By RUTH KIM
Yesterday’s gone, tomorrow’s far away, and sometimes we just want to live in the moment. Singer-songwriter Dorothea Tachler expresses a universal sentiment that takes on a mood of melancholic reflection on her new album, Tomorrow’s Far Away, released by her band My Favourite Things this past spring.
“The song is about a friend who has problems with drugs,” explained the Brooklyn-based Tachler, of the eponymous track, during a phone interview with KoreAm. “It’s about the situation where he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ll quit tomorrow.’ [Then he says,] ‘I’m gonna do drugs one more time, and I don’t want to think about tomorrow. I don’t want to think about what’s after, even though I know it’s bad for me.’”
Tomorrow’s Far Away marks the band’s second album, and Tachler wrote all nine of its tracks, crafting a sound that is complex—sometimes dreamy, often playful and always honest. The songs are full of texture, featuring a seemingly endless list of instruments, including the ukulele, acoustic guitar, autoharp, steel drums, violin, cello, accordion and fenghuang qin (a Chinese stringed instrument). Tachler’s delicate voice floats above the miscellany of sounds almost effortlessly.
Yet, that characterization also belies the hours and hours of practice she endured as a child and later a music student. Born in Germany to a Korean mother and a German-Croatian father, she began playing classical violin and piano at a young age, and later pursued a degree in classical music and theory at the Academy for Music and Performing Arts in Munich. But as much as she loved classical music, she wanted to break away from its rigorous structure and “explore an instrument without the strict teachers,” she said.
Self-taught in a diverse collection of instruments, Tachler began her career as an instrumentalist in bands during her college years, the first band being Alles wie gross. “[Then] I went on my first tour [throughout Europe, the U.S. and Japan],” she said, reminiscing about her next band Schneck. “Not like in the classical environment, but like plugging instruments into amps and playing everything loud.”
After this liberating musical experience, Tachler went on to play with various groups, including Mice Parade and their side project Igloo, shoegaze band The Swirlies, Tiki Tiki Bamboos and Chottodjango, with even more bands to come. In 2006, she moved to New York, where she collaborated with another musician to form the electronic outfit dorako, and also explored bands in other genres, including country, pop and rock.
In New York, Tachler said she felt at home in the diverse mix. “Growing up in Germany as a mixed child, it was not, you know at the time, it was not very common. So, I felt a little bit like an outsider,” she said. “Here, in New York, you know, it’s like everybody comes from somewhere.”
The vibrant city life also did wonders for Tachler’s creative flow. “Being far away from home, I felt like I had way more freedom to do the things I like musically—to explore, just trying out things I would have not dared to at home, or, God forbid, in my old music school environment. I felt like I could do stuff without being judged or critiqued,” she said. “I find myself writing songs on the subway, or walking around the city or implementing sounds from the streets [and] neighbors.”
After having played in a number of collaborative bands in New York, however, Tachler wanted to assume a greater role in creating music. “I really liked working with other people, [but] we always had difficulty with a lot of musical decisions,” she said. “It was hard to make a compromise. And it seems like music shouldn’t be a place of compromise.”
That’s when My Favourite Things was born, which released its first album, rarara, in 2009. The album dealt with the themes of loss and lament because the artist at the time was coping with the deaths of her mother and grandmother, both of whom passed away shortly after she moved to New York.
“So writing songs was almost like a therapeutic way for me to deal with these things,” Tachler said. “They were my way to deal with death. “[Tomorrow’s Far Away] is more pondering about states, situations you are in, like moments over the big picture. In other words: being in the moment, looked at from several angles,” she said, noting that it can capture the perspective of someone struggling with drug addiction to the mundane desire of wanting to eternalize a perfect summer day with your family.
The second album also marked a tremendous growth experience for the artist. “I feel like I am growing more as a recording artist, learning more what works, what I like, what I want,” said Tachler, who wrote, recorded, engineered and mixed all of the songs by herself. (She has had different band members since forming My Favourite Things. Her current band plays the album’s music live with her, but were not featured on the new album.) And although she admits that she may have released the record prematurely, without a label or publicist to promote her name, she felt that it was the right time to do it.
“I felt so done with the album. It was like a journey that I finished, and I wanted to let it go into the world without having to think about it too much,” she said. “So I can move on and start working on my next album.”
This article was published in the July 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).