Checking In: Tiarra Girls Can’t Stop the World
Full-time school and a new record label engage in a tug of war
By Raoul Hernandez,
10:10AM, Tue. Oct. 20, 2020
Final cut on the Go-Go’s groundbreaking 1981 bow, “Can’t Stop the World” also christened the L.A. New Wavers’ new bassist, native Austinite Kathy Valentine. Last month, the homegrown Tiarra Girls – Tiffany, Tori, and Sophia Baltierra – stripped back the tune with its still local author and added some 21st century insight, insouciance, and reinvention.
Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?
Tori Baltierra: We are sheltering together as a family. There’s three of us, our parents, our three dogs, and our bird. It’s a full house and at times there can be sisterly fighting, annoyances, and things of the sort, but we’re all so thankful to be as close as we are and to be our own support system in a time like this.
AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?
TB: Our last live in-person show was on Valentine’s Day at Flamingo Cantina. It’s pretty upsetting that we had no idea it would be our last show, but it wasn’t hard at all to hold onto the energy and love what we received that night. We were prepping for SXSW a lot since we were official artists, newly signed with a label (Lucky Hound Music), and were going to play the most shows we’ve ever had during SXSW.
The beginning of shelter in place left us a bit disoriented with having to shift to online classes, not leaving the house, playing shows in the living room, and the occurrences of 2020. Since we’ve never experienced our world at such an odd time, it’s made us adapt and given us time to focus on our relationships, classes, and music. It's helped shape our overall view of the world and what we want our future to look like.
Tiffany’s honed in on her path to being a nurse by working in the hospital and applying her knowledge from online class and labs. Sophia has expanded her communication skills in her Business Marketing classes and has been getting more into fitness. [I’ve] been taking Audio Engineering classes and writing new music. Collectively, we’ve become closer and continue to have conversations about Latinidad, the political atmosphere, and how we can push our messages of empowerment to reach a larger audience.
AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?
TB: Music employs so many people, whether it be through live music, recording studios, musicians, songwriters, managers, bloggers, etc. When we were struck with a decrease in live shows and were forced to adapt to creating strictly online events, many issues arose. People were left unemployed with no support, or with an insufficient amount of support.
Now, we’ve seen a boom in studios being used for livestreams, releases, and personal recording projects, because they have more time on their hands. All generations have had to get somewhat tech-savvy since we couldn’t walk up and down Red River to poke our heads into venues on a Saturday night. We’ve had to follow more bands online, keep up with social media for updates, and save links to livestreams left and right.
Our music community has grown in a sense that we all have a new commonality – being musicians in a pandemic. As a music community, we’ve bonded over learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement, collaborating on songs about justice, and constantly uplifting one another more than ever.
AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?
TB: Our bass player, Tiffany, works as a patient care tech at a hospital on days that work with her school schedule. Sophia and [myself] were interns at Siete Family Foods, helping with online orders in the summer and beginning of Fall, until class work began to pick up more. We’re all students who are in a band, newly signed with a label, so it comes with some serious time management.
We’ve had to pretty much memorize each other’s school schedules so we don’t plan a meeting with the label, photographers, or studio time during a day that we have three classes. Having classes and meetings online was definitely something we had to learn how to navigate, but it’s definitely improved our communication skills and creative ways of learning.
AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?
TB: Our music tastes are very different from each other, but it’s never hard to find songs we can all jam to. The music we listen to together is predominantly Spanish music, hip-hop, and R&B. Individually, [I] listen to more Indie and soul, Tiffany listens to more banda and rap, while Sophia listens to more chill R&B and regional Mexican.
Music has become more prominent in our lives during this time, not only because our band is more busy than ever now, but because we’ve noticed how music can comfort us and seriously change how we experience things. Being a young Latina student and musician coming of age in a time as overwhelming as this, music is essential to our daily lives because it’s our inspiration, our solace, and our driving force.
Check out the entire Checking In series.