Sharkmuffin has been rocking the New York music scene and beyond since 2012. Their style has been described as “opti-mystic glam grunge” or “shred-wave”, which is most fitting. When they perform they definitely make waves with an uncompromised attitude, as bodies surf the crowd and hands rise and fall to their music—they never sell themselves or the audience short.
The current line-up has come full circle with forefront members Tarra Theissen (guitar/vox), Natalie Kirch (Bass/vox), and original members Drew Adler (drums), and Chris Nunez (guitar). The band’s stamina is motivating and they never rest from working toward the dream.
Their preceding 2015 full-length debut, “Chartreuse” featured a mutually adored Patty Schemel of Hole on drums, which immediately provides an idea of the elements in their dynamic and style.
This time, they’ve outdone themselves with their upcoming release entitled “Tsuki”, out on May 5th . It’s an epic 15-track album recorded at The Record Plant in L.A. last February with Daniel Zaidenstadt and Jake Smith. The tracks feature Kim Margareta Deuss on drums and keys and Michelle Rose on cello.
The album begins with such punky-pop jams as “Space Glow” and “Jury Duty.” Complete with guitar fuzz and beats worthy of dance—these are feel good songs about feeling shitty. They take the listener under into dark and mysterious waters with existential songs like “Scully is a Sharkmuffin.” Distorted bass and sexy guitar solos are layered with Thiessen’s siren-like vocals.
Theissen is a strong underlying thread in the fabric of the DIY Brooklyn and New Jersey music communities. She plays in multiple bands and is always down to create music with her friends. She is constantly producing, and her expertise and style shine on this record.
There are crests and bows in the album; guitar solos wash up on bass lines, which keep the songs moored to the shore. She and Kirch have been at this for a while now and this album showcases their maturity and experience in songwriting. Kirch can even be found singing lead vocals on “Atama” and “Leather Gloves.”
Northern Transmissions recently premiered a video for their single “Little Bird,” which was shot and edited by Thomas Ignatius. Starring Terry Edelman as Big Bird, it’s a harrowing tale of the bird everyone wants to be. As he attempts to have coffee like a normal “person” he is being protected by his trusty bodyguard, portrayed by Ben Jaffe from PILL, as fans chase and reach out for a piece of him. Eventually, he is able to climb to safety and, naturally, a dance party ensues.
“Tsuki”, will be released on Little Dickman Records officially on May 5, but you can pre-order the album here! The record release shows will be held May 3 at Brooklyn’s Sunnyvale with a powerful line-up consisting of Alexander F, Weeping Icon, Pink Mexico, and Sic Tic—as well as May 4 in Asbury Park at Bond Street Basement. They will be following up the release with a first time tour of the U.K. Thiessen and Kirch have laid out the details of recording, touring, and building their musical legacy with BTRtoday.
BTRtoday (BTR): How did you and Natalie meet? What keeps you together as anchors for this project?
Tarra Thiessen (TT): Natalie and I met through our mutual friend Nate. My middle name is Natalie, it means birth. That keeps us together as the birthers of Sharkmuffin.
Natalie Kirch (NK): I had just started playing bass and my friend Nate Terepka (of Zula) told me his friend Tarra was looking for a female bassist who could harmonize on her vocal melodies. We told her I was very green, but she didn’t mind and I loved the songs she sent me and Tarra and I got along really well when we met!
BTR: What is the inspiration behind “Little Bird?” Why did you choose to create a music video for this song and what does it mean to you?
TT: The original inspiration behind Little Bird was my ex-boyfriend’s seagull sounds he would make, but it developed more into a story about “an individual trying to be a big shot and climb his way up in the world.
NK: Tarra wrote the lyrics for “Little Bird” with one of her ex-boyfriend’s in mind. He was very concerned about his music’s reception to other people. He was always frustrated when he felt that his peers were experiencing more “success” than he was, despite the fact no one was trying to compete with him. When Tarra sings “why you gotta be a big bird?” I can’t help but imagine the Sesame Street character. So I thought, imagine the opposite: Big Bird trying to be a “little bird” in the middle of Bushwick when he is one of the most conspicuous characters in our generation.
BTR: How did you get hooked up with Patty Schemel for “Chartreuse?” What was recording/playing with her like?
NK: Our drummer at the time, Janet LaBelle, unfortunately, suffered from a drum injury right before Sharkmuffin had planned to fly to LA to record and play a mini-tour. I called our engineer, Daniel Zaidenstadt, frantically looking for a drummer. Tarra had joked that “maybe Patty Schemel [was] available” as we are both big fans.
TT: Daniel put the word out on Facebook and she e-mailed us that she was available and interested in playing on the record. It felt very surreal to work with her because Natalie and I are huge Hole fans. She’s a sweetheart, is incredibly talented and has a great sense of humor.
BTR: Has the live line-up come full circle with Drew and Chris back on stage with you? How does it feel to have them back shredding with you guys?
TT: I love playing with Chris & Drew. Chris actually played bass in Sharkmuffin for a few months before I met Natalie and I played bass in his projects SideAsideB and Rosebug along with Drew. It’s really amazing having them in Sharkmuffin. We just started writing songs altogether after this past tour and are beginning to record an EP next week!
NK: It has! They are both phenomenal musicians. It’s great having the opportunity to play with Drew again now that I am a more seasoned musician. He is an incredible drummer and we are very locked into each other’s styles. Chris preceded me in playing with Tarra and Drew and was actually the bassist on some demos Tarra sent me back in 2012. Chris puts on a really enthusiastic live performance and I have a fantastic time jumping around with him on stage.
BTR: This LP has 15 songs, how long has this been in the works? What were your experiences while recording?
NK: Some songs were spontaneous and new, others were pieces of songs Tarra or myself wrote over the years and added into and changed for “Tsuki.”
TT: We began tracking these songs February of 2016, during the lunar new year and finished on the full moon, hence the title ‘Tsuki,’ which means “moon” in Japanese. We tracked the record at The Record Plant in Los Angeles for 3 days straight. Kim Deuss did all the drums in one 12 hour stretch on the first day, she’s amazing. I recorded vocals for 9 hours straight and we ended up at the studio until 9 am on the last day. I had a little table next to me that had throat coat tea, cigarettes, whiskey, a joint, coffee, a cup of honey and red bull that got me through the night!
It took a long time to mix the record, and I’m so happy it’s finally being released now. Terry from Space Jam Studios in Brooklyn mixed all the songs after a few passes from other engineers aside from ‘Sweet Tea’ + ‘Atama’ that Dan Hewitt and us mixed together over the summer.
BTR: What is different about this album from your previous work?
TT: This album has more diversity in mood, instrumentation, & subject matter. The last album was more just me screaming about all the men I met in New York. I play a pocket piano on a couple tracks on this record and Natalie sings lead on two tracks. Kim Deuss added a lot of dance beats and synthesizer overdubs.
NK: “Tsuki” definitely had a different process in that we were putting a piece of cumulative work together in a sense. For example, “Sweet Tea” was compiled from a pocket piano demo Tarra sent me in 2013 and “Puppy Love” was written around the second bass line I wrote for Sharkmuffin back in 2012. It was also the first time a third member contributed more creative input. Kim Deuss added some really cool keys to the record and I think some of her disco drum beats really add life and a new listening perspective to the songs. I also think the subject matter of the songs are a little more mature, and I finally found the balls to sing lead (although not live yet).
BTR: Have you toured the U.K. before? How does it differ from touring the States?
TT: This is our first time over there! I’ve heard they drive on the opposite side of the road and they like putting fingers in bums every other fortnight.
NK: I have never toured anywhere outside the USA and the U.K. tour is a first for Sharkmuffin! We are so pumped to go!
BTR: Natalie, how did you learn Japanese?
NK: In 7th grade at my junior high school, we were required to take a quarter of a year of each language offered in our high school program in order to choose a language to study (if we wanted): Japanese, Spanish, Latin, and French. I was telling my bandmates that I still remembered “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” most vividly of all my short stint of Japanese lessons. When I sang it, Daniel (our friend/engineer) was like: “Okay, that has to go on the album.” So it did!
TT: Natalie knows all the languages. She learned them from her frenemy, Duolingo.
Sharkmuffin live for BTRtoday – 2014