Tarah G. Carpenter Will Rock U!

Originally posted May 29th, 2015 by Tom Tom Magazine http://tomtommag.com/2015/05/tarah-g-carpenter-will-rock-u/

Photo by Anais Brebion

Photo by Anais Brebion

Tarah G. Carpenter Will Rock U!

By Phil Cartwright

Full Name: Tarah G. Carpenter

Age: 30

Hometown: Paris, France & Los Angeles, CA

Lives in: Los Angeles, CA

Past Bands: Fräulein (punk/noise)

Current Bands: Jane Gray Black Orphan

Day Job: Musician

Endorsements: Soultone, DC California

The mind, soul, rock’s roll heartbeat and operator behind Tarah Who? is French/American singer and multi-instrumentalist (drummer, guitarist and bassist) Tarah G. Carpenter.

Born in Paris, France, Tarah got her first drum set at age 14. While in the U.S. as a high school exchange student she also picked up the guitar and starting writing songs. With a 90’s spirit, anthemic sing-a-long choruses, a punk-edged energetic live show, the power of Tarah’s songs pull you in and slam you.

Since 2010, Tarah G. Carpenter has released numerous demos and toured Europe many times. She has played at the Festival Europe des Cultures, Gibus, Le Sentier des Halles in Paris. She has been active in the London, Leeds, Amsterdam, Berlin and Hanoi music scenes. More recently, she toured the U.S. playing venues such as the Viper Room and House of Blues in Los Angeles.

PC: Tell us how playing the drums influenced your musical development?

TGC: I think the best thing in being able to play several instruments is that you can experience different positions and feel the music differently. As a drummer, I tend to naturally leave room for others and try not to always play when not necessary. Excepting for drummers, fills are not very fascinating to others. Now, being a drummer, I find it easier to play other instruments as well. For example, I take my guitar as a rhythm instrument. I pay more attention to my band’s tightness. When I play the bass, I like to have fun with the drummer.

In terms of your career, who were your biggest influences?

I first discovered Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta’ drums solos for Buddy Rich’s event. I really enjoyed how they were using the drums. At 15 all of this was new to me.

Then I listened to the Foo fighters and of course I got into Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. Then I started looking for female drummers and discovered Sheila E. I don’t know many drummers or I don’t look for any in particular. I enjoy drummers that have personality, their own sound behind the kit, that are original, or just know how to groove.

Recently, I saw Keith Carlock at a drum festival in Paris. I really, really enjoyed his approach to the drums. I have also seen Sean Winchester in his solo project called Something Bot Metro. I think his drumming is brilliant and watching the project live is a real pleasure.

What makes a good drummer?

Ha! I think we can all have our own definition!

I don’t think a “GOOD” drummer needs to have all the technique possible. I think practice is important because without technique you are limited. But there’s nothing worse in my opinion than a very good technician who has no feelings or personal touch or sound. Most people wouldn’t notice the difference, but I think you can tell sometimes from a hit, or sound who is behind the drums. Also I find it annoying for instance if I’m playing another instrument and the drummer doesn’t listen to the music and really feel it. I think a good drummer needs to find the right balance, or find the right amount of groove, fill, feel, and of course timing – feel where it feels right to put in a fill or leave it simple. A good drummer should keep the band tight for sure, but also a good band should know how to listen to each other, whichever instrument they play.

PC: Tell us a little about life with Tarah Who?

TGC: Life with Tarah Who? is an adventure! I write all the music and lyrics then send the songs to my band mates. They learn their parts and then we meet in studios to rehearse. What I like is that we can arrange every song for the live performance, and we have a lot of fun doing that. Every show is different.

A very fun moment that sticks in my mind? Yes, I have tons, but a recent one was in London. We were invited to play at this punk Festival (which is really funny to us because we are not a punk band at all…or at least we are not my definition of a punk band). So we are at this punk fest which is very cool. There were five bands and we played 4th. So we got to see the other bands, and I’m starting to sweat thinking, “This crowd is going to hate us so much! We are like the pop band of the night to these professional mosh-pitters with mohawks in every color having toilet paper fights and demonstrating talent as world renowned beer drinkers!” It’s finally our time to go and as we’re setting up I turn to the band and tell them, “ Guys! we’re going to need to give them all that we’ve got!” and told my drummer to speed all the songs up to 200 bpm or follow my lead when I have to start the songs. And no stopping in between songs.

It was a success! We definitely sounded punk, and we had a blast!

PC: What has been the highlight of your career to-date?

TGC: For Tarah Who? so far it has been to take the plunge and go in the studios alone. Make the record the way it sounds like in my head. The rest is to come.

For Jane Gray Black Orphan our first EP is about discovering ourselves and what we want to do in the project. The first album (that we are currently writing ) is going to be a huge next step, that we cannot wait to start sharing.

PC: Thinking about great female drummers, we recall Sheila Escovedo, Georgia Hubley, Teresa Taylor, Kate Schellenbach, Janet Weiss and others… but really there are not that many? Why is that? Do you think female drummers have an especially hard time being recognized?

TGC: We are a few out there and we do have our own community, which is not unpleasant. Thanks to Tom Tom magazine for instance, female drummers have a place to express themselves among others or discover other female drummers, Hit Like A Girl contest makes you realize you’re not the only one and there are AMAZING female drummers worldwide.

I have met a few well-known male drummers that are very supportive of female drummers. I also think it is changing a lot and the more girls/women are going to see other women play, the more they are going to see that they can do it too and dare to make their first step.

From my experience, I have kept it for myself for a while that I was playing the drums, because I was tired of men’s reactions. I travel a lot and as of today I still deal with guys making a face when they see that I am the drummer. I think unless your name is out there, Cindy Blackman with Lenny Kravitz, for example, you’re still going to deal with people’s first judgment and then it depends on us to change their opinion or not.

Drums are for everyone, just like any instrument (or anything in life, as a matter of fact!).

I think people are more open to female drummers in North America than elsewhere. I think girls used to have a hard time, because it was set in people’s minds that drums were for men, but it has definitely evolved and keeps evolving.

Maybe female drummers have had a hard time being recognized, but I know that today things are changing and I don’t know if the male drummers are in special need for some female drummers around all of these dudes! But I have been encouraged a lot by people like Thomas Lang, to just keep playing!

And I keep meeting more and more supportive people. I have just been endorsed by Soultone cymbals and DC California for instance. On social media I have a lot of supportive comments, and everyone I meet at gigs tell me “it’s nice to see a woman play the drums!” Sound engineers also come very often after the shows to show their support. Soon it will be a new trend!

PC: Touring can be particularly tough especially for drummers. There is a lot of gear involved and that means not only setting up and tearing down night after night, but making sure your gear stays safe and in the best condition. Thoughts about touring as a drummer?

TGC: I love touring. As a drummer, I find it difficult at times because you have to think of more things like numbers of stands and toms you really need. Unless you have a lot of room on the tour bus you’re just going to take too much room in the van and stage.

Touring in the States and in Europe ( as an independent band) is very different. In Europe, bands share equipment so that every band brings something and everyone stays for the other band and it’s all fair. In the US, we were really surprised that in the beginning no one lended anything, or if they did, they would actually rent it. In the end, this makes sense. Gear is so expensive you don’t want anyone to play your gear. And lately, I have heard about a few situations where gear was stolen. WHO DOES THAT??

I am very particular with my drums and I know where and how I set up my stuff, so I don’t like anyone to try to help me setting up. As band, everyone should help each other carrying gear from van to stage. But when it comes to setting up, in my opinion you’re better off doing it yourself.

PC: What words of advice do you pass along the young musicians wanting to be rock stars?

TGC: Ha! What is a rock star?! If you want to play music. Get out there and play. Do what you have to do, to make it happen. But I only have one piece of advice: BE YOU! Don’t try to be someone else, don’t learn the drums like someone else, get inspired, or learn a few things here and there from others. Other drummers succeeded because they were doing their own thing.

So do your thing, feel the music, write, play. Do what you have to do, be you and stay clean! You want to be a good drummer? You are first an athlete! Write and play music because you have something to say, something to pass on, emotions, express yourself, share it with the world, not because it looks cool.

PC: One final question… what is Tarah G Carpenter doing now and what are your plans for the future?

TGC: I am currently recording my third album (Tarah Who?). That should come out in 2015. I am also working with Ash on Jane Gray Black Orphan’s first album. Tarah Who? is planning to tour the West Coast in September 2015 and we hope to see you out there!

You can check Tarah’s Facebook and Instagram for updates on all her music!