“Our sound isn’t necessarily bound by a single genre,” says Sarah Gaugler, the vocalist of Turbo Goth. It’s true – the band can’t quite be called electronic rock, though it’s the easiest way to categorize the duo which also includes Paolo Peralta on guitar, synths, and drum loops. Gaugler speaks and sings each word in a carefully, calculated way, while during live performances, Peralta swings his guitar around wildly. Some songs sound like a blues-rock band from outer space, others are industrial, slightly frightening. It takes more than one listen to get a handle on them.
As well as fronting the band, Gaugler is an accomplished tattoo artist with her own studio in Chelsea called Snow Tattoo. Though she was busy preparing for Turbo Goth’s CMJ show at Left Field last week, she took some time to answer questions about her music, art and the origins of Turbo Goth.
AF: Where did the name Turbo Goth come from?
SG: Personally, I don’t think it describes our music at all because I don’t know exactly how to label our music. We certainly aren’t playing traditionally “Goth” music, but I do think it describes our live performances, or the attitude of the band. It’s like we created a personality that is still growing and evolving as we continue to make more music. The name is more of the “concept of the contrast.” We love the contrast of aggression and beauty, heavy rock sound with heavenly, graceful notes.
When we were developing our band, we suddenly noticed the word “turbo” on old appliances, like an old electric fan. The humor was that back in the day, if you put “turbo” on something it meant it was top quality and intense, or high powered!
The “Goth” name originally came from the Visigoth conquerors who invaded the Roman Empire, just as we aggressively invade the stage when we perform. It was also derived from our admiration of Gothic architecture, long and pointed aches that stand tall and monumental. This type of architecture was named after the Visigoths due to the abandonment of classical Romanesque lines and proportion, just as our music is an abandonment of the typical rock band style.
AF: You’re originally from the Philippines- what brought you to New York?
SG: We felt it was time for us to share our passion with a bigger audience and got attracted to the city’s energy. After playing festivals around Asia and SXSW, we decided to go to New York where the music world is much more diverse and alive.
AF: How did you meet your bandmate, guitarist Paolo Peralta?
SG: Paolo Peralta was a sous chef at a fine dining restaurant in Manila and already the lead guitarist of a punk rock band…We had common friends and then eventually we started hanging out.
Knowing that I was a Fine Arts student and Visual Artist, the original plan was for me to create art on stage, while he played beats and music. But one day he heard me singing along to music I was playing in my car and said he liked my voice and we ended up making music together instead.
AF: Who are your biggest influences as a musician, and what are your biggest influences as a visual artist?
SG: When I was a little girl I was exposed and inspired by Madonna and Michael Jackson. I appreciate their pop tones and grooves. My dad used to listen to the Beatles so I feel like that is a part of my influences. My favorite music in college were songs by Go Sailor, Muse, the Mars Volta, Radiohead, and the Sundays. This is just from the top of my head, there are a lot more.
When it comes to illustrations or tattoos, life events and nature currently stimulate me. My thesis, however, was based on pen and ink, and crosshatching techniques, so my research was on Edward Gorey and Bernie Wrightson. When I was a child I loved watching movies by Tim Burton. These were some of my significant influences as I was developing my art skills.
AF: Do you think music and visual art are more effective when used together?
SG: Yes, for expression and for the viewers who are engaging with the performance. Music and visual art are married to each other…the complete experience of music is when you are seeing the performance live and feeling the energy face to face.
AF: What was your first tattoo? Have you ever tattooed yourself?
SG: My first tattoo was my bandmate’s name. After a couple of months, when I finally had my own machine, I started doing my illustrations on friends’ skins instead of paper.
The first tattoo that I inked on someone was one of my stylized girl illustrations, holding the word “pag-asa” (hope) in her hands above her. I never thought that I would tattoo myself but just as 2015 was about to start, I finally felt the urge. It’s a heart with arrows on my left thumb and three letter Vs on my left middle finger.
AF: In the past, it seems like women were underrepresented in both the music and tattoo industry. As a woman who is involved in both, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think women with these careers are more accepted now than before?
SG: I’m very happy to be in this age where women and men can be treated as equals in an industry that used to be dominated by men. Sexism for me is so much a thing of the past, and I have been fortunate enough to have not had any bad experience with it.
AF: Who parties harder, musicians or tattoo artists?
SG: I don’t think it matters if you are a tattoo artist or a musician. I think you party hard when you are young and in time we grow and learn through experiences. As time goes by, for me, being creative and productive stimulates me so much that beats the fun of partying too hard.