Tashaki Miyaki are explorers of dreamy, hazy, melodic guitar pop. Though its three members are self-described “California kids”, their sound is influenced by much more than a west coast attitude. Their latest album expands their musical palette and broadens the emotional territory with songs circling themes of love, memory and time which are haunting, catchy and soothing.
“Castaway was a record born out of frustration.” Tashaki Miyaki’s Paige Stark says matter-of-factly. “I felt stuck in every single aspect of life, and writing was my way of venting.” The record opens with the title track, an unhurried melodic pop song about the challenges of depression and long-term relationships. “Give me a reason to cry/ It’s been so long since I had feeling/ I don’t remember why I do anything/ What am I doing here?” Stark asks as she coos along to an infectious melody. The track is backed by lush, yet spare instrumentation managing to simultaneously recall Prince, Bryan Ferry and the Byrds as it tumbles into the chorus distilling the melancholic feeling, “I don’t want to be the one to love you/I’m no good at it/ Oh well, I guess that we are stuck together like two castaways out at sea/ You and me.”
In a recent interview, Stark told Nylon Magazine, “Castaway is about the challenges of romantic love and how we are all bad at it in one way or another. No matter how hard we try, at some point we are going to fail and hurt ourselves or our partners.” She adds “The idea of a castaway in all this is that no one understands the relationship except the people in it, so you really are stuck on an island alone”. This theme reigns throughout the record. Stark sings with unapologetic directness in hervoice of love, heartbreak, memory and time. Never falling into despair despite the heavy subject matter, she manages to find an optimism in the complexity of relationships. On the gorgeous slow burner “Gone” she confidently tells her lover, “She won’t know the way to turn you on/ You’re gonna miss me.” On the ballad “U” she tells us, “People are awful / Good is hard to find/ But I’m learning”.
During the last stages of recording as the global pandemic descended, the band felt they needed one final track to really tie the project together. Paige says, “I wrote “I Feel Fine” at the beginning of Covid-19 unfolding and it felt like it belonged to the record. I said lot of the things my friends were saying to me about their lives, so it felt right to add it.”
The trio got together at Joel Jerome’s East Los Angeles studio in the midst of a blistering mid-summer heatwave and hammered out the track one sweltering August afternoon. “We knew this was the finishing touch” says guitarist Luke Paquin. The remainder of the record was recorded pre-covid at the North Hollywood studio of Grammy wining engineer Cassidy Turbin (Beck, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bat for Lashes).
Castaway also features guest appearances from The Heartbreaker’s Benmont Tench, multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion (who also aided in mixing the record), and local LA legend, Joel Jerome. The record is produced by Stark who guided the band to push themselves into new spaces. They tried to deconstruct their own sound and reboot from that place, while letting some beloved influences echo throughout. “We decided no wah pedal for most of the record,” Stark explains, “We tried to incorporate new soundscapes. Like, what if there isn’t as much reverb on everything? What would be the less obvious sonic choice here? What if everything isn’t as fuzzy and smeary? What sounds have we not tried? What if we let stuff be a little naked?”
Stark pushed her boundaries lyrically on the new record, going deeper and more personal, never shying away from uncomfortable emotions. “When I wrote the title track, I was thinking about love and how it changes over time if you stay in something long enough. It gets hard. And sometimes you feel stuck, and that’s kind of the mood of the record. It’s a pretty melancholy record, I guess. I always try to be direct, but I didn’t have as much life lived on the first record. I saw things very black and white, and perhaps simpler. Now I see a lot more grey and a lot more complexity. “