Over this past weekend, Cartoon Network dusted off the beloved early ’00s TV show The Powerpuff Girls. A new reboot of the animated series aired to high viewership, letting the trio of child superheroes soar into the air once more to protect their town from villains and sexism simultaneously.
Cue Tacocat’s entrance, the band that recorded the show’s new theme song. The Seattle-based quartet creates the most infectious feminist pop punk on that side of the country ever since the band was founded in 2007. With three full-lengths to their name, including this year’s Lost Time, the four musicians have garnered a cult following. A few Cartoon Network staff members are fans, so they asked the band to record a new version of the theme, crossing their fingers for an equally spunky rendition. That’s exactly what they got.
“Our singer has never returned a phone call so fast,” guitarist Eric Randall tells me over the phone. “Emily [Nokes] was calling the number listed before she even finished reading the email.”
When Nokes, Randall, bassist Bree McKenna, and drummer Lelah Maupin went into the studio, a composer handed them sheet music. All four laughed; they couldn’t read it. After spending half a day listening to a demo the composer recorded, they then practiced the material until they could record takes, slowly hammering at the audio. Eventually, they reworked the song to sound like a Tacocat song.
When Tacocat record their own music, it’s rarely as organized as the theme song sessions were. The four recorded in multiple studios—including one called Chemical X, funnily enough—while only 60% of the lyrics were written in advance. “Emily was furiously writing away as we were in the studio writing the music,” Randall laughs. “She did a great job of putting the two together. ‘FDP’ was written entirely the day before we went into the studio. I’ve read a couple reviews and people seem to really like that song which makes it even funnier. ‘Crimson Wave’ was the same way – we wrote that song in two hours.”
But they know how they work best: under pressure. After scheduling studio time three months in advance, they put their heads together to abide by the hard deadline. “We take on a lot of work,” Randall says, noting their commitment to upholding DIY values by creating their own album artwork and video ideas. “I’m proud that we hold each other accountable as people. We have a goal to not only be better musicians, but to be better people all the time.”
Their Powerpuff Girls contribution feels logical given the quartet keeps feminism at the heart of their material. Now, the band’s music soundtracks a show where three young girls save the whole city without sporting revealing superhero outfits.
“You look around and see the way women get treated constantly—it’s awful,” says Randall, well aware that he’s the only man in the band. “I absolutely consider myself a feminist. I don’t think I ever thought this much about feminism when I first joined this band, though. I grew up with four aunts that were constantly around, my grandmother, and my mother in a family that was naturally matriarchal. A lot of men who don’t grow up with women don’t even know how to speak with women or act towards them—like your friends. I see the way guys act and understand that it has to do a lot with male fragility where they don’t want their pride to be hurt.”
All their energy spent fighting for women’s rights, be it in the form of mocking street harassment in “Hey Girl” or seizing menstruation metaphors in “Crimson Wave,” pays off. They get letters from younger girls who are fans, including, most recently, a 14-year-old girl from the ex-Soviet Union asking for an autograph in broken English. “Those are the emails that melt all of our hearts,” he says. “It’s tough between recording an album and releasing an album, because it’s all work that you can’t show anyone. Getting emails like that remind you that people are listening and they care.”
With the theme song getting regular TV play and the new album, Lost Time, on store shelves, it’s safe to say there are more people than ever listening to Tacocat—and more people feeling empowered as a result.
TACOCAT, BOYFRIENDS, MINI DRESSES. THU 4.14. MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$12. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM.