INTERVIEW: Sharkmuffin Flashes Fangs in “Factory”

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Left to Right: Chris Nunez, Natalie Kirch, Drew Adler, Tarra Thiessen. Photo by Thomas Ignatius.

Sharkmuffin have been rocking Brooklyn and beyond for five years now, and plan to commemorate their anniversary with the release of a split EP with their buds The Off White via Little Dickman Records on July 21. Earlier this year, they also put out phenomenal full-length LP “Tsuki”; the record veers through searing rock and roll tunes to more mellow tracks with an underlying darkness.

One of these is “Factory,” and the video reflects that darkness perfectly. It begins in 1904 with guitarist and vocalist Tarra Thiessen and bassist Natalie Kirsch portraying factory girls. In a series of events involving romance and trickery, they become vampire goddesses, turning guitarist Chris Nunez and drummer Drew Adler into vampires as well. Over the course of a century, they have gained more rights and ownership of the factory, meeting with Trump in the present day as he tries to take it over. Without much negotiation, they completely devour him.

Check out the video below and keep scrolling for our interview with Thiessen and Kirch about their latest EP, touring with The Off White, and Vampires vs. Hierarchy.

(Originally premiered via Tidal)

AudioFemme: Who did you work with in the making of the video for “Factory”?

Tarra Thiessen: Eric Durkin shot and edited it, Vramshabouh of The Big Drops and Wild Moon played the first factory owner, Davey Jones of Lost Boy? and The So So Glos played the next victim trying to buy the factory, and Nick Rogers of Holy Tunics and Jordan Bell of GP Strips were also part of our vampire family at the end of the video.

AF: What inspired the message of the video? Do the lyrics also have a political undertone?

TT:  I didn’t intend for the lyrics to have any political message while I was writing them. The song tells a story of a very young woman factory worker who falls in love with her boss. The owner of the factory then crosses professional and personal boundaries in the relationship and it gets complicated.

Natalie Kirch: The video’s theme of female factory workers over the ages and the changing power dynamic between male and female factory workers and business owners were inspired by Tarra’s lyrics. At the turn of the 20th century, many women worked in fabric factories. During World War II, it was mostly canned food and ammunition for the troops, so we played into the historical social themes as well. I am also a horror buff, which is where the gimmick on Nosferatu came into play. It allowed us to maintain the same characters but show how dynamics are changing over the eras. Actually, Jordan, Nick and I are in a Horror Book Club together so they seemed like the perfect friends to ask for the part. Once we had come up with the idea of the women switching roles as business owners, Tarra thought the final victim should be Trump – he matched the prototype: business owner, disrespectful of women, etc.

AF: Do you feel Trump is essentially trying put women out of business and dismiss the effort they have put into equal rights movements over the past century? It seems like you’re saying to him: you can’t buy your way out of acknowledging our struggle?

NK: I don’t know if he is even conscious enough of his decisions to be so pointed in them, but he has definitely shown that he believes women are inferior and not worthy of the same rights as men in our society.

TT: It’s really unfortunate and unbelievable that someone who so obviously doesn’t feel women are equal is our president in 2017. It’s a really strange time and we can’t sit around and let him reverse years of equal rights movements in a few tweets.

AF: Why vampires? Does Trump become a vampire himself or do you devour him without a trace? He is the last person that should ever live for eternity.

NK: He is consumed as feed. We ended the video on that note to imply that he was not going to make an appearance as a vampire.

TT: Don’t worry, we don’t want a Trump vampire to deal with for all of eternity either. Originally, we wanted to keep the fact that it was Trump more vague, so that the final victim’s arrogant hand gestures and weird hair piece could represent any human attempting to change how much women’s rights have improved since the turn of the century.

AF: What’s the most difficult aspect of creating a music video?

TT: Keeping everyone on task enough to get all the necessary shots. It’s easy to get side tracked because it’s so much fun filming videos.

NK: Organizing everyone’s schedules and ideas.

AF: Do you feel touring extensively is still an effective way for musicians to promote themselves? Do you see a difference in your audience and surroundings while on the road with Trump as president?

TT: I personally feel like it’s more important now than ever to be a touring musician, because in many different parts of the US it seems they rarely get to see women musicians like us and it can be really empowering for women who feel more vulnerable in today’s political climate. The biggest compliment we can get from anyone who comes out to see us play is that we inspired them to want to play music and/or start a band.

NK: Absolutely. Especially if you are a band who puts on a strong live act, it encourages more people to develop an interest in your music. It is usually clear what area of the states we are in by the responses and comments we get in different areas. Men will often comment on how they have never seen a “girl shred like Tarra” or how it’s surprising I can play “such a big bass for such a little girl.” However, I don’t think any die-hard Trump fans would be showing up for a Sharkmuffin set.

AF: How was hitting the road with The Off White? When and why did you guys decide to come together for a split EP?

NK: We love those boys so much. They are tons of fun to hang out with and extremely talented musicians. I never get bored of their music; it totally rocks and they put on a killer live set.

TT: They’re so much fun! I think we had been thinking of doing a split together since the fall and finally got enough material together to make it happen.

Sharkmuffin is on tour again in August; check out the dates below and catch a killer show in your area!

8/11 @ Brooklyn Bazaar w/ Hanks Cupcakes

8/12 @ Porta Pizza, Jersey City, NJ w/ The Big Drops

8/16 @ The Meatlocker, Montclair, NJ~

8/19 @ Mad Liberation Fest, Hammington, NJ~

8/20 TBA, Ashville, NC

8/22 @ Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC~

8/23 @ TBA, Nashville, TN~

8/24 @ Best Friend Bar, Lexington, KY~

8/25 @ Jurassic Park, Chicago IL~

8/26 @ Milkies, Buffalo, NY~

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ONLY NOISE: The Day the Country Died

“Do not despair. You don’t have to leave. You don’t have to move to Canada. You may feel out of place in the United States today. You may feel like you’re surrounded by fundamentalist-church-going, gun-hugging, gay-bashing, anti-choice Bush voters. But you’re not.”

This was a portion of the cover Seattle’s culture rag The Stranger ran in November 2004 when George W. Bush was reelected. I remember it well. I remember it well, in part, because that cover page has been framed and hung on the wall of my sister’s house since. The remainder of the text encourages Seattleites by reminding them “Kerry got 61% of the urban vote…got 80% of the vote in Seattle,” essentially praising the power of the “urban archipelago,” which some might consider a flaccid pat on its own back. A warm glass of milk while the world burned.


I remember this well because leading up to that day I had followed my dad to every political event we could find. To a Howard Dean rally in the months before Kerry’s nomination, to speeches by Michael Moore, Jim Hightower, and the venerable Amy Goodman. I remember it well because it was the period of time I was more involved in and educated about politics than I have ever been. All hope was on Dennis Kucinich in our household, who seems now like an early, less successful incarnation of Bernie Sanders. I remember it well because in the years leading up to Bush’s reelection, politics had hit a lot closer to home.

We lived in a small town. My Dad owned a mercantile in an even smaller town – one of 97 people, to be exact. One of those people was Justin Hebert, an exuberant teenage boy with wheat colored hair and a wily smile. He used to sweep the floors of my dad’s shop as an after school gig, and I, from a young age, had a massive crush him. Justin, like so many kids in my hometown, came from meager economic resources and couldn’t dream of being able to afford college tuition, despite his enormous desire to attend university. So, he joined the army, which plied him with the lure of travel and $50,000 towards college upon discharge.

As his obituary reported in 2003, “his flight to basic training was the first time he was ever in an airplane.” Justin was 20. He was the 250th American to die in the Iraq War, and the 52nd to perish after Bush so hubristically declared the war was over in May of that year. You remember that “Mission Accomplished” banner, don’t you?

I do. Like it was yesterday. Because that was my induction into politics. That banner searing into my brain as I heard the news of Justin’s death. That was the turning point for me. I carried the newspaper clipping of Justin’s obituary in a little hardback book that listed the Amendments to school every day, and would use it as ammo when scolded for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. All I wanted to talk about was politics from then on, an unpopular pastime for a middle schooler. In eighth grade I wrote a paper (much to the pride of my father and chagrin of my teachers) entitled “The Day the Country Died” as a simultaneous nod to the Bush administration and a Subhumans record by the same name.

The paper is now lost, likely in a dusty box in my dad’s garage somewhere. It was written by a 13-year-old, and is probably not very good. But in the fallout of what has transpired with this week’s election – and I know that was a lengthy preamble – I am reminded of that seventh-grade sentiment. That burning, sickening and powerless feeling. This is perhaps the first time in my life I have felt history seemingly repeat itself…like I am slumped in a parallel universe across from my thirteen-year-old self, asking with a quivering voice how this could possibly happen again.

I am no political analyst. I am no sociologist. I am not even a political journalist. However, it would feel irresponsible and delusional to write about anything else today. So I will write about it, with as much knowledge, honor and honesty as I can offer.

In my years of being scorned for wanting to discuss politics, the past several months have brought me so much joy, because, for the first time in so long, people were willing to talk again. They wanted to shout, even. To see folks my age so thrilled to support the Bernie Sanders campaign moved me in a way I’d never felt before, and I will continue to revere that memory. But after Bernie lost the DNC nomination to Hillary Clinton, I saw a kind of regression within the allegedly “progressive” peers all around me.

I cannot tell you the number of people I met, who so arrogantly snorted that they weren’t voting at all. These were educated, middle class, privileged people, such as myself. One woman, whom I met at a bar in Brooklyn, haughtily blurted that her “morals were worth more than stooping to the farce this election has become.” This woman was an educator (guess what programs consistently get cut first by conservative administrations?). She then went on to describe the magical utopia that is Burning Man.

One thing I have consistently encountered lately is this misdirected idea of how things actually work. You can go to Burning Man all you want if you can afford it, but you still live here. In reality. In the U.S. of A. And as of this election, you now live under the Trump administration. And it’s important to say that, no matter how difficult it is to hear. Because burying our heads, drinking ourselves numb, doing molly, and thinking this is only going to be a four-year thing, is the last thing we want to do right now. We must remember that whatever force was summoned to try to stop Trump from winning this election, needs to be amplified exponentially to make sure it never happens again.

Of the 44 pre-Trump leaders this nation has elected, less than 12 have been one-term presidents. The model tells us that incumbents almost always win reelection. So I would like to encourage all of us, four years in advance, to remember that, and to never have the thought “there’s no way that could happen!” again. Because it can happen. It just did.

It is a harsh reality we face today, tomorrow, and beyond. But I will not leave you on this note. If you’ve been kind enough to read this far, you’re due a bit of optimism. Optimism is not the atheist’s game. Many of you may believe in God, in the afterlife, in reincarnation. I have never believed in reincarnation on a metaphysical level. But I do believe in reincarnation on a historical level. The movements left unfinished from one era recur in the future, hopefully, closer to achieving their original goal with each wave, each rebirth.

The Suffragettes (and I am HEAVILY paraphrasing) carved a path for feminists in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and so they did the same for the contemporary feminist movement, which, let us not forget, took part in getting the first near-win for a female presidential candidate ever. From the abolition of slavery to the Civil Rights struggle, to the Black Lives Matter movement – it is a continuum that is unfortunate but necessary to keep improving the quality of human life in this country, especially when those in control consistently deny that there is a problem to begin with. So while I say that today is “The Day the Country Died,” please know I believe in its eventual rebirth.

In addition to all of the things I am not, I’m no historian. But if I had to propose a historical theory of progress, it would be this:

Progress seems to me like a hamster ball, moving along a horizontal axis. We humans are the hamster, the ball itself being micro-history: the events that occur within a generation’s lifetime. The horizontal axis being macro-history, meaning all the events that have ever happened and will happen in this big clusterfuck we call human history.

So. I envision that as the hamster fervently turns its ball, producing a dizzying amount of rotations, it cannot tell that it is simultaneously moving forward along the horizontal axis. It feels only the wild revolutions, the ups and downs, the unrelenting cycle of positive acceleration and negative regression in our shared history. But in fact, in tiny, infinitesimal increments, it moves forward along that horizontal line. It cannot go backward.

So please. Wither not. Do not let your education, your influence or your rights fall prey to your own cynicism.

Let’s push things forward.

PLAYING DETROIT the Mourning After: Martha and The Vandellas “Dancing in the Street”


If you were like me, you likely stayed in bed this morning a little too long wanting nothing more than to wake up but without ever having to open your eyes. The future we collectively rallied behind, hoped for, and deserved became a hungover breach in clarity. “Did this happen? How did this happen?” Where am I?”

This morning, however, was remarkably similar to many of my mornings. Cats pawing at my chest and the sound of children’s laughter, squeals, and declarations of play invited itself to wake me, through closed doors and windows. The Ellen Thompson preparatory academy located in the backyard of my apartment building holds recess sometime around 11am. The school is at least 95% African American and at least 5% of the children have hollered at me through the chain link fence “Are you Taylor Swift?” while I take my trash out. Playing along, I say yes but promise them to secrecy. This drives them wild and they frantically disperse in fits of excitement, laughter and the belief that maybe I am telling the truth. Today I stood with my face against the fence, trash in hand, watching the recently emptied tire swing sway like an uneasy and haunted pendulum. I watched it slow to a stop as the last of the tiny jackets disappeared behind the school doors. In the deafening silence, I hummed to myself a familiar song about dancing and the need for sweet, sweet music.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and The Vandellas was innocently inspired by Detroit residents who resorted to fire hydrant water to cool themselves from scorching the Summer heat. Released during the summer of 1964 in the thick of the Civil Rights crisis and in the midst of the Vietnam War, the upbeat chart-topper became an unexpected anthem of freedom for the disenfranchised and a nightmare feared by those who trembled in the shadows of social progress. Banned from radio stations for allegedly eliciting riot behavior and rebellious violence from the African-American community across the country and most notably in Detroit, the pop song about a party urgently ushered a call for change, unity and yes, even 52 years later, the power of sweet, sweet music.

This morning was remarkably similar to many of my mornings. Except today was different. I have more hope than I did yesterday. Not because of what has happened but because of what will happen. Recess will resume tomorrow and so will the future; the daily sea of toothless grins and bouncing pigtail braids promise this.

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