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Interview with LA-Based Punk Band Tarah Who?

Enter the mind and soul of Tarah Who? Led by Parisian artist Tarah Carpenter, this power trio will have you head-banging.

Tarah G. Carpenter started this project as a solo artist in Los Angeles. A musical dynamo, Tarah's a songwriter with a harmonic voice and a three-fold mastery over drums, bass and guitar; all that, and a beautiful personality to match, as proven by the below exchange. Turning to the other members, Matthew Peltcher is the bass player and does backup vocals and Coralie Hervé plays the drums. Across all metrics, this trio is loud, unique, and extra-ordinarily talented.

Together, Tarah Who? embodies a truly 90's spirit. Members of the trio have described some of their songs as alternative, garage, and pop, though most of their songs fall into the punk category–whatever the genre, they're damn good at their craft. They are inspired by The Distillers, their sound resembles a mix between the Smashing Pumpkin and the Foo Fighters, but in reality are their own breed with their own sound. They love going on tour and you may have seen their well-constructed music videos in the past. If not, you will want to check them out.

The trio plays a diverse collection of songs that come directly from the heart and soul, which has culminated in their newly released EP "Half Middle Child Syndrome." As discussed in their interview with Beat, Tarah Who's fanbase is continuously rewarded with unexpected melodies and unique lyrics that highlight life's idiosyncrasies, hardships and our shared quest for purpose.

BEAT: Where did the moniker Tarah Who? come from?

Tarah G. Carpenter: Tarah is an artist name. I came up with it a few years ago when I needed to look for a new name because mine was already taken by a French rap artist. People would confuse both acts, so sometimes we would not get a show because they thought we were rap, sometimes we were getting shows because they thought we were that popular rap artist and then found out we were actually a loud punk rock band! Imagine the shock! Anyway, we had a bunch of shows lined up and I had to come up with something new. I hate looking for band names. I had a list of band names that I sent in an email, in which the subject line was "Tarah Who?" Out of this *Very Inspired* list, all of my band members at the time said, "how about "TARAH WHO?" We kept that for the shows we had, then we kept getting more shows, so I never got around to changing it! Few years later: it's just too late to change it now.

Matthew Peltcher: I think it’s a unique name. And on top of that, it has punctuation included in the name. How many band names do you know with punctuation?

In what ways does your French background play into your music?

TGC: Until now, I would say none but our last EP "Half Middle Child Syndrome" has, for the first time in my writing, some French in it. I wrote the song "Sirens" after the Paris attacks. I was, as many were, really touched by this event. I lost a friend of mine at the Bataclan, and others present were wounded physically and/or psychologically. I sing one verse in French in that song.

Also, our friends from DRY CAN had come to California for a few shows. It was during that time that we were recording "Half Middle Child Syndrome," so I invited Anne Lupieri and Antoine Abinun to the studio to sing some backup vocals with us. Jason Orme (Alanis Morissette) who we co-produced the EP with, had the idea to have Anne and I sing a verse in French on "ACHE." We totally improvised the bridge, but it sounds really cool.

Describe your experience with the bands you had played with before you went off to start your own power trio.

TGC: I really enjoy playing in other bands. I only play the guitar for Tarah Who? because I write the songs. Otherwise, I don't really consider myself a guitar player. I am involved with a few other projects, playing the bass and the drums, and that is really fun. I do some writing or co-writing in those projects, but it's not as intense as leading your own band. I love to play music, and it is really nice to get out of your own band to play with other people, other instruments. It's a different approach, a different environment; less stressful, less or different responsibilities.

I still play and write for other musical projects, and it's always nice to go back to Tarah Who? :) I really enjoy playing all three instruments.

Coralie Hervé: I had a band with some friends from my music school, we played together for 7 years, and it was great. We had a lot of fun, but it was just for fun, you know? It really taught me how to play with other people. I’m really happy to be part of Tarah Who? because I really think that we can do something together, and that’s exciting.

MP: I have been in bands, off and on, since I was 15. I have been in “power trios” before but nothing quite as dynamic as Tarah Who?

How did it feel to finally be able to play the songs you had secretly written on the guitar?

TGC: Ha! You have done your research– I like it. :) It was really weird, at first. As you know, I started as a drummer and bass player. I think that was my comfort zone. The first time I actually had to be in front of the stage, I was really shy. I still am. I hide my shyness with humor or silence! I didn't really believe in my writing. It felt good, so I kept on doing it. I started playing songs for my mom and she enjoyed them, but you know moms. The big break was when my mom insisted that I play something for my dad. I did, and he said, "that's good, why don't you do more?" and that was it for me. My dad is this very serious, hardworking Vietnamese man! He is not into music. He only believes in studying and working hard. Music, art: not his thing! So, when he said that, I knew that he meant it. Now, at the time, I was a very cute and shy singer-songwriter, with a little voice, who played acoustic-type music. He probably wishes that I had continued pursuing this type of music, but hey! As the years went on, seeing the reaction and support of people made me continue. I actually never thought of this until you asked, but yeah... if it wasn't for the encouragement of my listeners, I would not be here today! Thank you people!

What were some of these secret songs that you wrote prior to your moving to Los Angeles?

TGC: Some songs I still have in a folder, but they are way too cheesy to use! It's funny– just yesterday, I had one of the first songs I have ever written stuck in my head! Anyway... "In My Mind" is one of the songs I wrote in secret. I used to say that the song was about materialism because I didn't dare to admit that it was about coming out! "In My Mind" talks about realizing that you have everything in life, but you still feel empty. The reason why I felt empty was because I wasn't out, and as long as I was hiding this, I couldn't be whole and move forward.

"Happy" is another oldie. "Happy" talks about relationships and how people mistake love and "being used to," which results in slowly becoming a sort of abuse. I've been around people that are together, but clearly don't love each other, yet they stay together and manipulate each other. To me, the best proof of love, if it's no longer reciprocated, is to let go. Most people live in fear: fear of being alone, fear of missing someone, fear of jealousy, which makes the other person miserable. Usually that other person is someone who just wants to be happy. Someone who lives in LOVE and accepts the other person's bullshit out of love. When does it end?

What band or artist shares the most similarities with you and why?

MP: Well, I don’t think we sound like anyone, to be honest, and that is what attracted me to Tarah Who? in the first place. Of course, you will hear all of the influences but the closest thing I would say is somewhat like the Foo Fighters.

Is the title of your EP “Half Middle Child Syndrome” a reference to you actually being a middle child, or is it an allusion to something else entirely?

TGC: Totally. So, I have met a lot of people that have asked me if I had siblings. The answer is: yes, I have two brothers. An older brother and a younger brother, and automatically, I get "AAAAhhh you're the middle child, IT MAKES SENSE!" I had never heard of such a thing before so I looked it up, and I read about the middle child syndrome. Now when I meet new people, I don't really go about my life and tell all the details about my parents splitting and my dad having another child with another woman! So I used this "Middle Child Syndrome," for our EP. Now, because he is my half-brother, I named this EP "Half Middle Child Syndrome." Now the question is: does this Syndrome really apply to me? Who knows...?

What is your all-time favorite venue to play at and why?

TGC: I am not really attached to any particular venue. The crowd makes the show. We could be in a basement and have the best show because people went crazy during our set, and we could play at a renowned venue, have no one there, and it wouldn't be any fun at all.

We are very open to play wherever our fans want us, because THEY will make our show special. Not the walls or the history of the walls.

MP: Tarah, you are absolutely right. I could say every venue is my favorite and it’s because of the people. We are there to be the catalyst for the audience to have fun. When we invite people to “come to our show,” we are really asking you to just come and have fun with us.

CH: I didn’t play a lot in LA but it's kind of awesome to play at the venues in the Sunset Strip. Those bar walls have welcomed the most popular rock bands of all time, so it’s like a dream came true to play there.

What is the most excessive gift you have ever received from a fan?

TGC: I think it was a package that I received at my place! It was a really, really sweet package with bracelets, all kinds of goodies and a letter. So Sweet!

When did you make the switch from drums to guitar?

TGC: In Kentucky. I was an exchange student when I was 15. I couldn't play the drums there, so I bought my first electric guitar and started playing.

But as soon as I came back to France, boy! Have I beaten those drums! ;)

Have you returned to Paris to perform with the rest of your trio since your original move to LA?

TGC: Yes, I did a few times with previous band members. We are planning on coming back to Europe next summer 2018. I am very excited to show Matt all around Paris and play gigs in Europe with Coralie and Matt. Playing in Europe is really fun. Different crowds and cultures. I personally LOVE, LOVE, LOVE playing in the UK. British people know how to mosh pit and truly enjoy Rock.

You know, touring is so much fun, people get really excited to meet you and to have you. I can't wait to go on tour, every night is completely different!

What is one thing you always have to do, one person you always have to see, and one place you always have to visit while you’re there?

TGC: I have to fill up on cheese, charcuterie and wine. I always have to see my family and my best girls, I always have to go have dinner in Montmartre and see Madame (the Eiffel Tower) and get drunk on the Bâteaux-Mouches with my crew.

MP: Tarah is going to have to show me all of those places and more. Can’t wait!

Besides music, name another passion that gets you out of bed in the morning.

TGC: Tough to only name one. Photography, painting and martial arts.

What is your “universal message” that you want to relay to your fans all across the world?

TGC: Be yourself and have fun! Life is an experience and is meant to be Fun. WITHOUT forgetting about your responsibilities, of course!

Fun, as in, don't take every situation so seriously. You're wasting your time and energy. Focus on the good: your needs and loving each other. Don't waste your time comparing yourself or your life with other peoples'. Focus on being you.

CH: Do what you want to do no matter what.

MP: Do what you love, enjoy life and don’t let anyone/anything get in your way. Oh yeah, and be kind to one another. 


Learn more about Tarah Who? at tarahwho.com.

Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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