With songs crafted over the course of five years and an album recorded during the height of the pandemic, Tasche and the Psychedelic Roses debut a new, evolved sound on their self-titled sophomore album, released on Halloween night. The album showcases a much heavier psych-rock‘n’roll sound for the group, with twinges of grunge and punk, and drawing inspiration from artists like Joe Meek, David Bowie, Nina Hagen, and Queen. Born in Portland, Oregon, Tasche de la Rocha made her start as a musician in New Orleans busking on the streets and used that experience to develop her singing and songwriting to produce her debut album, Gold Rose, with help from bandmate Joseph Faison in 2017. With roots in R&B that reflected influences of gospel and doo-wop, the group’s sound has grown to include a plethora of genres that ultimately speaks more about their desire to play what feels right or fresh versus that which they already know and have played before. Sitting outside of The Orange Couch in the Marigny two weeks prior to the release of her new album, I talked with Tasche about her freshly released album, making music through a pandemic, and saying “fuck you” to past traumas.
Can you recall when we first spoke about doing this interview?
God, that was months and months ago… was that mid-pandemic?
The earliest email I had saved of us talking about it was from February 6, 2020.
Woooow. That’s like, early pandemic. I think that must have been when I was planning on recording Tasche and the Roaches, a different kind of thing. I think it would have been a lot easier! [laughs]
What did you guys end up doing?
Tasche and the Psychedelic Roses, which is the project I’ve had for the longest and the thing I’ve worked on the hardest. I was like, if I’m gonna record and if I have all this time—and free time—and I’m gonna put my heart into something, I might as well do it in the biggest way I possibly can, because I’m never gonna have an opportunity to record this project again, you know what I mean? It was my last chance.
What does that mean, “last chance”?
There were a lot of people moving. Like three, four members have moved now to new states, so it was kind of the place and time. I think the pandemic really made me have the confidence to record the full eight-piece band. Otherwise I would have just tried to do a four-piece with whoever was nearby, you know? But I wanted to get the OG sound [before everybody was so scattered].
For those who don’t know, can you explain all the different iterations of your performances under your name?
I guess there’s been three so far, not including my solo stuff, which is just Tasche de la Rocha.
So solo stuff is one, and there’s still three others?
Yeah. First I started out with Tasche and the Psychedelic Roses, which was born immediately after I came out with my first album. I came up with a band to play on the album and then from there it just turned into this very large project, because I wanted to have so much soundscape on that album. I ended up calling upon a lot of different people to harmonize with one another, to have backup singers, to have two different types of guitar players doing things I can’t do. And then bass and rhythm, basically. That’s the full eight-piece rock’n’roll/psych/doo-wop band.
That’s a mouthful.
Yeah, it’s a lot. And it changes genres so much on every song, so it’s hard to place or pinpoint it. And then, Tasche and the Angels is a stripped down version of that, but it’s way ethereal. It’s like ethereal doo-wop. And it’s just me and my backup singers, and they all have really unique voices and it really brings out the structures of the songwriting and the lyrics and harmonies and melodies and pinpoints all of that, isolates it. And then, Tasche and the Roaches is the easier project for me to play loud with.
Loud like grungy? Or metal-y?
A bit grungier. It was the easiest for the Roaches to play all around town with whoever wanted me to play. So I threw together a four-piece, and it was all homies, and we just, like, play loud. [laughs]
I think a Roaches show at Circle Bar was the last show I saw you guys play before everything shut down.
Yeah, we were playing with a lot of the younger rock’n’roll groups in town and it was really cute.
I remember ending up at that show on accident because ANTIGRAVITY was having office hours there earlier in the night. And then like three weeks later…
The pandemic came in the middle of working on this project. How has that informed the music? How do you see its effect on the making of this work?
I was able to put all of my focus into one thing. Normally I was just running around, working full time, playing shows every weekend, really spread thin. And so with everybody in my project there was a lot of juggling people’s schedules. But then everybody’s schedule instantly cleared up, so I was able to make magic happen. It took some alchemy to get that group of people together. [laughs]
Who plays on the album?
First and foremost, Joseph Faison, who recorded my last album and helped me produce that one, he’s playing baritone guitar. Dave Hammer plays lead guitar. We have the Angels, who are Sabine McCalla, Rachel Wolf, and Joanna Tomassoni—who all have their own projects as well but had joined this one early on before they started putting a lot more time into theirs. Then there’s Neilson Bernard on drums, and we did a bunch of auditions finding drummers and he was really talented and a really great fit; and [bassist] Roy Brenc, who’s a person I’ve been playing in New Orleans with for longer than anyone else. [laughs] He’s the first one I ever played music with in New Orleans.
Pandemic aside, what did you do to approach this album differently?
I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to do and was listening to a lot of different genres, pieces of genres and pieces of artists and songs, and I was trying to just grab little parts from those and make a collage in my own way. So I was listening, doing a lot of research, kind of deciding what I wanted to make. Then once I felt like I had a pretty long list of our songs to choose from, I workhorsed those songs out by playing tons of millions of shows with my band, good and bad. [laughs] Some [of these] people have been working with me forever, playing shows. I wanted to record at the time but I just didn’t have the time or the money to do it. I had to wait and I was also really intimidated by the idea, ’cause it just seemed like such a big production. So I just kept working the songs as long as I could and then I felt like we got to a point where they were at their strongest and that was a peak moment. I had the opportunity to put them together and really make that concept and my ideas really clear to a producer where he was able to take my mindscape and put it into soundwaves—which was pretty cool.
And you went to [producer and Lost Bayou Ramblers drummer] Eric Heigle for this one.
He did a great job, yeah. I was able to send him a bunch of influences and a bunch of rehearsals and he’s seen us play, and I just was able to put all of my thoughts into one little zone and he was able to help me piece it together in a way that made sense.
Can you describe the album, sonically speaking?
I’d say it’s like a psychedelic dance party in a burning world, or something along those lines. I feel like it’s really dark, very cathartic, very emotional, going through all of the pains you have with the biggest, most rock’n’roll sense of mind you can have. This album is a mood. It’s an album for dreamers, survivors, lovers, haters, the living, the departed. It’s a tribute to lost stars never discovered by the masses. It’s an incrustation of Decatur and Barracks in the Quarter. It’s holding your own with no weapons. It’s a response to every painful word ever absorbed. It’s a bloody love note to the universe.
What is it like to listen to, now that it’s done?
It feels right. After so many years playing glam rock glitter shows we have always wanted to document this body of work but never had the means or the space or the exact right rendition. Somehow I pushed everything into place and I had the opportunity to work with the right lineup of people. It feels like a completed piece to offer to the people who need to hear it. It captures so much emotion. It makes me laugh at myself and how much emotion I carry, and I am also grateful that there is a place to put it. It’s exciting and relieving to have documented all this hard work so it doesn’t just dissipate into a memory. I really encourage folks to record. It can be stressful but in the end it’s worth it to hold in your hands.
With so much time to work on the project, how did you know when it was done?
A lot goes into answering that question because there are so many different things that I wanted to capture in every song and I wrote parts for like, eight people. I tried to make all of the moments and parts that I wanted to come through do the job they needed to do. So, for instance, there were things that the Angels did that really needed to be displayed and shining through. And that took a lot of work in the mixing room and some things had to be re-recorded. But we got a lot done at Studio In The Country. Turns out all the practicing for months beforehand paid off.
I have gone into that studio with bands who weren’t fully ready to go, and no one really knew that until they were in there.
It’s hard to know until you’re in there, but I knew we only had a limited amount of time and money, you know? We have like five or six days there and we have to get this amount done. And honestly, having a producer really helped with that because I was able to just be a player and focus on singing and playing and he was able to direct me as well. I just don’t usually have that, ’cause everybody’s rock and rolling with me.
Is that fun for you to have somebody do that? Or is that weird?
It was awesome. It really helped me a lot because I’m usually directing eight people, so it was really nice for somebody else to take the reins. It was a good collaboration though, like the teamwork was good. Everybody gets along really well in our band, thankfully.
What experiences/emotions informed this album?
We recorded things in a way where they’re warped. Like, if it’s too pristine or sounds too sweet, we added a little bit of disgust by warping and messing with the tape or adding little tiny bits of guitar here and there to represent something like addiction to heroin and a general darkness. A lot of it has to do with a “fuck you” to the circus I was raised in. They really fucked me up.
Can I ask you more about that?
It was a slapstick/vaudeville style circus. And there were a lot of really talented people in my life from there and from that time. My whole life is really seasoned by that and by eventually running away from the circus, so I was able to tie in a lot of threads from that and kind of make that a theme. But it’s an inside joke, nobody else knows about it except for my family. One of the songs is actually a song that was originally called “Desert Patrol.” It’s a marching band song and we used to parade around with it, so it’s like really, really deeply embedded in me. I came here for the first time when I was 15 with the circus and as soon as I got back to the town I lived in, I started writing music for the first time. I feel like New Orleans gave me music as an escape to begin with, so I came back with it, you know? And it’s my tribute to the city in a way, as a thank you for giving me this gateway away from my past or whatever. It definitely encapsulates a lot and I feel like certain people from the circus could listen to it and be like, whoa! But I love that nobody knows about it here because not a lot of people know about me being raised in the circus. I don’t really talk about it very often. There’s not many people who were raised in the exact circus that I know. But I do know there’s people my age and younger people who have had a very difficult experience as well, and I really hope the album speaks to them, too.
What themes and messages do you feel present themselves in the songs?
There’s a recurring thread of falling in love and being heartbroken. All love, not just romantic love; it can do with a love for a community and being betrayed. I have highs and then get disappointed; it’s very much a roller coaster ride. That’s kind of like the vibe of the album. The words, I’d say, are not the most powerful part of the album but I did that on purpose. I made the words vague so that more people can relate to it. It’s not specific.
The emotion is in the music.
It’s in the music, yeah. It’s in the production of these songs that I’ve been working on forever. King Gizzard [& The Lizard Wizard] has a song that says [“rattlesnake”] over and over and over again but there’s still so much there emotionally. The music speaks for itself and you can take what you want from it… I get insecure about the lyrics sometimes but then remind myself that there’s like a lot of modern bands that do that. [laughs] It’s been really fun giving descriptions of the songs now, though, because I’m able to say what they’re about after the fact. People can play with that. They can have their own experience with the music and then they can also take my experience if they want to.
What is it that you hope people are taking away from the album?
I hope that they find catharsis. And I hope that they’re able to dance and have a good time. It’s really good road trip music. It’s fun to think about what I want people to take from it. I want people to relate to it and I want people to blast it when they’re getting ready and enjoy it, you know? A modern rock album they can enjoy with their friends.
Tell me about the release show on Halloween and what that’s gonna look like.
I’m playing with my favorite artists in New Orleans, Quintron and Miss Pussycat. I’ve been wanting to since the first time I went to their Halloween show. It changed my life. They actually are a huge influence for Psych Roses. I really love that they put such a big production into what they do and then savor it. They save it for big events and have only a couple shows a year. I love that. They remind me of the things that I love from my life, but they’re totally different from my life. But they are very theatrical and have puppets and it’s just so weird what they do! I’m just so honored. They don’t know how honored I am.
Yeah, that’s like a New Orleans stamp of approval.
I feel like once I do that, I’m good, you know? It’s like, OK, cool, I never have to do anything else ever again. And I love who they choose to play with too because it’s always so unpredictable. They’ve played with some very, very bizarre artists and it goes so well with their vision. They just have a really clear vision and I really respect that. It’s gonna be really fun.
What song or songs off the album are you most excited to play live for the first time?
I’d say “Dying Art” is really fun because it just changes so much. Yeah, that one speeds up and slows down and changes rhythm, so hopefully it’ll be fun.
An interview two-and-a-half, closer to three years, in the making.
Yeah, totally! [laughs]
We did it.
Good luck at the show! And please tell the band thank you for the most wonderful game of sardines I’ve ever played in my life.
[laughs] That’s great. They’re the best.
Tasche and The Psychedelic Roses’ new self-titled sophomore album is available at taschedelarocha.bandcamp.com. A music video for “Happy Song” will be released on November 11, available to watch on YouTube and at tascheandthepsychedelicroses.com.
Transcription by Michelle Pierce
Top photo: Tasche and the Psychedelic Roses play under the Claiborne Bridge on April 10, 2021. (by Laura Borealis)