At the beginning of the year, JapanCulture•NYC introduced you to a talented and fashionable singer who goes by the moniker Emergency Tiara. We caught up with her a couple of weeks ago and discovered that she’s busier than ever with a new single, a new music video, and an upcoming show at Rockwood Music Hall.
“My whole life I had so much time on my hands, and this summer I have no time. I’m staying busy, which is great, so fun. And now I appreciate the time that I had before,” says Emergency Tiara. “I like reading books. I used to read five books a week. But now I’ve been reading the same book for over a few months. It’s like I can never finish it.”
These days, Emergency Tiara’s time is consumed by her music instead of books. In April she released her first EP, Until the Stroke of Midnight, followed by the release of two singles, “Alone” and “When I Fell in Love.”
“Since our last interview, I probably wrote 20 songs,” says Emergency Tiara. “We’re actually finishing up this song called ‘Sunny Road.’ There’s going to be some ukulele in it. We started working on it in spring so that we can put it out in summer.”
The Japanese native recently wrapped up shooting a music video for “Around,” the first song from her EP.
“That was also taking up a lot of time, prepping it,” she says of the shoot, which was directed by her boyfriend, cinematographer Russell Cramer, and took place at The Hickories, an organic farm in Ridgefield, Connecticut. “I had a great team of people who were helping me put the music video together, so I didn’t really have to stress myself on the business side, budget side. I just had to prepare myself to get camera ready.”
Getting camera ready for the shoot required finding only one perfect outfit, in contrast to Emergency Tiara’s first music video, for her single “Downtown Boy,” in which she wore three different, impeccable ensembles. The “Downtown Boy” video was shot in different locations around New York City as opposed to the rural setting of The Hickories. “It was so pretty and so refreshing to be in nature,” says Emergency Tiara. “It’s a very good-looking video . . . [Making] the music video was like a live show, but at the same time it’s a little bit harder because I don’t have an audience to vibe with. I can take in the energy at the shows, and that’s very helpful for me to get excited, to be energetic.”
Soon after our interview, Emergency Tiara dashed off to LA for almost two weeks to participate in VocalizeU, a summer artist intensive.
“I go there every year, so it’s like a reunion seeing all the people I know,” she says. “It’s great to know what’s happening in their music lives.”
She uses the intensive as a learning tool and as a measure of her personal and professional growth.
“Last year at this point, I didn’t even have an EP out or my music video out,” says Emergency Tiara. “Since then, I put out my music video, put my EP out, a few singles. I feel pretty good.”
Emergency Tiara’s growing body of work is due in part to her collaboration with Carrie Haber, a London-based songwriter with whom she brainstorms during two-hour Skype sessions. “I do a write-up of all the thoughts in my head and send them to her in an email. It’s a crazy email. I try to write those lines as much as possible to be able to use them in a song, and we go through it together. To me it’s just nice to be able to hear what stands out to other people rather than just from my side.”
With new songs in hand, Emergency Tiara meets with her producer and music director, David Cole, who moonlights as her drummer as well as the percussionist for Rubble Bucket. Together they go over the new songs and decide which are the best to produce based on the focus of her career.
She describes Cole as quiet and open to her suggestions during the production process. “When I write a song, I don’t hear the complete production, but I hear some little arrangement that I’d like to be included in the production,” she says. “We have many similar musical tastes, and he appreciates Japanese music as well. So it’s been really great working with him.”
Working with Cole and Haber has helped her songs evolve. “I just decided to be a little more authentic and true to myself,” says Emergency Tiara, who lately has been listening to the music of A Great Big World, Vampire Weekend, and Tennis. “So the music sounds maybe a little less poppy and bubbly. Maybe quirkier. But I definitely feel more comfortable and happy singing my newer songs. I feel very natural delivering those messages.”
But she’s not discarding the tunes that originally put her in the New York music scene.
“I still think all my songs are babies, but some songs that I wrote when I’m not in the best place – when I’m mad at someone or sad or depressed, which doesn’t happen often – but some songs have anger in them, and I try not to sing them. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have angry songs, but I do music to be happy. Even if you don’t make it into a song, I think it’s very healthy to write down what’s on your mind.”
Fans can hear what’s on Emergency Tiara’s mind at her next New York gig on Saturday, August 2 at Rockwood Music Hall. Although she didn’t originally like talking on stage between songs, she has learned to develop a rapport with her audience.
“My first show ever as Emergency Tiara in New York, I was so nervous because you can see everybody’s reaction right away; you can tell when someone is enjoying as well as if someone is bored,” says Emergency Tiara. “I was really nervous that I thought I was going to throw up on stage. It’s been a little over two years since I started performing at Rockwood, and it’s more comfortable. Now I really enjoy that I can see people from the stage . . . I think that’s what Rockwood is good for, a very cozy, very homey, warm environment.”
Emergency Tiara’s background singers, Carly Menkin and Cydney McQuillan-Grace, are engaging with the audience, which Emergency Tiara finds invaluable.
“I don’t think I’ll take a gig if my background singers aren’t available,” she says. “They are beautiful spirits to be around.”
While she enjoys taking the stage in New York, there is another place where she’d like to perform.
“Hopefully I’ll get to do some music eventually in Japan as well because I’m Japanese,” she says. “I would love to translate more of my songs into Japanese because I would love people to understand the message of the song and to sing along. I’m happy to keep it in English as well . . . My friends’ band, which is based here in New York, The Ricecookers, are doing great in Japan and most of their music is in English.”
Until then she will continue honing her craft in New York.
“I have a few vulnerable songs, not quite like my usual happy love songs,” she says. “I’m hoping I can do an acoustic set to see another side of Emergency Tiara.”
The side of Emergency Tiara that most fans love to see is the one that drives her fashion sense. One of Time Out’s Most Stylish New Yorkers of 2013, the singer finds inspiration from Audrey Hepburn and the fashion of the 1960s.
“But I want to explore and maybe expand, maybe add a little ‘20s, like Flappers, like strappy dresses and lower heels,” she says.
One thing that won’t change is her eye or hair color.
“I think many Japanese girls want to look like Western girls with color contact lenses and blond hair,” she explains, “but I think the features you are born with are the most beautiful.”
Emergency Tiara will perform on Stage 1 at Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen Street, between E. Houston and Stanton Streets) on Saturday, August 2 at 8:00 p.m.