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Tashka: A New Kind Of Popstar

Written By Sam Murphy on 01/22/2016

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There’s a new kind of popstar brewing in Australia. It’s not one created by a label, handed songs and given glossy video treatments, it’s one doing it for themselves. Their writing their own songs, controlling their own image and forging their own destiny.

Sydney singer and producer Tashka is exactly that. Her first two single Each Time and Taken she wrote and produced herself, uploading it on Soundcloud to a slew of early adopters who have labelled her everything from late night R&B to electro-pop. Whatever you want to call it, it’s difficult to argue that it sounds far more confident and mature than the usual tracks coming from someone in the infancy of their career.

Enamoured by all her work, we organised to catch up with Tashka over a coffee in Surry Hills. Pretty quickly it was easy to tell that she someone who has a strong vision of how she wants her music to sound and where she wants it to go. Despite that confidence, she’s still nervous about uploading new music on the internet although she doesn’t need to be. In the age of faceless criticism, Tashka has received pretty much universal praise for her first two tracks and it seems there’s more where they came from.

How did you land on your sound?
I suppose it was like sort of a preconceived idea that I wanted it to be a pop/electronic crossover and I just kept writing and everything had a certain sound to it.

What sort of things influenced it?
Kimbra. She’s definitely an influence. And Radiohead. It doesn’t really reflect in my music but…

Are many of your friends into music? Do they give you constructive feedback?
Two of my best friends – one of them is Elizabeth Rose. She’s very good, she’s very honest. The other one is Donatachi. They’re both very honest music critics.

Have you been friends with them for a while?
Yeah I’ve been friends with Elizabeth since year 7. We met in high school. And Doug I met at Ableton Live School.

Has it been helpful watching Elizabeth’s path in the industry?
Yeah it has. It’s always good to watch someone else go through everything first and see how it works. She always gives me tips like, “don’t do that or make sure you do that.”

What’s it like putting a song out there for the first time and watching it spread?
Horrible. It’s the worst.

You’ve gotten pretty good feedback though…
Yeah I’ve gotten pretty good feedback. It’s just, I’m a no-name just starting. I just hate it. The first two days after putting a song out I crawl in a hole.

How have you found the Sydney scene for music?
I think it’s really good. A lot of people sort of put it down sometimes. Perth is obviously great and so is Melbourne everybody talks about those two but I think Sydney is really good for music. There are a lot of upcoming artists although there are so many venues closing.

Did you make a decision that you were going to make a career in music work and now you’re just working to live?
Yeah. I just decided I can’t do anything else so I have to do that.

Are your family supportive?
Yeah they have always been really supportive. They have always encouraged me and my brother to do what we love and if we make money then that’s good if not just keep going. They’re really good.

Has anything changed for you in between the two single releases? Do you enjoy reading about yourself online?
Mmm not really. It’s really weird. Having people write things about yourself – their opinion is really different to what I thought when I wrote it.

Has anyone made any weird comparisons?
Yeah I got compared to Solange. I don’t think I’m quite there but I’ll take it. If it’s close to Beyonce I’ll take it.

Who did you write the two tracks with?
Myself. I write and producer everything.

Is that hard in terms of gauging whether it’s good or not?
Yeah. When I was writing this year and last year I thought it was good just on my own and then just recently I’ve been writing with other people and it’s a lot better. We’re able to bounce ideas off each other.

How did you decide on your sound? Do you ever worry that you’re going to get over it?
I kind of just write whatever I like. Right now I have a sound and it’s the music that I like as well but I can also see it evolving. I can see the different directions I want to take it in. I don’t worry about it getting stale.

Tashka5Quote

Are you inspired by the ‘90s at all? That’s an influence a few people have picked up in your music.
I really don’t try to write in that music. I don’t think “oh I’m going to write ‘90s R&B today.” I think it’s really funny that people keep referencing R&B. It’s not R&B to me and I don’t think it’s ‘90s. I actually don’t really like that reference because it feels very at the moment and I worry that if people reference it it will be like, “throw that out ‘90s isn’t happening anymore.” That’s the only reason I don’t like it because I’m worried it will be attached to the trend.

Australia doesn’t really have popstars. Maybe Jessica Mauboy is our biggest popstar locally. I feel like this new wave though of Elizabeth Rose, yourself and a few others is the new popstar without being a popstar if you get what I mean?
Yeah I think so too. I think especially artists like Meg Mac and JOY. as well.

Do you listen to much commercial pop?
Oh yeah. I’m not going to say that I only listen to experimental music. I definitely listen to cheesy pop.

You get people who totally deny that…
Yeah you do. But I don’t. I listen to it.

Do you think it helps with writing a hook?
Yeah totally. People will bag out Katy Perry for writing shit songs but it’s super catchy and people love it. That in itself is a skill and it’s a talent.

What’s next?
An EP I think. That will be early next year. I want to get it out March or April. It’s finished and ready to go.

Is it frustrating to sit on something like that?
Nah I like it. It gives me time to sit on it incase I want to change anything. Right up until the last second I keep going back and tweaking it.

Are you putting together a live show too?
Yeah I’ve played a couple of shows just as support but I really want to do a tour with the EP.

How did the shows go? Was it daunting?
Yeah really well. I was worried about integrating the tracks with all the electronic elements but it was fine it went really well. I did it with a drummer and bass player and I’m out the front on keys.

Tashka6

Who is your dream collaborator?
Out of anyone I would pick Justin Timberlake or Timbaland. I’d just like to have a chat with Justin Timberlake really. We share the same birthday 10 years apart.

Did you grow up with Justified and FutureSexLoveSounds?
Yeah I remember being in the car and, I can’t remember what NSYNC song it was, but when I heard his voice I was like, “that one there,” I was telling my Mum, “that voice is so good.”

What other albums did you grow up listening to?
This is pretty embarrassing but the first album I bought with my own money was Eminem.

I don’t think that’s too bad.
No but not age appropriate at all. I sat there and rapped it but I had no idea what I was saying. Now I listen back and I’m like no, not a good idea.

Was there a gig that made you really hungry to be an artist?
Yeah I remember seeing Chet Faker support The Temper Trap at the Opera House maybe like three years ago. At the time I’d started to hear his name around a bit and then I remember watching it and thinking, “shit this is so good.” That would be the goal.

That was at a time when that sound was very fresh in Australia.
Exactly he was just playing keys and I was like, “no one is doing anything like this.” It was just so good. I loved it.

With your lyrics do you get scared that anybody is going to read into it and be like is that about me?
Definitely. With Each Time I wrote it about a specific person. And same with Taken actually. As much as it was a Liam Neeson reference, it was about someone in particular. So far they haven’t realised so that’s good. Each Time I wrote about a boy being a classic idiot. I’ll see them like it on Facebook, it’s funny.

Conveniently, a new Tashka song dropped today. She features on Dugong Jr’s Moving Castle-released single and just casually, it’s a banger.

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There’s a new kind of popstar brewing in Australia. It’s not one created by a label, handed songs and given glossy video treatments, it’s one doing it for themselves. Their writing their own songs, controlling their own image and forging their own destiny.

Sydney singer and producer Tashka is exactly that. Her first two single Each Time and Taken she wrote and produced herself, uploading it on Soundcloud to a slew of early adopters who have labelled her everything from late night R&B to electro-pop. Whatever you want to call it, it’s difficult to argue that it sounds far more confident and mature than the usual tracks coming from someone in the infancy of their career.

Enamoured by all her work, we organised to catch up with Tashka over a coffee in Surry Hills. Pretty quickly it was easy to tell that she someone who has a strong vision of how she wants her music to sound and where she wants it to go. Despite that confidence, she’s still nervous about uploading new music on the internet although she doesn’t need to be. In the age of faceless criticism, Tashka has received pretty much universal praise for her first two tracks and it seems there’s more where they came from.

How did you land on your sound?
I suppose it was like sort of a preconceived idea that I wanted it to be a pop/electronic crossover and I just kept writing and everything had a certain sound to it.

What sort of things influenced it?
Kimbra. She’s definitely an influence. And Radiohead. It doesn’t really reflect in my music but…

Are many of your friends into music? Do they give you constructive feedback?
Two of my best friends – one of them is Elizabeth Rose. She’s very good, she’s very honest. The other one is Donatachi. They’re both very honest music critics.

Have you been friends with them for a while?
Yeah I’ve been friends with Elizabeth since year 7. We met in high school. And Doug I met at Ableton Live School.

Has it been helpful watching Elizabeth’s path in the industry?
Yeah it has. It’s always good to watch someone else go through everything first and see how it works. She always gives me tips like, “don’t do that or make sure you do that.”

What’s it like putting a song out there for the first time and watching it spread?
Horrible. It’s the worst.

You’ve gotten pretty good feedback though…
Yeah I’ve gotten pretty good feedback. It’s just, I’m a no-name just starting. I just hate it. The first two days after putting a song out I crawl in a hole.

How have you found the Sydney scene for music?
I think it’s really good. A lot of people sort of put it down sometimes. Perth is obviously great and so is Melbourne everybody talks about those two but I think Sydney is really good for music. There are a lot of upcoming artists although there are so many venues closing.

Did you make a decision that you were going to make a career in music work and now you’re just working to live?
Yeah. I just decided I can’t do anything else so I have to do that.

Are your family supportive?
Yeah they have always been really supportive. They have always encouraged me and my brother to do what we love and if we make money then that’s good if not just keep going. They’re really good.

Has anything changed for you in between the two single releases? Do you enjoy reading about yourself online?
Mmm not really. It’s really weird. Having people write things about yourself – their opinion is really different to what I thought when I wrote it.

Has anyone made any weird comparisons?
Yeah I got compared to Solange. I don’t think I’m quite there but I’ll take it. If it’s close to Beyonce I’ll take it.

Who did you write the two tracks with?
Myself. I write and producer everything.

Is that hard in terms of gauging whether it’s good or not?
Yeah. When I was writing this year and last year I thought it was good just on my own and then just recently I’ve been writing with other people and it’s a lot better. We’re able to bounce ideas off each other.

How did you decide on your sound? Do you ever worry that you’re going to get over it?
I kind of just write whatever I like. Right now I have a sound and it’s the music that I like as well but I can also see it evolving. I can see the different directions I want to take it in. I don’t worry about it getting stale.

Tashka5Quote

Are you inspired by the ‘90s at all? That’s an influence a few people have picked up in your music.
I really don’t try to write in that music. I don’t think “oh I’m going to write ‘90s R&B today.” I think it’s really funny that people keep referencing R&B. It’s not R&B to me and I don’t think it’s ‘90s. I actually don’t really like that reference because it feels very at the moment and I worry that if people reference it it will be like, “throw that out ‘90s isn’t happening anymore.” That’s the only reason I don’t like it because I’m worried it will be attached to the trend.

Australia doesn’t really have popstars. Maybe Jessica Mauboy is our biggest popstar locally. I feel like this new wave though of Elizabeth Rose, yourself and a few others is the new popstar without being a popstar if you get what I mean?
Yeah I think so too. I think especially artists like Meg Mac and JOY. as well.

Do you listen to much commercial pop?
Oh yeah. I’m not going to say that I only listen to experimental music. I definitely listen to cheesy pop.

You get people who totally deny that…
Yeah you do. But I don’t. I listen to it.

Do you think it helps with writing a hook?
Yeah totally. People will bag out Katy Perry for writing shit songs but it’s super catchy and people love it. That in itself is a skill and it’s a talent.

What’s next?
An EP I think. That will be early next year. I want to get it out March or April. It’s finished and ready to go.

Is it frustrating to sit on something like that?
Nah I like it. It gives me time to sit on it incase I want to change anything. Right up until the last second I keep going back and tweaking it.

Are you putting together a live show too?
Yeah I’ve played a couple of shows just as support but I really want to do a tour with the EP.

How did the shows go? Was it daunting?
Yeah really well. I was worried about integrating the tracks with all the electronic elements but it was fine it went really well. I did it with a drummer and bass player and I’m out the front on keys.

Tashka6

Who is your dream collaborator?
Out of anyone I would pick Justin Timberlake or Timbaland. I’d just like to have a chat with Justin Timberlake really. We share the same birthday 10 years apart.

Did you grow up with Justified and FutureSexLoveSounds?
Yeah I remember being in the car and, I can’t remember what NSYNC song it was, but when I heard his voice I was like, “that one there,” I was telling my Mum, “that voice is so good.”

What other albums did you grow up listening to?
This is pretty embarrassing but the first album I bought with my own money was Eminem.

I don’t think that’s too bad.
No but not age appropriate at all. I sat there and rapped it but I had no idea what I was saying. Now I listen back and I’m like no, not a good idea.

Was there a gig that made you really hungry to be an artist?
Yeah I remember seeing Chet Faker support The Temper Trap at the Opera House maybe like three years ago. At the time I’d started to hear his name around a bit and then I remember watching it and thinking, “shit this is so good.” That would be the goal.

That was at a time when that sound was very fresh in Australia.
Exactly he was just playing keys and I was like, “no one is doing anything like this.” It was just so good. I loved it.

With your lyrics do you get scared that anybody is going to read into it and be like is that about me?
Definitely. With Each Time I wrote it about a specific person. And same with Taken actually. As much as it was a Liam Neeson reference, it was about someone in particular. So far they haven’t realised so that’s good. Each Time I wrote about a boy being a classic idiot. I’ll see them like it on Facebook, it’s funny.

Conveniently, a new Tashka song dropped today. She features on Dugong Jr’s Moving Castle-released single and just casually, it’s a banger.

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