Interview: Your Friend
Taryn Miller, aka Your Friend has been steadily making a distinguished name for herself over the last 12 months with the release of her critically acclaimed debut EP and the release of her first studio album, Gumption, which saw its release on January 29th through Domino Records.
Its been a busy couple of years for the musician who has bet met with widespread acclaim on the world stage; touring with the likes of Courtney Barnett and gaining a legion of new fans following her performance at SXSW back in 2014. With the release of Gumption, Miller is further solidyfying her position as one of 2016’s finest breakthough artists.
Ahead of the release of Gumption, we caught up with Your Friend to discuss the brand new collection, influences and the musician’s writing process. Here is what she had to tell us…
Renowned For Sound: How are things going and where in the world does our interview find the band?
Your Friend: It’s extremely cold in Lawrence (KS) at the moment. I’m wearing a coat, beneath a coat. I think I’ve been busier than I was in school. Feeling equally crazed but in an exhilarating way.
YF: I wouldn’t say it’s weird necessarily. There’s been so much to get in order before the release, so if anything, I’ve been thankful for the extra time. It’s been nice and also fun, to hone in on the material with the band as well and flesh out the way that we’re going to approach it in a live setting. I’m extremely nervous. There’s more visibility with this release, and I feel so involved with every step of the process that I’m invested in a way that warrants that. I’m definitely looking forward to this year though. It allows me to play the new material in a free way and give the songs from the EP a breather. It also allows for any thoughts or ideas for whatever I pursue next to have room now, to be archived in some sort of fashion.
R4S: The press release describes Gumption as being a record about courage. Was that always going to be the predominant thread from the outset, or did that theme reveal itself over time?
YF: I had the title for the record early on. It was a realm that I wanted to explore, what it means to possess that. It developed in a lot of unexpected yet necessary ways. It was head-spinning, distortive, and disorienting at times. I feel that it was accurate, thematically, for the past year and a half.
R4S: Over how long was the album written? How did you find the process?
YF: I started working on some of the material a little before and after returning from tour in the summer of 2014. Once I came back a lot of my routine and life changed in a way that caused me to recenter a bit. I’d say from around September until March of 2015 was where the bulk of it revealed itself. With that being said, a lot of those demos took shape and some of them ended up being completely unrecognizable than they were initially. I think the studio changed everything about process and the way that I’ll approach records in the future. It was grueling but ultimately rewarding in a cathartic way that I hadn’t experienced yet, in a start to finish kind of manner.
R4S: The guitar work on Heathering is incredible. Which was written first: the guitar or the vocals?
YF: Aw, thank you so much. That’s very kind. This was actually the first song I had for Gumption. It’s interesting because it’s one of the few songs that I’ve written that fell together at the same time. I think that it’s evident that this track serves as more of a bridge from the material from the EP to Gumption. There’s definitely a clearer line drawn from the folk-based material that I had written before. I really like how it turned out as well as playing it with the full band.
R4S: Was it an example of a song that came fully formed, or did it change while being written?
YF: It changed the most from trying it out in a live setting first, solo, for a long time. I had a vision of what I wanted it to surface as and it happened as a result of working in Nicolas’s studio and his sense of color.
R4S: If you had to choose, what would you say your favourite track off Gumption is?
YF: I feel like this may be biased, but if I had to choose, I’d say I Turned In, because of Dave’s (Darkside) guitar part as well as the room sound of the Wurlitzer. We had a direct line as well as a mic that picked up the acoustics of the keys being played. It’s tough to decide on one because there are elements of each recording that I really love.
R4S: Tame One, off your debut EP, is such a beautiful song. What was the inspiration for the track?
YF: This was one of the only tracks that wasn’t from an explicitly autobiographical “voice.” I’m a very intuitive, and sensitive person. I’m consistently paying attention to my environment and the strangers/people within that. The way that they interact, passing words, etc. I worked at a grocery store back home before and through high school. It was a really quiet place, so I noticed the deeper cuts or details, if you will, in the store. I recently found an old notebook that had just sheets of receipt paper with things written on them. The logo is fading, but visible at the top of all of them. There’s something really sentimental about that place for me. This song reminds me of that time. It was written from a similar headspace.
R4S: There is a very poetic, very literate quality to your lyrics. Were there any authors who had a direct influence on the record?
YF: I’m flattered that you feel that that’s your impression! I read a lot of collections of short stories that I’m recommended as well as a novel here and there. I don’t necessarily feel as if there were any direct influences, but they feed and inspire the things I do, certainly. I, amongst many others I’m sure, am a huge Miranda July fan. I’ve read all of her work now but, No One Belongs Here More Than You, changed my life and the way that I view the narrative voice. She’s fantastic. Her lens is so unique. I think I’ve bought five or six copies of it now from lending it to friends and understanding that it’s hard to part with. Hah! I really fell for Barry Hannah’s Airships, recently as well.
R4S: Do you always write from an autobiographical perspective, or are you sometimes writing in the voice of characters?
YF: To reference my answer to your question about Tame One, that was the first shift for me when it comes to perspective. That carried over a lot to this record. I’ve been investigating that more, to see what it elicits. I spend so much time caught up in my own mental reel that it feels relieving to step out of that every once in awhile.
R4S: You have previously toured with Courtney Barnett. How did you find that tour? How did it come about?
YF: It was amazing. We were so sad that it was rather brief. The shows were really fun, and I felt lucky to watch them play every night. The first time I met her actually, we were both wearing “Blunnies,” (am I spelling that correctly?) and a shirt with a wild print on it. Courtney introduced herself and said, “This is a bit weird isn’t it?” and laughed. That entire crew of people are the best. I’m not really sure how the tour came about. It may have been a management suggestion, but either way, when I was approached with it there wasn’t a question. I hope that we can do something like that again in the future.
R4S: Was performing in front of an audience something that came naturally to you? Do you ever get performance anxiety, or pre-show nerves? If so, how do you combat them?
YF: Oh, I was such a ham throughout my childhood. I don’t really know when exactly, but my parents said something must have broken, within that part of me, because I changed pretty drastically. I wasn’t really as willing to put myself in situations like that and haven’t, without fear, since. I get performance anxiety, absolutely. It doesn’t matter the number of people that are present. Sometimes less is worse. Haha! I used to drink before shows. When I stopped, and played my first show without doing that I had to ask myself, “What’s different about this? Why is this so hard?” Then I realized, “Oh, that’s right, I’m completely aware of everything in the room right now.” I have different methods now, but I’m honestly trying to get away from any sort of crutch. Slowly, but surely. I want to be able to have that sort of command of myself and of performing. The adrenaline can be really driving, if I can manage to coerce it in the right way.
R4S: Tell me something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
YF: This is a pretty relevant story that I just shared with my project manager recently. It’s probably not the best idea to reveal it, but it’s a really good story.
Based on what little people may know about me, I probably don’t appear to be the Prom, or “dress” type. Haha. It’s a big to-do in my hometown though so I committed to it for fun, and the novelty of the “entrance,” portion. They line up bleachers around where we would arrive and it was kind of competitive, in that you were trying to “out-do” everyone else’s entrance. My initial idea was to get one of those big inflatable “space-bounces.” That’s what they’re called where I’m from. But I wanted to put one on a trailer so that a group of my friends could go in together. There wasn’t one really small enough for that, and honestly it probably wasn’t that feasible. But they had these “Zorb,” balls, which looks like a giant exercise ball for a hamster. I don’t really know why I thought it was a good idea but I went with that.
There was this small hole that you crawled through and I had practiced nights before, diving through it and doing a summersault. The day of, my younger brother and his friend rolled us in, holding a boom box that was playing Ludacris’ “Rollout.” The friend that I went with had never been to Prom before, and had graduated so I had him get out first to confuse the spectators. I didn’t own a dress so I borrowed one from a friend. It was strapless and if that wasn’t already awkward enough, the way that the story ends overwhelms that. I remember everyone cheering from the outside and that adrenaline was definitely present so I went to dive out of it, and got caught.
The front of the dress pulled down and I flashed my entire town. I was in mid-somersault and could hear the cheers shift to almost terrified/appalled screaming. The worst was having to recover and introduce myself into the microphone after. I said my name then apologized for not being able to keep it “PG,” this year. It was definitely one of the most embarrassing things that’s happened to me. But I took home the title of most original entrance that they called, “The Bubble Girl.” People still bring it up from my hometown. Now that, is something I’ve never told an interviewer before.
Your Friend’s debut album, Gumption, is out now on Domino Records.