Getting to know Detroit's Tart 

Sweet and tender hooligans

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With energetic sets of angular guitar and steamy vocal bursts, local duo Tart has been causing a stir in nearby bars and festivals in the last year. Their music and fashion recall retro '80s excess, but the Detroit band updates the trimmings with harsh indie beats and samples. We all know that this time of year is slim for local shows unless they are charity and/or holiday showcases, but this Wednesday, Nov. 25, the band is playing at Bemo's in Bay City.

As an introduction to Tart, here's a Q&A with Adam and Zee on their musical influences and ambitions.

We caught up with Adam Padden, who plays guitar and drums, and Zee Bricker, who sings and writes the majority of the lyrics and vocal melodies.

Metro Times: When did you get together?

Adam Padden: We started playing music together in the fall of 2013, but didn't officially launch the project until summer of 2014.

MT: What was the first record you bought with your own money, and does it still hold up?

Padden: The first record that I bought was Beatles 1, a compilation album with almost all of the Beatles' No. 1 hit singles. I may have bought something sillier before this, like the Toy Story soundtrack, but my memory is failing me.

Zee Bricker: I don't remember! But I do remember being about 9 and being obsessed with Sarah McLachlan, because, I'm not really sure why. Nine-year-olds are kinda weird like that, and latch onto things. That Christmas, I received three different Sarah McLachlan CDs; I actually pulled one out the other day, and some of those tracks are still really awesome.

MT: How do you respond when asked what you sound like?

Bricker: Sinister shred-pop "femmelectro" new wave. We're not easily offended, and I actually like hearing what associations to other acts people get when listening to us. So whatever you hear or compare us to, that's not a wrong answer. Our most recent release is an EP called These Are Not Love Songs that we released in July. You can find it on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, etc.

MT: Who is your favorite '80s band, then?

Padden: I think Zee and I would both agree and say the Smiths are the quintessential '80s new wave band. Johnny Marr has been a huge influence on my guitar-playing in Tart.

Bricker: Yep, I do love me some Morrissey. I'm also definitely a Tears for Fears lady too.

MT: What's the farthest you have traveled for a gig?

Bricker: The furthest we have traveled as Tart is to Brooklyn, but we have our eyes set on the West Coast sometime.

MT: What's the hardest part about being in a band?

Bricker: Staying motivated and keeping the momentum up. Not getting frustrated or discouraged or overwhelmed. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do in terms of growing the project. "What's next?" is a question we ask ourselves a lot.

MT: What makes being in a band worth it for you?

Bricker: First of all, it's really a ton of fun and can be very satisfying. I especially love having the opportunity to perform on a regular basis. Being in a band is great too because you not only have an outlet to be artistic and creative, but because it is a whole, long-term project it has the potential to grow and evolve.

MT: What has the most embarrassing moment been so far?

Bricker: It's all my fault. At our EP release show, we were having some gear issues that led to a delay in our start time. Then, because I was feeling hurried, and wasn't paying attention, I came in too early in our first song. Adam had to run over to me and yell at me that I was off. I then had to wait to come in with the second verse. It was one of those things where no one probably knew what had happened or why I had stopped singing, but I was so mortified and angry at myself about it. Which actually then led into a really good set.

MT: How will you know that Tart is successful?

Bricker: When we can buy the whole bar a round with Tart money! But in all seriousness, this is the hardest question to answer because success is so difficult to define. Since success is so subjective too, I really feel like my own definition of it is constantly changing. On some level, I do believe that Tart is already successful because it fills basic artistic needs in me, and that is something that is really important and necessary in my life. As long as Tart is doing that, then it is successfully fulfilling its mission.

Tart plays Bemo's on Wednesday, Nov. 25; 701 S. Madison Ave., Bay City; 989-893-7071; no cover.

More by Mike Pfeiffer

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