PLAYING SEATTLE: Tacocat Celebrate Friendship and Sub Pop Signing with “Grains of Salt”

Effervescent pop-punk band Tacocat released their new single, “Grains of Salt,” on Valentine’s Day, complete with a colorful music video featuring prominent members of the Seattle drag community. “Grains of Salt” is the first single teasing their third full-length album This Mess is a Place—following 2014’s NVM and 2016’s Lost Time—due out in May and currently available for pre-order.

Tacocat has a history of writing addictive hooks as palpably gleeful and upbeat as they are insightful into the long-term, close-knit friendship between the band members—singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Eric Randall, and drummer Lelah Maupin. “Grains of Salt” is no exception. Nokes explains that “Grains of Salt” is about “being a good friend to yourself, turning off the external bullshit for a bit, landing the backflip, and just generally taking yourself back… Loving or even liking yourself can be really hard work, and wondering what is ‘normal’ in comparison to whatever else becomes such a drag. This was just a sweet reminder to myself, and to everyone.”

Keen to capture that vibe visually, the music video for the song puts playful self-acceptance, humility, and their love for each other and their community on full display. Lending a hefty dose of glamour and glitter to the mix are some of Seattle’s brightest drag stars, including Irene Dubois, Cherdonna Shinatra, Cucci Binaca, Connie Merlot, Mermosa, Umlaut, Dion Dior Black, and Beau Degas. Tacocat is in their element – a party where they can dance like no one is watching.

“We never wanted [the band] to be something that jeopardized our friendship or our understanding of one another’s needs,” said Nokes. “We’ve all had super high points and super low points and taking care of each other is what comes first; like any long-term relationship, having that empathy, tenacity, and deep respect for one another is what makes it work. We’re basically family at this point and are in the unique position to understand each other’s experiences in a way not many other people can—we’ve grown up together in this. And our mantra is: We’ll stop doing it when it stops being fun.”

“Grains of Salt” is also unexpected in some ways, too. Though upbeat, it feels slightly more melancholic and self-reflective than past releases.  For instance, in the first verse, Nokes sings, “Wasting so much time/Only knowing doubt/Falling in a line/Only facing out/What do they even know?/Gotta let it go.”

Nokes says that darker vibe is a reflection of the hard time in which they wrote and recorded the album. “This was our first post-election album so it was obviously a pretty jarring time to try and even begin the process of… well, processing,” she said. “I didn’t really want to make it super sad or super angry—even though those are such valid emotions—but even those emotions were hard to access under all the numb. Personally, I felt awful for a lot of different reasons, the world felt awful, all my friends and community were just in such rough shape it felt weird to try and express anything, or be creative at all. But, like every art or writing project for me, I have to come at it like it’s a riddle or a puzzle to solve, and just work on it, or give it space, until it clicks.”

Despite the rough timing, “Grains of Salt” is noticeably more polished and produced than any of their other tracks. Nokes’ voice projects confidently and smoothly and is mixed even more out-front than on 2016’s Lost Time. This is a nod to their brilliant producer, Erik Blood, and to finding a way to warm up her voice well, Nokes said.

On Lost Time we were just getting to know Erik, and now I feel lucky to count him as a close friend,” Nokes said. “That familiarity was really helpful… just knowing that I could get in there and do my thing and not feel as nervous or shy or intimidated or dumb really helped build confidence.”

One notable moment in the video also helps announce some more of the band’s good news—guitarist Eric Randall does an understated jig in a Sub Pop sweatshirt. It’s a sort of shout-out to their new deal with the legendary Seattle label, which was announced along with the release of the single.

“We grew up on Hardly Art—I think we were signed to the label in 2012—and have been so proud to watch the label flourish. We love them. But in some ways it just felt natural to check out what the next step might be,” said Nokes. “We’ve worked hard, we’ve been doing this a long time, and getting signed to Sub Pop was a dream I could have never imagined when we first started this band!”

In this way, “Grains of Salt” is a reminder of what can happen when you find and hold on to your individuality—and your friends—as you unfold and evolve. It all rings especially true at the song’s climax, when Nokes belts, “Don’t forget to remember who the fuck you are.”

This Mess is a Place is out May 3 via Sub Pop. Check out “Grains of Salt” below and catch Tacocat on tour around the US in May and June.


5/9 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
5/10 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
5/11 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
5/12 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme
5/13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
5/15 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
5/17 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
5/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
5/19 – Washington, D.C. @ U Street Music Hall
5/21 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
5/22 – Atlanta, GA @ The Drunken Unicorn
5/23 – Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
5/24 – St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
5/25 – Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
6/8 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox at the Market
6/12 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
6/13 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
6/14 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
6/15 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
6/17 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
6/18 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
6/19 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda
6/21 – Sante Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
6/22 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
6/23 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
6/25 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Bootleg Theater
6/26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
6/28 – Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater