Words and images by John Carlow (Finding Charlotte Photography)
Tacocat is Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna, Eric Randall and drummer Lelah Maupin. Hailing from Seattle Washington, the band’s sound has been described as both surf and power pop, with catchy songs clocking in at around 2 minutes. The band has toured the US and Europe on their two albums, most recently popping up north of the border to play Rifflandia Festival on Vancouver Island in the summer. Tom Tom caught that show and talked with Lelah Maupin shortly after. Here’s what unfolded.
Name: Lelah Rose Maupin
Nicknames: Peep, Pepuh, Wewah, Reruh, Ederdud, Bbgirl, Maup, Mauptop, Fleeflar, Flar, Puffy, Baby Mia, Bebutt, Psychedellic Warrior BBs, Space Princess
Born in: Longview, Washington
Current home: Spruce Haus, Seattle, Washington
Past bands: The Sallie Maes, Salt and Pepuh, Ex-Girlfriend, The Hot and Readies, Leezus
Fav take out place: I pretty much only order Vostok Russian dumplings because they only have a $5 minimum delivery fee and it’s pretty close to my house. But I also REALLY love dumplings. Of any kind. Never met a dumpling I didn’t like.
Lelah, how did you first come to play drums?
When I was 15 I used to hang out at this girl’s house. We liked to hang out there cuz her parents were cool. Janae Carter. One day her dad came in the room and asked me if I was Steve Street’s daughter. I said “yes” and he said, “Come in here I want to show you something.” He was a drummer. He took me into the drum shed or something outside and said “I bought your dad’s drums when he died, I want you to play them.” I was really freaked out. I was so scared to sit down and try and play the drums in front of this dad stranger. I didn’t really care that much that they were my dad’s old drums. He died when I was six and I don’t remember him. I declined and hesitated, but he insisted. So I did it. And it was realllllly cool. He also insisted on giving me free drum lessons. That was tight. So I guess technically I’ve been playing for 16 years, but I didn’t REALLY play drums until Tacocat formed when I was 23 in 2007.
Did you ever take lessons from anyone besides your friend’s dad?
I took them from the aforementioned Chris Carter, but only until a paying student took my slot. I took them again in Seattle from an incredible spitfire of a human named Mike Pedersen. He’s a metal drummer. He has a long red beard and shiny bald head and only wears really messed up Converse and beer-themed pajama pants under his denim cut-offs. He also talks exactly like a pro wrestler and doesn’t have a cell phone. I love Mike.
Tell us about your drum kit…
When I saw my drum kit in the used section at Guitar Center when I was there just to buy a cheap drum throne, I had a melt down. I started pacing around being a weirdo trying to figure out how I could own them. I knew I had to own them. I was with my boyfriend at the time, and I just had to ask him. I had horrible credit and he didn’t. He said no. Then he said okay we’ll flip a coin. The coin said yes. So he flipped it again (haha). Yes again! He got some stupid Guitar Center credit card and I got my drums. They’re pink sparkle Slingerlands from 1958 and they’re easily the most beautiful thing I own. I spent a long time after we broke up paying him back, but that was fine. I like Pro Mark sticks ’cause they’re slightly lighter than others and I’m ALL about Guitar Center’s weird janky brand Sound Percussion or whatever for hardware ’cause it’s LIGHT. I hate bulky, heavy, expensive hardware. Besides, I’m going to lose it all on tour eventually.
True. True. Tell us about your dapper outfits behind the kit!
Well the sad truth about Lelah Maupin is that I am a horrible show boat, ham, whatever you call it, and I’m stuck in the back, behind a buncha (beautiful) stupid drums, so I wanna wear something that stands out. Also, if you’re gonna be on a stage, be on a stage. If you’re gonna put on a show, put on a show. You have their attention, show them something. So I guess, I just wanna wear as much loud colors, prints, and sequins as possible. As long as it won’t make me too hot. It’s very hot when you’re a drummer.
That is hilarious. What’s in your music collection?
I used to collect records but my little brother sold them all for drugs. I guess I just don’t really have a “music collection” anymore. I listen to music all the time though. I don’t really like doing anything without music on. Shower. Get dressed. Drive. Sleep. I have a music collection related goal: to make a stupid long playlist of every song I love. Every favorite song. In one place. Amazing. Someday. I did make a weird sorta lame version of this dream playlist for work. It’s every song that I like that is “appropriate” to play at work. It’s not like the best thing in the world, but I am kind of proud of it. It’s a Spotify playlist called “Stuff” if you’d like to check it out.
Do you have a memorable story from a gig?
That time I fell OFF the drum throne ’cause it was too short and so I put, like, a folded up pizza box on top of it or something. Not stable. Or that time in Tucson when they kids in the crowd made a human pyramid. Or that time in New York when like nine of my ex-boyfriends were somehow at the show and before we played “Spring Break Up,” I dedicated it to all of them and then everyone got mad at me. Or like the first time we played SXSW and we had some ridiculous NOON time slot and we showed up hungover as fuck to like a blue tarp gazebo in a parking lot and played horribly to the band we were on tour with and maybe one other person. Or when we played Sasquatch. That was just magical.
Sounds so magical. So… why do you think a drumming magazine for women a good thing or do you not?
For some reason that I have yet to figure out, drums are some kind of boy’s club. When people learn that Tacocat is three girls and a dude they have said, “Oh let me guess, that guy’s the drummer.” What the heck is that all about? I mean, everybody knows the music world is sexist, but that is changing. A drumming magazine for women is one of the coolest things I can think of. It’s a very important thing to be represented and celebrated.
How is the Seattle music scene?
I’ve been saying this a lot lately. I feel like the Seattle music scene is finally back. It’ll never be like what it was in the 90s (I mean, I’m just spitballing, I wasn’t here, I don’t REALLY know, but I have a feel) but I think it’s finally relevant again. It was really just not… it, when I moved here in 2004. Back then it was all generic garbage save for a few special bands and then beard rock took over a few years later. WOOF. But I feel the magic in the scene again. Bands like “S” and Gazebos (I saw both tonight) and Chastity Belt and Childbirth and Boyfriends, and Lisa Prank, and Pony Time… I could go on. Also I’ve been timidly exploring Seattle’s sort of burgeoning electronic music scene and I don’t really know a lot about any of that stuff, but I do know that something is happening. The scene has its sparkle back.
What would you give as advice to aspiring drummers?
Just keep going. It’s like learning a different language. It’s a struggle and it feels weird and you know you’re doing it wrong until that one day when you open your mouth and something flows out you and realize that you just conjugated all your verbs perfectly without even thinking about it or trying. It’s the best feeling.
The Lengths to Get to A Tacocat Show
The writer of the above Tacocat article, John Carlow, recently had quite the experience traveling to a Tacocat show. Read below to see what happened.
Was quite the weekend. A story in itself. Thought I’d share.
It was a stormy weekend on the coast. I was worried about being able to make it over to the mainland for Tacocat Saturday with ferry sailings always an issue in high winds. Turns out we got onto the 1 pm sailing…which left late. Was a very choppy ride over. Lot of crashing waves. The boat took longer to get over because of the winds. They had to alter course to come in at a different angle to dock. We learned they had cancelled all remaining sailings for the day after that. This is part of the trip where we then take a bus from the ferry terminal to the Skytrain, which takes us to town. Because of the late boat the bus didn’t show for over 50 minutes, while we stood in the whipping wind, cold and rain. We arrived in town and had 3 blocks to walk in the rain to get to our hotel. We booked in and dried off, then went for dinner only to find out our fav restaurant was closed for a private function ! We got ready for the trip to the venue and was told cabs would be 45 minutes to an hour to arrive to pick us up ( lot of Xmas parties ) Was about an hour to show time. We figured we would just make it. It was then we learned the band didn’t get across the border, and the show was cancelled!!!
At the same time all this was happening, I was trying to setup a quick photoshoot for another drummer I’ll be working on soon. With our delays and the wild weather those plans fell apart. By that point we were way across town…and missed Sallie Fords set (another future story).
Our jaws were on the floor by this point so we went to Yaletown to have a drink and shake our heads at how fast everything had fallen apart. I made a call and we met up with a musician who had left behind a guitar stand months ago at a local show. I picked it up and said Id bring on next trip to the mainland. He found us rather easily..looked at me and said ” that’s not mine.” In the act of being helpful I had ended up stealing someone else’s guitar stand!!! We left the restaurant and went back to the hotel, making plans to depart early Sunday and get home. We assumed all the sailings would be on time as the storm had blown over the region. Turns out the sailing was delayed because of all the backlog from the cancelled sailings.
Finally made it home without one frame used on either of my 2 cameras packed for the trip. Tuesday I have to return the special lens I had rented for this venue .
Still shaking my head.
Expensive weekend for zero return. 🙁
Your freelancers hard at work. 🙂