“I think that when you write as the person, you visit who you are a lot, and that’s what dictates where the word goes.”
Your Friend is an honest band. With songs ranging from subjects about the unrequited to the introspective, Taryn Miller doesn’t hold back. Her songwriting is just as straight-forward as her personality. Gumption, her latest project with Domino Records is just that. Her songs call for a reflection of self, the outward spilling of contemplation brewed with melody. Taryn’s evolution from EP to first album shows not only her growth as a musician, but the humanity behind the music. She’s been opening for Porches and label-mate Alex G as they drive across North America. This show at the Echo Plex is one of the last dates on the tour, and it’s to a huge sold-out crowd.
It was a typical sunny, warm, and clear day in Los Angeles. I pulled into the parking lot a block from the Echo Plex and made my down Sunset Boulevard. The foot traffic was usual. Customers going in out of the pizza joints down the street and some making their way to Permanent Records just a few stores down. Our paths finally crossed and we settled on the patio. By the way Taryn was glowing, she seemed particularly excited about the show she was about to play. Her smile was an indication of the warm personality she would be exuding through the conversation.
TJ: To compare and contrast Jekyll/Hyde with Gumption, where were you in your life then as compared to now? What was going on then?
Taryn Miller: I was still in school, which was one thing [laughs]. The music thing was a necessity that I felt like I had to make time for. I was working two jobs, going 18 hours, so it was pretty intensive. When I was playing music, I had short bursts of time. It was only at night, and I would work something out. When I actually started playing shows, I mean, most of the songs were written within days before a show. I was revisiting some stuff and thought “okay, I’m gonna try this out”. It was more of an adrenal kind of eccentric way.
TJ: Always on the go.
TM: [nodding and smiled exuberantly in agreement] Yeah, yeah. Once I was out of school it was totally different, and that’s why it took awhile for the record to develop. I had that time to overthink it, to agonize over it like I didn’t before. I think that had a lot to do with it. It’s just having time all of sudden. I wasn’t used to that. My whole life was different. I had finished school. I had gone through a lot of changes just with the people in my life and things like that. I feel like it doesn’t end. Gumption to me was the tip of this iceberg.
TJ: Obviously the free time factor makes a lot of difference to what you want to
do creatively instead of worrying about all the other side shit that’s going on.
TM: Oh yeah, I tend to do better when I’m busy in general. I think that finding ways to exercise creatively that don’t necessarily have to do with this project opens up these doors again, and I’m still figuring it out.
TJ: I read in a Spin article with Marley Brown that you won $1,000 dollars from the Battle of the Bands and that’s how you funded your projects.
TM: What ended up happening is we had enough just to press a bunch of CDS, and I had friends who did tracking of the instruments and stuff. Once I sold a handful of them, I just paid Jordan Geiger one day. And he was like,“WHOA!” I owe so much to that guy. I got to see him in Carrboro and we got to stay at his house. We ran into each other at SXSW, and he’s really great. He always has everyone else’s interests in mind. He’s a talented musician that just gives and gives and gives. He has a record coming out soon, too. Or I think it just did? Hospital Ships.
TJ: What was it like the days before Battle of the Bands? What was your mindset
going into the whole thing?
TM: It was just supposed to be fun. We didn’t get competitive about it at all. We didn’t know what to expect. I was so new to the scene that I thought, “I won’t be surprised if nothing happens”. It honestly was the incentive.
TJ: I know for me, going to the record store is my retail therapy. Go home, slap on a record and I’m straight. That moment of sitting down and being able to listen to whatever you want is the best thing, for sure. What are you earliest music memories with your parents?
TM: My grandparents listened to soul and R&B. My dad was into classic rock, but he has a really eclectic taste, too. I remember he always had CDs floating around his car, and sometimes the same one would stay there for a long time. I grew up on Led Zeppelin. Those are my earliest memories. I begged him to change it when he played “No Quarter” because it freaked me the fuck out and he wouldn’t. He’d fuck with me.
We both chuckled just a little at the antics of her dad.
TJ: You’re signed to Domino Records obviously with a lot of great bands like Real Estate, Ducktails, The Arctic Monkeys. Which one do you listen to the most? Which of those inspire you the most?
TM: [Her face was blushed just a tad as she was prepared to explain herself] Oh my god, here it comes, I have to reveal it finally. Animal Collective has been one of my favorite bands forever. I actually have Feels tattooed right here. I always make jokes that I would never wear shorts around them or something. Their whole catalogue, you can access different parts of their career and be inspired in different ways and facets. As far as more recently? Julia Holter. She’s a hero, like I hope to be that and to have that kind of posture musically. She just has this very clear intention. She approaches her work very carefully and thoroughly. I just respect her so much since forever. Those two are definitely huge.
TJ: Have you got to hang out with any of them?
TM: No, that’s hilarious because those are the two bands I haven’t.
TJ: Everyone else on the label you have met and come across?
TM: No, I just mean the two I listen to the most. Maybe that’s for good reason, I
don’t know. I would fumble as a person around them.
TJ: With the self titled song to the album Gumption, the first line in the song is that “no one ever ages like how they envision”. Would you say that Gumption has become sort of your introspective album about yourself as compared to Jekyll/Hyde?
TM: I think that I am always going to see things introspectively to some degree. I think that when you write as the person, you visit who you are a lot, and that’s what dictates where the word goes. I think that what was different was this record has a sense of self-awareness that I don’t think that Jekyll/Hyde did. It does sound young, you know, I was young, and I was going through things that I had not gone through yet. They were more emotionally driven. With this record, it was bigger picture- how I am fitting into this world, that I exist in, and the people. It was a more omniscient thing, you know, rather than just how I’m feeling, how I’m seeing things. When I said “it’s the tip of the iceberg”, it doesn’t end just as a person. I’m finally settling more into an identity thing than figuring out who I am or who I’m comfortable being and things like that, so it’s never ending. This is the first step towards that- to maturing in a way that I hadn’t yet.
TJ: When you’re on tour, are there any favorite cities you’d like to revisit? Which cities have your favorite food spots that you like to eat at?
TM: I just love the west coast in general because they cater to my dietary restrictions really well. I’m celiac, so I get sick- I’ve been like this for seven years. I love the west coast for that. I love the scenery alone. I haven’t got to spend a lot of time in all those places. I love Oregon and Washington.
TJ: On your days off on tour, what do you enjoy doing the most…if you get a
day off on tour?
TM: Honestly, the days off are days where I can be efficient. Like with the gear stuff, you know, the days off I utilize that as much as possible to trouble shoot things, or to make or to clean up my patches, and do certain things like that. The days off are usually tune-ups for me. If I get to go hang out somewhere, I maybe read a little bit. I generally think about “what have I not been able to tend to this last week”. To me, it’s a catch-up day.
TJ: So not more of the R&R side?
TM: No, I generally don’t. I wish.
TJ: Have you had one single memorable moment on tour, past or present? Either from Jekyll//Hyde or this tour.
TM: Just touring alone with Courtney Barnett was crazy. They were really cool people, so sweet. That was super amazing. There was a memory that I have of Austin, who used to play bass with us. His grandparents had a cabin in California. We went there and drove down to the hot springs one night, and it was only lit by the moon. It was the coolest thing. I’ve never got to experience that before, and I remember that fondly. That felt like we weren’t on tour anymore. That was so cool. His grandparents made us food, and we hung out with them. They were awesome. We had a really good time. [Taryn looked out to the lot and had the gaze on her face was nostalgic]
TJ: What is your pre-show ritual, an hour or so before you go on stage, like?
TM: Generally we’re checking right close up to show time, but I smoke. I smoke
cigarettes. I’ve been thinking about jogging or something. I have done yoga in the green room a couple times on this tour. It’s all case-by-case these days, so I never know how much time I’m going to have. Today, I’m fucking with my guitar pedal still. So who knows what I’ll do tomorrow? I want to develop something. I really do enjoy routine. I haven’t really developed one yet, but I definitely do just smoke cigarettes and just clear the head a bit.
TJ: I know Gumption was not released too long ago, but are there any projects
you’re currently working on? Do you plan to take a break maybe after this tour?
TM: Oh no, I’m never taking a break. I love it, so I have some things I want. I want to explore things a little more, you know, like I wanna get into sound design a little bit. Start really practicing, building a reel to visual things, and composing two visuals. Those are things I definitely want to start when I get back. And sound installation-like in a show. I have a vision. Joel [band member] and I actually wanted to do this side project. It’s just the two of us playing very minimal dark electronic. It’s called Clothe, and nothing is recorded yet. We played a show, and it was really cool. We might explore that a little more, even if it’s a live thing and there isn’t anything tracked. It’s a world that I’ve wanted to get into for a while. I guess I have to start preparing for Red Bull Music Academy again.
TJ: Did you get invited this year?
TM: Yeah, they carried over the term two of kids. Our tour got cancelled. So yeah, it’s in Montréal in the fall. When I get back, you know, I’m just gonna start honing in on that, too.
TJ: How do you go about your whole creative process? How do you get into the mood when you write a song?
TM: It’s never really predictable. I never know what’s going to work and what
doesn’t, you know. Most of the time things come from a melodic idea first and
then I build around that. There are times I’ve just been learning how to chop things up and collage stuff. The samples, things I’ve captured and recorded, and how to assemble them in a way. For Gumption, it was like building off this melodic idea.
TJ: So you would have a riff or a melody in mind and kind of just center it around that?
TM: Yeah and I’d just see where it goes.
TJ: Is there a venue you haven’t played that would be on your bucket list?
TM: Oh shit, probably Webster (Webster Music Hall) would be cool, that’s one that I would love to play. I feel like this is cool I’m playing Echo Plex. This is all huge to me. I mean, I’m not going so far as to say MSG ’cause I just don’t see it happening. I’m not sure I can make music that can get that big.
TJ: Like an arena type concert?
TM: Well maybe, like, appealing to that many people in that kind of popular way, you know?
TJ: You never know, man, you might be able to really be in MSG (Madison Square Garden).
TM: Maybe opening for someone… that’d be cool. I mean, I don’t care if it’s three slots down. Webster would be sick, though.
TJ: Guilty pleasures songs… we won’t judge you if the band rhymes with “Blimp
Discuit”. Do you have a guilty pleasure song?
TM: We’ve been listening to a lot of Taylor Swift in the car, no doubt.
TM: Yup. It’s been cool listening to that record honestly. I’ve be like, “Okay, yeah, I can get down with this.” Yeah, we listen to Millennium, we listen to Circus a little bit.
TJ: Is that the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium ?
TM: Oh yeah. We like Boyz 2 Men. We play a lot of R-Kelly, too.
TJ: Finally, if you were a burrito, what kind of burrito would you be?
TM: Definitely would have avocado in it-not guacamole- like, slices of avocado. Probably marinated chicken, tomato, sprouts…rice in there, too.
We shared a few more laughs and said our goodbyes. Taryn was having trouble with one of the pedals she had been using on the tour and needed to attend to it. I walked down to Gold Room and had a beer before she would go on to play. I had just completed my first interview as a journalist and I couldn’t help but think of the many more to come.
I think I could get used to this.
Going into this interview, and I know it’s always cliché to say, I didn’t know what to expect. From the text exchanges that Taryn and I had, I knew she had a warm and happy aura about her, but I suppose you just never know how the mood of a conversation can turn. I felt a bit relieved that the conversation was filled with laughs and also the genuine surprise Taryn had put out with our curveball questions. I had nothing but a great time and would love to cross paths with her once more.
If you want to check out more of Your Friend you can do so here.
Feel free to also check out her amazing video below: