Celeste Tauchar has created a space in Los Angeles indie scene so distinctly her own that it’s obvious who you are listening to from the very get-go of any song. Her grunge-pop project under the guise of Talker has been gaining momentum for a few years now and even spilled over into territory far from home. What is immediately apparent about Talker is an underlying angst associated with alt-rock of the 90s. Moreover, when you pair her stunning vocals with both her harmonious and dissonant guitars, you are left to wonder what else lurks behind the curtain. All of this is however wonderfully counterbalanced with some very fine songwriting, especially on her most compelling record to date entitled Wax. Never one to let an opportunity pass me by, and as an alternative rocker at heart, I reached out to Celeste to talk about her new EP and burgeoning career.
Celeste, I read recently that you joked that you were exposed to alternative music while in the womb. I guess it’s no mistake alternative rock still inspires almost everything you do musically?
Pretty much! Yeah my parents listened to a ton of rock and alternative when I was growing up. It’s definitely still my go-to style of music, though I think now I have a much more eclectic palette that I draw from. I listen to a ton of pop music and play in a pop band as well, and some of my favorite songwriters are country writers. I think having a favorite type of music is one thing, but I try not to get to one-dimensional in what I listen to or who influences me.
Tell me when and how you fell in love with the guitar? Is it safe to say it is the one instrument that defines your grunge-pop style?
Guitar actually took me a while to get into! My first instrument was piano, and I was actually really good. I still have all of those skills buried somewhere in my subconscious, but I don’t really play it as much as I used to. I was also trained on cello from ages 8-18. I picked up guitar along the way, but it was always really basic stuff. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I actually started getting good and taking it seriously. I think that transition was actually super helpful though, because it allowed me to totally switch up the way I wrote music, which inevitably had a huge impact on the music I make now.
When you hear that pioneers like Alanis Morrisette, Liz Phair and even Kim Gordon still have something new to say about music, what sort of effect does that have on you and what you want from music?
It’s super inspiring! I think women are a staple of rock music, and honestly are become more and more so. The fact that these women have had decades-long careers is really exciting, because it often really feels like as a woman you have a shelf life in music that men don’t have. But rock feels different. I want longevity in my career and this reminds me that I can have it.
I guess, regardless sometimes of the music you might create, on some level self–awareness is important. Is there an ideal state when you are at your most creative as a songwriter?
Completely. I’m at my most creative when I have balance in my life. I tend to actually not write that much during a release cycle, because there is just so much to plan, emails to send, etc. Plus, I’m so in the headspace of whatever record I’m promoting. But in between those cycles, I really try to focus on myself – journaling, reading, hiking, and writing music. Allowing myself to just exist without thinking too much about how well it can be marketed.
How did you manage to stay focused and achieve what you set out to do on the new EP Wax?
Despite being a classic artist with a short attention span, I’m also super Type A. I have an amazing team that helped me plan and promote everything (shoutout Common Ground Collective, No Earbuds, and my amazing band and supportive friends!), so that was a major plus. But I also build out promo schedules for myself and really stick to them. I have a million to-do lists, a million lists of people to reach out to with the music link, etc. I think that’s really the only way you can make it happen as an independent artist.
I kind of feel that Suck Up’s darkest moments are definitely its most revealing and intimate. How have you found the reception to that track and its melancholic nature?
Thank you! I agree with that. The reception has been really amazing – it’s really validating when you write a song, and you’re like “Yes. This is the one. This is so good.” and then people AGREE. That never happens. So this has been a really great experience. I think we are all multifaceted people and none of us are just one thing. So a lot of people are able to relate to that melancholic side and feel seen.
In Keep Me Safe, you sing: “I just want you to be happy but I don’t know where that leaves me…” What drove you to write those particular lyrics?
This song is about a really close friend of mine who was getting ready to move across the country – it was absolutely the right decision for her, but at the time I was feeling a lot of anxiety about losing one of the closest people in my life. I think those lyrics are relatable for a lot of people and a lot of different situations. We inevitably face so many moments in life where the right decision isn’t necessarily the easy one, and the decision that will make you happy in the long run doesn’t necessarily make you happy in the moment.
What was the most difficult track to write for the EP? Did you consider giving up on it?
The most difficult song to record and produce was definitely “Bad News”. The writing of the song came together pretty quickly – my friend April Bender and I wrote it together in my bedroom over the course of two sessions, and we really just said exactly what we felt. But in producing the song, my producer Dan Sadin and I really didn’t want to overdo it. We didn’t want it to be over-produced, but we also didn’t want to be lazy with it and just have it be me and a guitar. It took months to get it right. I never considered giving up on it, but there were definitely moments where I considered leaving it off the EP, just so I could have more time with it. But I’m so glad I didn’t do that.
Do you now in any way feel a certain disconnect to the songs now that they are out in the ether? The process from start to finish in the making of the EP must have been a wonderful cathartic release?
It’s so cathartic! Writing in itself is a cathartic process, but then as an artist, once you decide to produce and release the songs it becomes a whole other thing. You end up living in these songs for months, even years. So it definitely feels like a great release to get to express myself authentically, but also for the songs to be out now. I don’t feel a disconnect to the songs, however I do feel like they are a snapshot of a specific time in my life, and I’m ready to move forward and see what comes out as I start to write more music now.
Finally, the swirling grunge pop nature of your songs will inevitably drawn comparisons to others. Does that bother you when you are trying to carve out your own space?
It doesn’t, because I think we all sound very different. I think that while there are similarities and shared influences between a lot of women in rock right now, I think we all do our own thing and do it well. I’m super happy to be compared to some of my influences and people I really admire! I want to go tour with them.