Tokyo Taboo were a hit on the Rebellion Introducing Stage last year, we had the chance to talk to Dolly about the band and life in general.
They were a massive draw on the Introducing Stage last year, with lead singer, Dolly hanging upside down on a pole for much of the set.
But that wasn’t just a gimmick – the band has the style and the music to pull it off. That they packed the room in an already hot and steamy Winter Gardens was an indicator of their appeal. There was a definite buzz growing all weekend and this was a keenly anticipated set for many.
Those who saw the gig were rewarded with a classy display. So, we kicked off our Zoom meet with Dolly with the usual …
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Dolly: That’s an easy one. We’re in North London. I’ve just finished teaching online. I teach music and piano, usually to kids. I’ve been doing Zoom lessons. I teach one to one singing lessons as well. I’ve finished a lesson, just now. So, a mixture of people, that’s what I usually do in normal times as well. We used to do it face to face, so I just switched to Zoom to make it safer.
P3dro: What kind of music do you teach?
Dolly: Piano is grades – so more like classical music. With singing, I find most people are more interested in pop or rock. Female singers who want to sing like Adele or more strong, powerful voices.
P3dro: The first time I came across you was at Rebellion, last year. Was that the first time you’s played Rebellion?
Dolly: Yeah. We played the Introducing Stage.
P3dro: How was that experience?
Dolly: We loved it. It was very hot in that room. Sweltering and packed, which was really good, especially for playing there the first time. Blackpool in itself is a really cool place. I just love the tackiness. It was nice weather, too. I remember doing a photo shoot on the beach, which was cool.
I enjoyed just wandering around, not necessarily planning who we were going to see, just walking in and out of places and checking out what was going on. The [merch] stalls as well were really cool. It’s a nice atmosphere.
P3dro: Yes, it is. I agree with you about just wandering around, just seeing who will turn up. There seemed to have been a bit of a buzz about you that weekend.
Dolly: I think the whole thing with the pole was a talking point. Maybe that was something that was a conversation point. And also being female fronted. There aren’t that many female fronted bands.
P3dro: Yeah, the pole is kind of the elephant in the room. I need to ask about that, obviously, how did that come about?
Dolly: About 2 years ago, I started getting into fitness quite a lot. I started running a bit more, I stopped drinking – I used to drink a lot at shows, and we were doing lots of shows. It’s fine if you can do things in moderation, but I’m not really like that. I swapped that with running and then I got into going to the gym a bit, but I found that a bit boring. Then Mike in the band found somewhere for me to try out anti-gravity yoga, which is where you’re on hammocks and you do yoga, but upside down.
There was also aerial hoop and pole, so I tried a bunch of different things, but wasn’t very good at any of them. Except the pole and I really loved it. I just loved the fact its about [strength] and flexibility, too and just being able to lift your own body-weight makes you feel quite strong and empowered. I liked the adrenaline it gave me spinning around on a pole. It gives a nice buzz, I guess. That replaced alcohol for me.
And then, in terms of adding it into the band’s set, we thought it would be a cool thing to do, so we invested in a stage pole, which we had at Rebellion. At first I was just having little moments in a song, instead of just rocking out, I would get on the pole and do some simple moves. And then slowly, slowly, I started staying there more. The more gigs we did the more I started to experiment and pushed myself a little bit more. It was a small inching towards doing more and more. And then, obviously, I got stronger as I did more classes.
P3dro: You can actually sing from the pole. I remember seeing you singing upside down and thinking, that must take some doing.
Dolly: Yeah. I think it’s practice. You obviously have to be able to sing first, that’s hard enough in the first place. But if you’re comfortable singing, then I think most performers, or at least the ones I like, are pushing and trying to evolve and see what extra things they can do.
Not necessarily on a pole, but maybe wear theatrical costumes or get in the crowd and perform. They’re pushing their comfort zones. For me it was getting upside down, staying upside down, having the wireless mic and singing.It feels relaxing, not like hard work, but if you do something on repeat, then it feels OK.
P3dro: How do you think you fitted in to the Rebellion punk thing? You’re not really a thrashy punk band.
Dolly: We have one or two punk songs, but that’s not really our whole thing. With Rebellion, I think it’s about breaking boundaries. That’s a punk thing, isn’t it? Doing things that are not expected is a very punk way of thinking. Just having attitude and being, like, this is me on stage, I’m going to do what I want. Just taking over like that, I think is punk.
Also, performing live and being able to keep the energy up. Punk is very energetic.
P3dro: For example on No Pleasure Only Pain it seems to have a nod back to bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow. Is that fair?
Dolly: I think so. It has some blues-iness to it. I was trying to think when we were writing that song, what were we listening to. There were a couple of bands that were doing bluesy riff heavy stuff, like Deap Valley and a couple of others. When we came up with the melody, it just kind of went that way. When you sing with emotion it sometimes goes towards a more kind of bluesy feel.
P3dro: That’s the video you shot in the desert. How did that come about?
Dolly: When we were working on the song, I was thinking of the desert being quite extreme. I wanted to do something that was like Mad Max, dystopian and that kind of landscape. We were writing and recording the song in August 2018 in the US, in a place called El Mirage. It was super hot. And we’d watched a load of music videos that had been shot in the desert, we were inspired by that. And once you’ve got an idea, you just go down a little rabbit hole.
P3dro: Where do you think the band gets its musical influences?
Dolly: It’s a weird mish-mash. I’ve always been interested in strong female vocals – that‘s where my background is. When I was little, I was listening to Whitney Houston and these “big” female singers. I used to love Queen. We are definitely inspired by people like Bowie, Led Zeppelin. And then more punkish bands like Linkin Park and Blink 182. We try to mash the female, strong singing, with guitar heavy stuff.
I also love Amy Winehouse, the soulfulness of her voice. I don’t think you’d ever listen to [Tokyo Taboo] and think “Oh, that sounds like her” We’re nothing close to her, but the rawness and the vulnerability is amazing.
I also grew up with Debbie Harry – she was a really bad ass front person. You can be inspired by people, even if musically they’re not the same – just something about the way they’re performing, the rawness or the lyrics. Style-wise, maybe not exactly what I would do, but someone who’s inspiring.
P3dro: Would you have been playing gigs this year?
Dolly: Yeah, we had loads lined up. We had Rebellion booked for this year. We had Byline Festival at the beginning of August, which is a really cool one. Basically, we did a whole lot of Introducing Stages last year and we got booked again for this year to do bigger stages. So that was a bit of a bummer. We would have done the Great British Alternative Festival. I assume most of them will just move us to next year.
P3dro: So, what have the last 4 months been like? Have you been creative?
Dolly: Mickey has been writing – well, we’ve both been writing. We have a little spare room and he’s been in there with electric drums and the other music parts, so he comes up with some songs. We’ve done some live streams on Facebook, just to keep people going – to keep performing, really.
We have a new single coming out in September, which is super cool. We have a video [to go with it]. We filmed that, maybe three weeks ago. The song was already done, it was done ages ago. It’s quite a topical song – it’s an anti Trump song and with the election coming up in November, we didn’t want to hang on to the song.
P3dro: What’s the name of the song? Are you going to tell us?
Dolly: No. Ha! I’m not allowed to. It will all be revealed soon.
P3dro: Can you recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now?
Dolly: Yes. Badflower and the album is called “OK, I’M SICK”. It’s an amazing album. They’re a band worth checking out.
And can I give you another one?
P3dro: Of course.
Dolly: This [eponymous] album by Dead Sara. That inspired us a lot, even though we don’t sound anything like them. I like the strong female voice, the melodies. It made us want to work with the same producer [Noah Shain].
P3dro: Anything else you want to tell us?
Dolly: Look out for our new single, it’s coming very soon, in a month. We have a really cool video coming out, which is exciting. Stay tuned, go check us out and we hope you like the new song.