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Seattle Rockers Tacocat Make Feminist Punk For A Post-Riot Grrrl World 

Wednesday, Jul 13 2016
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Tacocat does not write hardcore songs — it's a pop-punk band. And yet, as of its latest European tour, it is officially an honorary hardcore band.

It all happened one night in Copenhagen. The band's tour manager, Rafael, had his backpack snatched out of the van during load-in — laptop and all. The four members of Tacocat created a Kickstarter to help him recompense the losses, and Rafael's musician friends from hardcore rock scenes immediately shared it on social media.

"It was funny seeing a Tacocat Kickstarter reposted by all these famous hardcore bands," bassist Bree McKenna says with a laugh from her home in Seattle. "We're basically in the hardcore scene. It's cool. I never thought I'd get here."

For nine years, Tacocat has been a band, though things didn't quite fall into place until the release of its sophomore record, NVM, in 2014. McKenna describes the band's gradual rise to popularity as a "slow burn" and "very grassroots," and Tacocat is, in essence, an anti-hype band, having spent years honing its skills within the Seattle DIY scene before major music news outlets took notice (including Pitchfork, who gave NVM a 7.4 rating).

Not that Tacocat has abandoned Seattle or its roots since racking up a sizeable following and ascending to its rightful place as feminist punk heroes. Three of the four members still live together in a loud, roommate-crammed punk house, adamant as ever about playing all-ages shows. But Tacocat's members are reasonably concerned about the future of the scene in which they were raised.

"DIY spaces are fluid and moving. When one goes away, another crops up," McKenna says. "But it's becoming harder and harder for another one to crop up. It's scary."

The rampant gentrification shuttering the DIY spaces where Tacocat cut its teeth is not a minor concern for the band. "I Hate The Weekend," the lead single from its third album Lost Time, released in April, spits straight into the eyes of gentrifying yuppies everywhere. "Paint the rainbow shades of beige / Take down everything we made," frontwoman Emily Nokes snarls on the track. Tacocat is out of patience with the growing behemoth of trendy coffee shops crammed with mustachioed white boys tapping away at their next-big-thing screenplays, and it wants you to know it.

In fact, listen to Lost Time and you'll find that Tacocat is out of patience with a lot of things, including (but not limited to): mansplaining, internet trolls, R.E.M., the society-wide obsession with smartphones, and just about anything that smacks of misogyny. Feminism is a defining element of the band's music and message, shouted proudly in songs like "Men Explain Things To Me" and "Plan A, Plan B," an ode to the morning after pill. All four members moved to Seattle in their early 20s for the city's unapologetic Riot grrrl scene that erupted across the Pacific Northwest in the '90s. For Tacocat, feminism and music are inextricably intertwined, and aligning with America's powerful feminist rock heritage is absolutely deliberate.

And yet, Lost Time never loses sight of its unifying thread: humor. No band that takes itself too seriously would begin an album with an anthem to agent Dana Scully of The X-Files or film a music video wearing confetti-filled piñata heads as their friends roll around in glitter on the living room floor.

But Tacocat's fun approach to making music about feminist issues has its caveats, especially in regards to how publications frame it.

"I get a little bummed when some people or publications discredit our tone," McKenna says. "It's legit to be angry about this stuff. We are angry. It just comes out with a sense of humor, so it's easier for people to take down."

Not that Tacocat is alone at feminist punk's bleeding edge. (Yes, that's a period joke. For some better ones, listen to "Crimson Wave" off NVM.) McKenna, who is also in the rock trio Childbirth, mentions the queer New York band PWR BTTM and fellow Seattleite Lisa Prank as worthy contemporaries keen on disrupting the endless loop of "the very straight white male folk scene."

Tacocat now infiltrates the minds of impressionable young girls everywhere through "Who's Got The Power?" the theme song on Cartoon Network's recently rebooted The Powerpuff Girls. The network contacted the band in 2015 about recording the song and when Tacocat accepted, it sent "scary" media lawyers and a composer to Seattle, only to discover that none of the band members could read sheet music. It worked out in the end, and McKenna considers it a wild success.

"I'm so glad we did it," she says. "We definitely got some younger fans from it. Like, actual children have been coming to our shows."

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Elle Coxon

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