An interview with Tami Hart

AE: Well you’ve performed between some of the best-loved lesbian acts of all time from Le Tigre, Gossip, Sleater-Kinney, The Indigo Girls and — on behalf of myself and (most likely) the readers of AfterEllen.com — can I just say how insanely jealous we are that you were even in their presence.

TH:
[Laughs]

AE: [Laughs] So Indigo Girls — that seems like sort of a stretch. Where did that come from?

TH:
It seemed like that for me too. I was really young. I think I was only 19 when I opened for them and they were really good friends with Mr. Lady and Kaia often still performs as a touring member of Amy Ray’s band.

AE: Wow, I didn’t know that!

TH: Yeah and The Butchies toured with the Indigo Girls all the time but I have to be honest, I wasn’t a fan at first. I was coming from a place in high school where I was into punk and I got signed as an acoustic solo artist by chance and that was never something that I really wanted to do but it was the first big opportunity that really presented itself to me. It was weird because I was like, “Oh, The Indigo Girls?” but I became such a huge fan. I love those girls. They are so amazing live, they are the nicest people, their fans are the nicest people and I often I love to do “Closer to Fine” when I do karaoke.

AE: That’s fantastic. Do you have someone that does it with you? And do they do the harmonies?

TH: Yeah, I can usually get a good friend to help me out. [Laughs] Actually JD and I just recently did it. Yeah we sound checked it on tour. We were both talking about how much we love them and we did a little version of it when we were sound checking.

AE: Oh my God you need to put that up on YouTube. So tell me about your album, Social Life, I’ve already heard “Situation” and I love it! I’ve seen you describe your sound, or maybe it’s how your label describes it, as for the “punkers who want to dance” and that’s totally that song. And I might be dating myself here but it reminds me of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

TH: Oh, I love that!

AE: Oh good, you know that movie! I used to watch that on repeat when I was little.

TH:
That’s awesome because honestly in the back of my head I was trying to go for a Ramones look on the cover. I was actually in my underwear but that shot is only from the waist up so I’m kinda bummed out that I didn’t get to show off the tighty-whities but you know I respect their marketing strategies.

AE: Maybe they’re just waiting to put it on the full-length posters to sell at the shows.
TH:
That would be awesome! That’s a good idea, thank you. We should get you on pay role.

AE: I’m here for all your marketing needs.

TH: [Laughs] So the album — I moved to New York six years ago and I really didn’t want to move here. I lived in San Francisco and I was in a noisy punk band and we had just gotten signed to Post Present Medium, which is a record label that put out a lot of bands that I like Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko and it’s run by those two guys from that band No Age. It’s like noisy weird but I liked it. My partner at the time lived here (in New York) and I wanted to move back and I sort of begrudgingly moved here and I didn’t have any friends and I was really unhappy in my relationship and I found myself being at home alone a lot and fortunately I found myself listening to a lot of Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake at the time.

AE: As you do.

TH: Yes, I was lucky my mom ran a night club in South Carolina and she would let me come sometimes and she would get a lot of cool promo music so I grew up around a lot of R&B and hip-hop because of her and it’s always been something that I loved and have always secretly written – so I found myself home alone a lot writing this music that was really poppy and R&B-ish and really fun. But then I was also really depressed and I was drinking and doing a lot of drugs so the lyrics are kinda bummers. It was sorta of a tactic in a way because I didn’t really know anybody so I thought, “I’ll start a band and then see if people want to join. I’ll meet people and I’ll make friends with my bandmates and then I’ll have fun in New York,” and that’s kinda how it started.

AE: So how did it turn out? Did you post ads on Craigslist? Did you get a lot of weirdos that responded?

TH: [Laughs] I was fortunate enough. I put out a bulletin on MySpace — I didn’t have a Facebook yet — and I met this really cool guy named Daniel. We really hit it off and he was in the band for about two years and I brought in all the songs and I just wanted it to be a hot mess and he and I were best friends. We would just party our brains out and get really loaded and at first that was what we were known for but eventually it became a bummer for me. I would be performing but I would be so wasted that I would black out.

AE: No, that’s not good.

TH: Yeah it got really sad and during the process of recording this album. I’m sober now, which is something that I like to talk about because my life is so much better.

AE: And that has got to be really difficult to do.

TH: Yeah and I found out how much I actually love performing and I like to be present and actually see people’s faces when they hear the music. So Daniel and I had to part ways because of that. I just don’t want to do drugs anymore and blackout. I am really enjoying performing and being in the moment and that’s something I realized working with MEN. It’s a lot of work and you really have to be there.

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