NewTracks New Artist: Tahini Bikini

NewTracks New Artist: Tahini Bikini

Tahini Bikini, an energetic 6-piece of up-and-coming musicians, creates the sort of jam-band, funk-soul vibe that will surely have the walls of venues across the country shaking in no time. Based on the shores of Te Whanganui-A-Tara, the band’s latest single Crocodile Tears charmed itself onto NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this December. NZM opened sesame with the help of frontwoman Madeline Taylor to give us a bit of an in on both project and song.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Madeline Lucy Taylor – I grew up in the Wairarapa, I play guitar and piano. I’m definitely no Alicia Keys or Hendrix though, I much prefer to just focus on vocals and songwriting at the moment and let the incredibly talented bandmates do their thang with the instrumental side of things!

The others in the band are; Cae Te Wheoro Heke on bass, Lukas Jury guitar, Chev Fraser on trumpet/keys, Barney Johnson on drums and Alex Coffey, who plays guitar/keys and is also our producer.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I haven’t really had any formal music training. I mucked around with a guitar in high school but that’s about it. I mostly just taught myself what I know now, but I think just jamming with other musicians and trying new things/sounds, and always saying yes to opportunities is really important to build confidence and learn. Lately, I’ve been trying to teach myself production – and I guess the best way to learn is just by doing it and seeing what happens!

Any other previous projects might we know you from?

I have a couple of solo singles out, but pretty new on the scene, so unlikely!

What’s the background story of how Tahini Bikini came to be? Who else is directly involved?

Essentially the band started as a conversation, in the line for the bathroom at a local bar, between myself and Lukas Jury (who writes all the funky guitar riffs). It just evolved into a 6-piece over the course of a few months – involving some of my close mates and some new friends! We’re now all like one weird little family. There’s a lot of love and very solid friendship between us, and we all want to see each other do well and grow, which I think is what makes the music so easy to write together.

How and when did you come up with the name?

Alex Coffey (who plays guitar/keys and produces all our music) and I were in a supermarket, trying to think of band names, and his girlfriend Liberty came out with Tahini Bikini. We originally weren’t sure about it, but then it just stuck, so we ran with it and it’s safe to say it’s a keeper!

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Probably our backyard gig we hosted in Newtown recently. That was our first live gig since Covid had cancelled all our plans before that, and it went really well, which I think gave everyone some fresh motivation to keep doing it. It’s very easy to feel disillusioned when there’s so much uncertainty about whether any of the plans you’ve made will actually be able to go ahead at the moment, so we’re all just stoked for any opportunity to be able to play for people.

How has your own songwriting evolved to now?

It’s evolved from me being extremely shy about it and wondering if I’d ever actually get the guts to pursue music to deciding that if I don’t, I’ll be mad at myself forever! So I started sharing it with anyone and everyone, and now I don’t feel shy about it at all. This all happened in a pretty short space of time so it’s all pretty wild really!

What makes Crocodile Tears stand out for you as a single?

Probably the drum take by Barney [Johnson] and Cae [Te Wheoro Heke]’s bassline. I think it was maybe the second or third song we’ve written before we were a full band, and the first song we’ve put out that features Chev on the trumpet, which also makes it pretty special.

Is there a real life story behind Crocodile Tears?

Very long story short, I was dating someone who turned out to be a massive creep and narcissist. I called it Crocodile Tears because I have never seen someone pretend to be remorseful/fake cry so badly in my life… it was almost funny, if I hadn’t been heartbroken at the time, haha!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Sounds strange but the very last bass note Cae plays right at the end of the song – I don’t know why but I love it.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

I think I wrote the lyrics to one of Lukas’ [Jury] guitar riffs and then the rest of the band all got involved. We record and produce everything in our little studio space in Haitaitai. Alex produces and mixes everything himself.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Maybe just if you have a bad feeling about someone… you’re probably right about it. So listen to your intuition always, haha!

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

We pretty much have just been releasing singles as we finish them. We don’t really have much of a method for selecting what comes out next at the moment. We’re working on an EP/Album now though, so I think going forward we’ll probably plan our releases a bit more specifically.

Who else is in the Tahini Bikini team?

We’re pretty self-sufficient. Cae and I both do illustration/graphic design, so all our cover art is done within the band. I’ve kind of taken charge of the publicity/management side of things myself – I’ve got a pretty overactive brain so it helps keep it busy! We’re not signed to a label or anything, we’re independent, so we’re pretty much doing it all ourselves – which definitely wouldn’t be possible without help from our mates, who’ve been amazing, getting involved with all kinds of things…

Sam Snelly has pretty much become our official band photographer he captures a bass face like no one else. We’ve also had a lot of help from our friend Mo, who very kindly let us practice at his GP office after hours, before we had our own space, and has done some videography work for us. My sister Charlie and flatmate Emily are always happy to help me out with any admin things if I need, and Lily who was helping us out when we first got going. So a lot of incredible people have been/are involved and we’re very grateful to have such awesome mates!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Definitely! A whole lot more Tahini Bikini is on the horizon and I’m also working on another project/band with James Phizacklea and some of the Tahini team, so it’s almost becoming a little collective! We’ve got one song out together, but there’s more in the works. And I’ll be doing some more collaborations with other artists soon, one single coming out next weekend with my friend Rainë. So lots of things to keep an eye out for!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • H4LF CĀSTRusty Fan
  • MurokiWavy
  • TOI: Thinking Of You

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

Yeah, I think I’ve submitted every song we’ve put of so far. I’m not necessarily sure why this one got chosen over others, so I guess just keep submitting your music. The worst that will happen is it won’t get selected – but just keep pushing if so!

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? Which was it and how did you work it out in the end?

I’m not sure if this answers this one but I completely forgot that we didn’t make a clean version of the song when we got it mastered so Alex had to last-minute whip one up – but he’s an absolute legend so we got it done just in time!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Tiny Desk, all day every day. I would love to play on that one day!

Any last words?

Nothing really other than thank you for the opportunity for a chat, we all appreciate it big time, and stay tuned for more music soon!