How Tacocat Take Down Sexism with Bubblegum Punk and X-Files References

Michael Lavine
Tacocat go forward and back.
When we think of political art, we think of po-faced activists. The kind of people who’d take Eric B & Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke” as not just a motto but an entire way of life. They’re “serious as cancer,” as Rakim would say — the sort of people you can count on for social justice truth bombs, but not for their ability to give or take a joke.

Tacocat, on the other hand, stand as a rebuttal to that tired trope.

The palindrome-named quartet use their sugary melodies and beach party music as a Trojan horse, sneaking in thoughtful lyrics about sexism, gentrification, and feminism. It’s like trying to feed your dog a pill: It goes down a lot smoother when you wrap it in baloney.

Formed in 2007, Tacocat is the work of vocalist Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Eric Randall, and drummer Lelah Maupin. They play pop-punk that is infectious, energetic, and bursting with wit. Whether it’s paying tribute to periods through propulsive surf rock and a Clueless reference (“Crimson Wave”), mocking how the weekends are a tension-release valve for capitalism (“I Hate The Weekends”), or brushing aside mansplaining with some 1990s-style alt-rock crunch (“Men Explain Things To Me”), the Seattle band delivers both big topics and undeniable pop hooks.

In an interview with Rookie, Nokes explains how humor can be a better delivery system for calling out bullshit than lecturing people. She points out that “making jokes about that kind of stupid stuff has made people check themselves more than when people yell at them about it.”

With high-minded ideals and lowbrow comedy, Tacocat are able to see the deeper meanings behind pop culture, and how the “junk” we consume can actually enrich our lives. And it’s no surprise that the band are TV junkies. They did write the theme song for the new Powerpuff Girls show, after all.

Consider their song “Dana Katherine Scully.” It’s not just an ode to one of the band’s favorite shows, The X-Files, it also examines how Scully, a doctor played by Gillian Anderson, is a great feminist role model.

Tacocat aren’t alone in enshrining Scully as a hero. Since the show went off the air in 2002, many women entering law enforcement and STEM fields have cited the character as a key inspiration for their career choice. Scully’s status as a role model for women working in the sciences is so pronounced that there’s even a name for her impact: the Scully Effect. The skeptical FBI agent was almost always the smartest and most level-headed person in the room.

Just as the fictional Scully broke down barriers, so does Tacocat. They prove that a politically conscious band can be just as goofy and fun-loving as any other musical act, and that writing songs with punchlines doesn’t mean they can’t hit you right in the gut.

Tacocat are performing with The Rebel Set and Strange Lot on Sunday, April 23, at Valley Bar in downtown Phoenix.