Recently, John Clay spoke to Ukranian/British duo tAngerinecAt about their origins, the importance of ritual in their music and their new single “House of Shards”. You can read the written interview here and watch a video of his second conversation with the band here.
Today in the third part of this interview trilogy, he quizzes the duo on new understandings about the music industry and society’s inauthentic social cues as they relate to neurodivergent citizens. All that and an explanation as to the spelling of their name.
You’ve had access to mentors in accordance to winning the Help Musicians Award. What did you gain from that experience and what did you confirm?
Paul: It was a great opportunity to learn and ask questions and gain advice from people with a lot of experience in various caveats of the music industry. With musicians being required to do a lot more themselves to promote their music it can be very difficult to know what to do that will be most effective. Our advice sessions are still not complete but one thing that was very helpful was the opportunity to look at our website and social media, etc and see if our image and branding actually represents our music. It doesn’t. It seems that this is more important nowadays with visual content being the first thing people see before they hear your music.
Eugene: I could advise after all that you shouldn’t even try to impress music industry people if you are making something original and if you aren’t young, and don’t waste your time trying to approach them. Your audience is the only source that you can rely on in this case, and the internet is a very powerful tool to reach it. It’s a shame that now everything has started to revolve around Spotify so all your tours, sales on Bandcamp and at gigs, and followers on social media suddenly lost meaning for industry people. They are only interested in numbers on Spotify, even though they may be fake or purchased. Also, the Spotify algorithm works against genre-defying and original music. I agree that building a strong fan base is the most important thing but without big financial investment and press support it’s much harder whatever anyone might say.
You have some amazing visual elements to accompany some fresh and investigative music. You also occupy areas in culture that are categorised as marginal. What are the pros and cons to people being aware of your shared neurodivergence? Are there any myths you wish to dispel, especially on subjects of communication?
Eugene: I’m open about me being neurodivergent because it’s connected to my story and therefore also the lyrics of my songs. I think a pro is that it can be a support for other neurodivergent people who can relate to my life and musical experience. Neurodivergent people are poorly represented and there are a lot of stereotypes so they still try to hide this from others, so it’s important to see something familiar that you can relate to which is a rare thing. We are mostly represented in a negative way, and never as humans.
Cons are that some neurotypical people might think that I do it to fit in with identitarian culture which is somewhat trendy now, and gain popularity from this which is quite confusing because actually I don’t have any gain from this and don’t really fit in for various other reasons. At the moment, I see that I lose more when I talk about it publicly because I haven’t press support and social and financial capital to be very welcome but as I have had to hide everything about myself from childhood, ashamed of myself and be called “weird”, “quiet”, “out of this world”, “extreme introvert” etc, this opportunity to talk at least through my art is revealing and very important for my survival. So, I don’t feel very welcome to be open in or out of identitarian culture which is very capitalist but still I don’t want to hide who I am and mask all the time. Maybe there are other cons I haven’t discovered.
There are a lot of neurodivergent people, and many don’t even know that they are. They are all different and communicate differently. Maybe this is the biggest myth when people are put all together in one box and declared to be the same. Also it’s considered that neurodivergent people are bad in communication but that’s only because everything is shown from the perspective of neurotypical people. We communicate really well with each other but neurotypical people struggle to communicate with us because their style of communication is full of inauthentic social cues. The problem is also that everything in society is set up for neurotypical people so it’s not surprising that we often feel overwhelmed.
Can you stipulate some of these inauthentic social cues? Also is it reasonable to conclude that society being built upon such inauthenticity renders the very labelling of typical and non typical a problem in and of itself?
Paul: Regarding social cues I think this also can be different but generally I think it’s things that are supposed to be understood without actually saying them through facial expression, gesture or just accepted social norms and customs. Labels are always difficult and often clumsy and there is a lot of room for improvement as we begin to understand the differences between people more, but having a label in my opinion is better than none at all, which was the case in the past, because not having an official label equates to total erasure or being labelled negatively due to misunderstanding.
Thank you for such a well thought out answer. In closing is there anything you can tell us about your future releases beyond ‘House of Shards’?
Paul and Eugene: We are currently working on our future album Glass which ‘House of Shards’ will be part of. It’s based around Eugene’s personal life experiences as a neurodivergent person, severe trauma, acute poverty, a Chernobyl disaster survivor, and a queer multiethnic refugee activist from Ukraine. It will be released in 2022 on CD and vinyl. In the near future we are planning to release a single in collaboration with Norwegian artist Runa de Luna who described the song like this: “where ancient myths shine a light on the contemporary world”. Runa de Luna is also nonbinary and neurodivergent so we have a lot of similarities both in our art and life experience. This single will be recorded, produced and mixed in our studio, and we are very excited about this release that will also be included in Glass.
Sounds unique and explorative. Do let us know once it’s ready to be discussed. Last but not least, for new fans and the like, could you tell us about the tAngerinecAt name and it’s enigmatic spelling configuration?
Paul: Thank you! Well… it happened a long time ago. We left the place where we lived in Ukraine due to Eugene being persecuted for his activism which included daily death threat messages and being followed, and hid away in a converted garage. Nobody knew we were there, and our only guest and friend was a large ginger cat who wandered from yard to yard and slept on the snow-covered windowsills. We became very attached to this cat who ran to meet us from afar. When we left, Eugene cried because he knew he wouldn’t see this cat again. We already wanted to change our name from Dark Patrick and decided to rename our band in honour of this special, sweet, friendly and free cat, and we even dedicated one of our songs to it.
The two capital a’s in tAngerinecAt have more than one meaning. One was that we wanted to show (in a creative way) our anarchist political views. The second is that visually it looks like a cat’s ears. Sometimes this way of spelling is impractical because of autocorrect or tagging issues so we often write Tangerinecat or TANGERINECAT. We wanted it to be one word as a symbol of friendship and freedom.
… And that my friends is a characteristically potent end to an informative and frank discussion. Thank you so much for your time and patience. Do tell people where they can buy your music. Go!
Awesome. Have a great time creating future music for us and may we have more insightful chats in the future.
“House of Shards” is out now as a digital download on Bandcamp.
Find out more about tAngerinecAt on their official website
Interview by John Clay: heylink.me/Johnclayartist
Photography by Ray Moody