An Interview With Tammar


I recently stumbled upon the song “The Last Line” from the Bloomington, IN psych/indie/dreampop project Tammar and was really impressed.

After not being able to learn much about the band online I decided to contact them myself and was able to have a Q and A with band members Dave, Josephine and Ben.

Dan Cordie: Can you look back onto a single moment in your life when you realized that you wanted to create music?

Dave Walter:  At some point in childhood I came across a song called “The Coconut Wireless” on one of my dad’s many strange records.  My sister and I became obsessed and sang THE SHIT out of it for weeks afterward.  The singing on the record was very spazzy and intense, and we would try to push our voices to new heights of weirdness as our obsession progressed.

Ben Swanson: I’ve wanted to play music since as long as I can remember, but I’d probably have to go back to seeing Huey Lewis & the News at the North Dakota State Fair when I was 3 or 4. Huey was this biggest badass I’d ever seen. My parents’ collections weren’t deep (a lot of Billy Joel, Eric Carman, and Jimmy Buffet) but it was always around. One of my first toys was one of those Mattel tape players. So either Huey or Weird Al on my Mattel tape player.


DC: What led to you guys coming together to form Tammar and how long have you been a band?

DW: Ben and I started playing together in 2005.  Shortly afterward, Sarah joined in on drums; shortly after that, Evan started playing guitar. Josephine came aboard in (I think) 2008, and the circle was complete!

BS: Dave and I knew each other through the video store Dave ran. My brother had passed me these late night recordings. Dave was using a shitty computer mic. No music, just vocals doing these epic performances. At the time, I had been playing around with my Crumar, finding this sound I really liked and at some point we decided to give it a shot. We wrote one of my favorite songs of ours “Emily’s Army” that first time. When Sarah, Evan and Josephine all joined it felt like the perfect fit for what we were doing.


DC: What is your favorite spot in Bloomington, IN to grab a drink?

Josephine McRobbie: -Atlas Ballroom for the shuffleboard and friendly bartenders
 – The Bishop Bar for cheap live music and karaoke 
- Upland Brewery for delicious local beer 
- House Bar for when you want to get away from the student vibe.


DC: Who are some bands that have had the strongest influence on your sound?

BS: Eno-era Talking Heads and To Bring You My Love-era PJ Harvey. Both are really about simplicity, rhythm, and the process of addition and subtraction. Sometimes it feels like there’s a lot going on, but it’s just these loops without samplers. There’s an organic aspect to the production that feels very instinctive. There are some people out there that can use samplers and laptops to great effect, but I’m a firm believer that a certain feeling is lost in the subtle, imperceptible anomalies that occur when forced to play the same riff for 5-10 minutes. You can’t hear it but you can feel it. That tactile experience is a major touchstone for us. We don’t really care what our songs sound like as long as it feels right.

DW: My main man, vocally-speaking, is Tim Booth from James.  Also a big fan of Rufus Wainwright.


DC: What is the story behind the name Tammar?

DW: Initially we were called Tamar, which is the name of a character from a book.  We were ordered to add the extra “m” by the legal team of the artist presently known as Prince. Apparently one of his proteges had dibs on the single-m spelling.


DC: How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t creating/playing music?

JM: I’m in graduate school!  
-Dave runs a video store and works at a cable-access TV station.
 – Ben: runs a couple record labels and hangs out with Sarah and our dog.


DC: Have you dabbled in any other genres other than indie/experimental?

BS: Josephine plays garage rock for fun with a lady friend.
-Dave hosts karaoke at various bars around town and could be considered a song stylist by charitable considerers.


DC: Could you describe the experience of writing new music?

JM: For us, it’s pretty organic and collaborative.  Sometimes we have things we’ve worked on at home that we want to incorporate into a Tammar song.  Other times, it starts with one or two of us goofing on a riff or beat during a lull in practice, and if it’s sounding interesting, the others will join in.  From there, we usually spend a couple of practices working on the structure of the song and then try playing it live.

BS: Most of our songs are built out of extended jams. Really just starting with a kernel of a riff or beat or melody that someone starts with and everyone joins in. If it’s feeling good well go through it a few more times while slowly whittling away at a shape. From there we’ll play it out until we’ve honed in on what’s working and what’s not…it feels very instinctual.


DC: If you could tour with any three current bands who would they be?

JM: I’m gonna say that Sarah and I might say Oneida ;)

DW: Also really love The Soft Moon

BS: And probably The War on Drugs!


DC: Do you have any big tour plans in support of the soon to be released album Visits?

BS: We’re playing a handful of shows in and out if town. Unfortunately,  it’s difficult for us to tour extensively, but we definitely plan to support the record.


DC: Where do you hope to see Tammar one year from now?

BS: Playing out with a new batch of songs! Hopefully well under way with some new recordings after having just toured the West Coast and Spain.


DC: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Various: We’re super excited about the music scene in Bloomington right now. There are a ton of really amazing bands at the moment: Dreamers of the Ghetto, Sleeping Bag, Apache Dropout, Open Sex, Quran Quran, Mike Adamsm Dylan Ettinger…I’m sure we’re missing a few, but its pretty inspiring.

You can stay connected with everything Tammar on Facebook and Twitter

Look for their new album Visits to drop on September 20