Tammy Haider: Life After Royalchord
After relocating to Berlin with her duo royalchord – and a couple of Robert Palmer covers later – Tammy Haider is back in Melbourne and launching a solo EP. She tells all to DAVID NICHOLS*. Photo by *OLIE WILLIAMS.
I do wonder what propelled me. I think it was kind of like a relentless kind of restlessness wanting to see the world, to see what more there was outside Australia. Now, coming home, I couldn’t be happier.
I moved to Berlin and kept playing music with [royalchord](http://royalchord.bandcamp.com/) but I guess – I don’t know how to put it eloquently – it’s not easy going to Europe and playing music. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great thing to do if you can make it work. When we left we did it in a kind of na’ve way and I think it was one of those spontaneous decisions that at the time seemed like the perfect thing to do. It was a little bit more difficult than I anticipated.
When we arrived there we only knew one person (a friend of a friend), and we started meeting people through people. Moving to another country is always hard for obvious reasons: settling in and finding a likeminded music community, the language barrier, work. It all took time, though soon enough we met a lot of cool, likeminded people, who became our friends and were also inspiring musicians and songwriters.
We’d started recording [2009?s] [The Good Fight](/releases/2000466) by the time we officially moved. We were in Berlin for six months when we finished recording it, and then we came back to Australia.
We recorded an album of covers, called Dogs*. It’s finished [but not yet released]. We’d always played covers in our set and it seemed like a good segue to where we were going instrumentally. It just seemed like a natural thing to do as songwriters; we’d gotten to a place where we felt confident reinterpreting other artist’s material and were up for the challenge. I think there was an overlap; some of the songs were recorded at the time *The Good Fight was recorded. We do songs like [?Johnny and Mary?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=7_SAMrDnXOE) by Robert Palmer, [?Beautiful Boys?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=B0WwY1VQeqM) by Sean Kingston, [?Can’t Get It Out of My Head?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=ZrffDM3hHk8) [by] ELO, [[?You Got It?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=DSjB3XmW30w)] by] Roy Orbison, [?I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=2YO0WyOGHjU), which is also by Robert Palmer.
?We weren’t playing the venues we wanted to.?
We weren’t really playing as much as we had hoped. We went to France, Switzerland, we did two little tours; really we were playing once every six months. Mainly we were getting to a point sonically where we were doing everything with two people. It was different when we were here in Melbourne – we had a band, played in professional venues. We played mainly small bars in Berlin – there are so many places you can play there, it’s relatively easy to get gigs, [and] over time I got to know a lot of people. But with the small bars, Eliza was having to do a lot of the mixing. It was a bit stressful in the end – we couldn’t be playing as much as we wanted to. We needed to build up a network of promoters to be able to tour more in Europe, which isn’t so easy. We weren’t playing the venues we wanted to.
But life sort of happened in a way. Everything was in limbo. Eliza was feeling a pull to have some financial stability in her life and she opened a Mexican burrito restaurant in Berlin, [Burrito Baby](http://www.burritobaby.de), with her husband, and became quite busy with that. It’s really successful, it’s totally worked, and if you are ever in Berlin you must go there!
I’d only ever played solo once, in Toronto, a long time ago. I’d never really considered doing it before. I can’t really put my finger on it why I didn’t think it was something I would or could do. But Eliza was really supportive of me starting to play solo in Berlin, and I think it’s been important for me to be able to express myself musically. But I began doing that, and she became busy with the restaurant. She thought that she would spend six months starting it up, but that six months turned into a longer period of time, and she had to focus on that and I could understand why. It wasn’t problematic; it actually has turned out to be a good thing for me to do.
Of course I miss royalchord. That goes without saying. I don’t think it’s a big change – obviously royalchord was a big part of my sonic aesthetic – and there’s something that sounds quite royalchord about what I am doing now.
When I made the EP [Genuine Feeling] I had just begun playing solo. I wasn’t overanalysing what I was doing, I was mainly focusing on making a recording with songs I felt proud of. I recorded with Cameron Laing [from [Bunny Suit](http://www.bunnysuitmusic.com)], we were putting heaps of stuff on, a kind of layer-upon-layer recording approach, and then subtracting from the mixes. I guess I’d written maybe four of the songs when we began recording.
?It’s important for me to develop on my own.?
I’d like to do an album or maybe an EP this year. I want to be able to do as much as I can myself. I have a good friend that I bounce a lot of stuff off, from song ideas to equipment possibilities, but it’s important for me to keep control of stuff in a way and develop on my own. I think it’s healthy.
An artist whose album I really liked a lot – in terms of songwriting themes – would be Angel Olsen. That’s more on a thematic scale I guess – I’ve been thinking a lot about that kind of thing lately: why and what is appealing about different artists? songwriting styles and vibe. And I’ve been listening to [Teeth & Tongue](/articles/4651933). I felt like I got something from them as far as songwriting goes; there is something deeply compelling about them. They’re the contemporaries that come to mind, sonically and thematically, [in terms of] where I’d like to go.
To be honest with you, I did feel a little bit like coming back. The whole reason that I left had fallen by the wayside. I felt weird coming back under those circumstances. I’m a bit paranoid about how it comes across; I’m not sure if royalchord’s over, we said it’s going to keep going – it’s a touchy subject for me – and it was Eliza who suggested I come back [to Australia]. I said, ?I can’t do that, people will think I failed? and she was like, ?Fuck what people think.? It is a little weird sometimes, in the context of what we just talked about.
At the same time, it would be weird and stupid to stay away just because of that. Whatever people think about people who make it or don’t make it, I’m proud of my ability to keep going. What is ?making it? anyway? You just can’t see things so black-and-white.