not famous, but you still want to do and share your music. Why not? Just do it yourself. Don’t wait for the contract, you may not even want any of it after reading it. In that sense you are doing it yourself.
But it is really interesting when you meet other DIY artists. You become friends, and help each other out, tour together, exchange gear, or dates, musicians, studios, ideas and tips etc… It’s this sort of circle of friends, and family that you start building, with artists that are just like you, trying to break through.
The hard part for a DIY is to stay true to yourself and what you believe in. If you are a DIY musician you are most likely broke or not very wealthy. It is important to not fall into the scams of pay to play gigs for instance. Talking to other bands or musicians is very important to get the best advice to meet your needs. (i.e., you may not have the cash for a recording studio, but need to record: ask around about the equipment you need for a home studio and learn how to do it yourself. Or maybe someone loves your project and would like to help out. The idea is: NOTHING gets in your way)
HVUM: You’ve been working a lot with bassist Ash Orphan. You two come from slightly different musical paths. What led you to work together and how does the collaboration show up in your music?
We started a side project together to explore the ideas that we had during the smoke breaks our bandmates had. Those ideas became the project we have today called Jane Gray Black Orphan.
At the time Ash was part of another band as well that was getting pretty popular and he didn’t want to start a new project. I really believed there was something to his touch and approach of the guitar now and I really liked his voice. Even though he said he didn’t want a band I kept asking for him to come over “to jam” but of course it all became more serious and before he knew it we were a new band! Now JGBO is a very serious project and we are both really proud of it!
Ash comes from a different musical background. He listens to the dark depressing songs that I usually change after 30 seconds of hearing. I think it’s called post-rock? Not my thing. We tried many times. I just can’t do it! Maybe in a few years!
I am more punk rock, grunge, rock… not pop rock… ROCK! So I enjoy playing with Ash because he writes melodies that inspire me to play grooves he doesn’t expect. It’s the combination of our two musical worlds, I think, that makes Jane Gray Black Orphan.
HVUM: You’re doing a combination of electric and acoustic shows these days. Do you like mixing it up?
TGC: I started Tarah Who? as a solo acoustic performer only because I didn’t have a band! I like playing the electric show better because I get to be loud, I have a lot of fun with the guys and I love the vibrations of the drums and bass and I get to scream as loud as I want!
It is interesting to play solo (or just with Ash but the idea is to play an acoustic set) because I have a different audience and people’s that can’t handle the electric show can appreciate the acoustic!
I hear it all: people that LOVE the electric show, others that are very surprised with the acoustic and could not imagine it but really enjoy it, others that prefer the acoustic etc..
The acoustic is more intimate but still very entertaining and both are a lot of fun. I feed of the audience’s energy so whether it’s an electric or acoustic event, if you’re into it, I’ll give you my best!
HVUM: What you do think each (electric and acoustic) presents you as a songwriter and guitarist?
TGC: I write ALL of my songs with an acoustic guitar. I think that the acoustic emphasizes the rhythmic parts I play.
My songwriting is very “drum” oriented. It doesn’t really follow any songwriting “rules” people may learn. I usually think of the drums first and whatever is fun to play I stick to.
The acoustic show is interesting because there are no drums and I have heard many times from the people that have only seen us electric, they can’t imagine an acoustic show. As of today no one has been disappointed!
So the acoustic definitely shows the rhythm of the songs and you can actually hear my vocals too!
For the electric shows…I think speed… Everything is played faster. Faster than the acoustic show and faster than the album. I think that’s why we started getting this punk label. I never intended to be in the punk scene. I just write what I want really and can’t define it. I have certain emotions while recording that requires a specific tempo. But once it’s out there, available to the world, the live show is something else! We want to have fun, and we want people to jump around and go crazy, so we intentionally play faster, and sometimes as fast as we can!
HVUM: Tell us about your gear setup for Tarah Who? And your acoustic performances.
TGC: Tarah Who? is meant to be a four piece band with a second guitar player, but until I find the “dude” we are a three piece. (firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.)
We have the drums, very simple set up: Kick Snare, 2 toms and Floor Tom. 3 crashes, 1 ride, 1 china (essential!!) and HH. Soultone cymbals.
Bass: G&L 5 string bass, Big Muff- Electro Harmonix , EBSMulti Drive. Gallien Kruger Head , Form Factor CAB.
GTR: I have three different guitars and a spare because of my different tunings. On ALL of my guitars though, i have the Ernie Ball Not so slinky set of strings. A friend of mine introduced me to those strings a few years ago, i haven’t stopped buying them since.
Acoustic GTR: my dream guitar is still at the store…I just haven’t had gathered the cash for it yet!
So I still use my old acoustic guitar, with Ernie Ball’s acoustic set. (Medium)
New Album: Barytone and Ernie Ball’s Barytone set. EBS Chorus and Distortion.
Vocals; Shure Beta 58 A.
HVUM: Apart from your own music, what artists are in the top three positions on your playlist these days?
TGC: I actually don’t listen to much music.
I spend my days rehearsing for Tarah Who? or Jane Gray Black Orphan. I also have another punk project with the bass and Barytone that I would like to work on more, so really, when I am done practicing the last thing I want to do is listen to anything.
I actually enjoy silence a lot, and if anything is playing, the people I am with, are usually playing it.
I have more apps on my phone than music, and the music I have is for work, demos: with a very loud metronome!