Local Artist Spotlight: Tacocat

Local Artist Spotlight, Local Music
Martin Douglas
photo by Michael Lavine

Leading up to Upstream Music Fest + Summit, the regionally focused festival happening in Pioneer Square June 1-3 with over 200 acts, KEXP will highlight a series of local artists every week with a short feature on the artist and a few tracks to start with if you're unfamiliar with their work.


Humor is often the balm for discomfort both anticipated and suffered, and there are few bands in America who emphasize this lesson with a hand as deft than Tacocat. The Seattle band -- formed in 2007 and becoming a mainstay on the local gig circuit before their excellent 2014 sophomore full-length NVM transformed them into international cult favorites. It’s easy to determine how that status came to be.

Tacocat’s sound wields a candy knife, brandishing bubblegum punk and scuffed up surf-rock that cuts deep, covering topics including but certainly not limited to mansplaining (“Men Explain Things to Me”), skinheads (“This is Anarchy”), what might be the catchiest and best song ever about menstrual blood (“Crimson Wave”), and the hypothetical earthquake that will one day kill us all (“I Love Seattle”). In its long history, pop music has long crouched uneasy topics within the Trojan Horse of catchy music, Tacocat accomplishes this feat with biting wit. Listening to the band is like having a Friday night dinner and drinks with friends, rattling off jokes about everything under the sun, especially the annoying stuff that makes reasonable people roll their eyes.

In advance of their performance at Upstream Music Fest on Saturday June 2nd, we reached out to Tacocat singer Emily Nokes and drummer Lelah Maupin about their favorite songs they’ve written.



I really like “Volcano” from our 7-inch Take Me To Your Dealer because it’s one of the first times I remember thinking, “Whoa, this is a real song!” I’d started out just kind of yell-singing because I didn’t know what I was doing, and/or writing melodies that sounded like nursery rhymes exactly along to the music. I wrote these lyrics while stoned and sort of lonely on a plane, coming home from a visit to Montana. I remember the first time we played it all together, in a temporary practice space we had in a basement, and it just felt like magic. - Emily Nokes



While writing Lost Time, the rest of the band had handed off the music to me and I’d had it for some time. I was kind of stuck on it, but I had a faint idea floating around for awhile, but had been sort of… I don’t know, like embarrassed to write something kind of slow and sort of moody and personal. I’d take walks and hum it and sing it in my head and think, “Oh man I hope this doesn’t suck.”

I was listening to that Wire song “Ex-Lion Tamer” where Colin Newman says the line, “Stay glued to your TV set,” but I’d always thought he was saying, “Stay true to your TV set,” which I think is a much funnier line. We aren’t even interested in being true in our relationships, just the ones we have with technology. Modern true love. So that’s where “Together, together alone/Stay true, true to your phone” came from. It’s one of my favorites on the whole album. - Emily Nokes


This song changed everything for me. When i first heard the demo that [guitarist] Erik [Randall] did, I was able to see us evolve a little and able to understand what that sounds like. It was powerful and I was proud of us; we didn't set out to make this sound or vibe really, It came organically and still makes me feel a certain way everytime I play it. I guess that could be simply about chords and the well-documented feelings they evoke, but i just don't fuckin' think so. - Lelah Maupin

"I Hate the Weekend"


This song -- also from Lost Time -- is just so fun to play and I’m still proud of the lyrics/message. I remember [bassist] Bree [McKenna] talking about wanting something that was like the anti-“Working for the Weekend” mentality. Service industry folks often work on the weekends, so it’s not their "weekend.” But then there all these tech workers getting lit at my friends’ places of work in a neighborhood we can no longer afford to live in -- acting like toddlers, tipping poorly, breaking stuff, harassing womxn, puking in the bathroom sink… all while making more money than any of us have ever seen. - Emily Nokes

"Hey Girl"


I love playing this song, too! It’s off our record NVM. It’s so fun to blast through it live–to scream at an audience about what a drag it is to get catcalled, or told to smile, or really just given unsolicited comments on your appearance or whatsoever. I mean come on. - Emily Nokes

"You Can't Fire Me, I Quit"


Oh my god! This is my favorite song on Lost Time and maybe my favorite Tacocat song of all time. First off: its amazing. Second: im a huge country music fan. I was raised on country and it will always be apart of my music history. This song is the closest Tacocat has come to a country song ever. The whole time we play this song, its like why I became a drummer. This song taught me a few new dynamics I didn't know I could do, but actually it was kinda like an Easter egg I layed for myself long ago.

Before I forget, I LOVE THE SOLO. I wish all of our songs had solos. This song tells a story; I think the best songs do. As I have been best friends with Emily since we were 20, I know the story [told in the song] and having it sang to me is such a treat. Her voice on record is very lovely for me. I feel comforted by it when I hear it, almost like we're hanging out. A true joy! - Lelah Maupin



I can barely sing this one anymore because I wrote it too high for my actual voice, back when I didn’t really know anything about that kind of thing (over a decade ago!). But it has a special place in my heart. Partly because it’s on our first album, Shame Spiral, and there SO many memories there, and partly because it’s based on a true story about a really dear friend of mine from high school. “My friend Katie told me all you need to know…” I listen to our first album and crack up. It’s like a different band. But I like that band. A bunch of brats having the most fun ;) - Emily Nokes

Related News & Reviews

Interviews Local Artist Spotlight

Local Artist Spotlight: So Pitted

The Seattle punk band's industrial-strength pummel in a live setting is conductive to being punched in the stomach. We conduct a short interview with frontman Nathan Rodriguez in advance of their Upstream Music Fest performance on June 1st.

Read More
Live Video Local Music

Live Video: Tacocat

One of Seattle's most notable feminist impetuses is the outfit Tacocat. The Capitol Hill four-piece has not only perfected their glamorously zany fashion, but also how they articulate their outspoken pop punk panache via satirical songs like "I Hate the Weekend" and "The Internet". Having recently …

Read More
Local Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day: Tacocat - I Hate The Weekend

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Mor…

Read More
Local Music

KEXP Q&A: Emily Nokes of Tacocat

Tacocat is a band of closet-knit friends who like candy, having different color hair, joking and experiencing ice-cream-induced food comas together. Emily Nokes is the frontwoman for the band, and, it should be noted, sent the responses to these question over in different colored font! I hope you e…

Read More