Within minutes of beginning a conversation with Taryn Miller, it’s blindingly clear that when it comes to creating music, the twenty-five year old songwriter finds the journey as important as the destination. Viewing her art as something that’s ongoing instead of definitive, the music of Your Friend develops at a rate that feels natural and unfettered. Stretching out like the branches of a tree, arrangements swirl to complete an auditory collage that echoes Miller’s focus on textures and sounds. Although as she told Pancakes and Whiskey in early April, it’s a practice that doesn’t follow any standard procedure or order, and is just one part of an individual creative process that the young musician considers herself to still be figuring out. Answering our phone call during a quick moment spent pumping gas into her group’s tour van, she spoke about the making of her latest album, Gumption, and how an open approach to songwriting and recording can’t help but make every song feel like its own unique adventure.
“Throughout the day, I’ll have something come to mind and I’ll just write it down. I always have a notebook with me in my back pocket. Even just something that someone said that struck me- things like that. I’m constantly aware of the things happening around me. I absorb it and then I archive it and then revisit it at certain moments.” Signed to Domino Records in 2014 on the strength of her debut EP, Jekyll/Hyde, January’s Gumption is a full-length follow-up that continues the artist’s trek. Met with high praise upon its release, the record is not only the next chapter for Your Friend, but a true representation of the events and experiences that will inevitably lead to the one that follows.
“I feel like I’m just hitting the tip of this iceberg with Gumption, in that I’m just now starting this growing process. I don’t feel like I just figured everything out with this record. I don’t think anybody ever does, but this record to me was more of like a beginning stage of self-awareness that I hadn’t yet arrived at. And I think that’s what it did for me: it took me down a different path, mentally, that I think was good.”
Recorded at the Rare Book Room in Brooklyn, the album was produced by studio owner Nicolas Vernhes. Known for his work with a long list of artists including Animal Collective, Deerhunter and the The War On Drugs, Vernhes and the studio he founded left an impression that has stuck with her. “I really loved it,” she said. “The overall vibe of that place is really, really great. And he’s an amazing producer. He’s very intuitive and can communicate with you well.” Miller also spoke about how the space itself created an environment that ultimately distracted her from the internal pressure of staying on schedule.
“I think what I really loved about it the most was that it was almost like a cave-there weren’t windows. Because there is already an inherent urgency because you have [a] deadline. You’re only going to be in the studio for two weeks so you’re trying to reach certain milestones everyday. And I think that took away from that a little bit in a good way, like I wasn’t watching the sun go down.”
Laughing as she said, “having an enclosed space to some degree, that keeps me focused,” she went on to explain how working quickly amounted to an accelerated pace that proved to be more than worthwhile. “What ended up happening with that was that I had demos, and we used elements of the demos, for sure. There were a couple songs that I didn’t feel had fully been fleshed out, and so I was able to exercise that and revisit some ideas. And things just kind of surfaced because of that. I tend to do well in situations where it’s like adrenaline fuel. It’s like, ‘Ok, we have a couple hours left today,’ and so all of a sudden, things start to reveal themselves because I’m not overanalyzing, I’m not agonizing over it and I think that works for me.”
Conscious of Gumption’s decidedly darker aesthetic, Miller wanted an album jacket that mirrored the direction and concept of the songs inside. “With this new record, I’ve been going down a darker place sonically, too, just the overall themes of the record and things that I wanted to arrive at,” she said. “I worked with a guy at a shop and he’s a really phenomenal painter. We just kind of talked about it for a while and he listened to the record and we kept coming back to it. Then I sent him some images I liked and that’s what he came back with.” And while the musician considers choosing artwork to be difficult “because it’s so permanent,” she spoke about how in this case it came together easily, turning out to be exactly what she had envisioned. Though the only thing that’s permanent about Your Friend’s music may be Miller’s insistence on forging a new path with new sounds for each subsequent collection. “I mean, it’s continuing everyday,” she explained. “You can go down a wormhole (laughs). You need to narrow the focus every once and a while, which is what I’m trying to do now, is kind of hone in on what I want to start doing in the next phase.”
Your Friend Is Currently On Tour With Alex G and Porches:
4/14 @ Union Transfer Philadelphia, PA
4/15 @ Bowery Ballroom New York, NY
Article: Caitlin Phillips
Cover Image: CrystalLee Farris