Related Articles: Music, All

Tanya Kelleher of Return to Mono

Giving Props to SF Parking Authority

You can find anything on the Internet these days -- a girlfriend, an apartment, furniture, and even your own band, as was the case with Tanya Kelleher vocalist for Return to Mono. The San Francisco-based group combines electronic beats from Andy Sibylrud with the guitar and bass work of J.G. Paulos to create intricate foundation for Kelleher to work with. The group has two upcoming concerts planned in San Francisco in support of its EP, Involution. Kelleher recently spoke with SF Station.

SF Station (SFS): The liner notes of your EP give a shout out to the San Francisco Parking Authority. Do you get a lot of parking tickets?

Tanya Kelleher (TK): There was a period where every time we had practice it was like Russian roulette wondering who was going to get the ticket. Most of them go to Andy because he parks in the most ridiculous places. I think we’ve gotten a little better, but there was about a three-month period of someone getting a ticket at every practice, so we were sure to thank them.

SFS: How did you get involved with making music?

TK: When I was young I sang in choirs and I was in band. It was a really good outlet for me because I had a lot of energy. I was outgoing and over aggressive at times, so music really helped me hone in that energy. It allowed me to focus and get a lot of my emotions out.

I took kind of a weird road to where I am now and explored a lot of different options. I started singing in operas in college choirs when I was really young. Then I was in my first freestyle project, which was a jazz project where I could creatively take the reins. After that, I got drafted into my very first band that was kind of an all-star band with guys from Garbage’s studio in Madison, Wisconsin, and Sigtryggur Baldursson, from Björk's first band The Sugarcubes. It was an epic moment and that is when I realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

SFS: Your music has similarities with Shirley Manson of Garbage as well as Björk. Did they have much of an influence on you?

TK: Absolutely. Back in Madison, Butch Vig was the producer and owner of Smart Studios and I used to nanny for his brother’s kid when I was in high school. I got to meet all of those guys and I met Shirley a couple of times. When I was growing up there were always comparisons with me to her because in Madison we were probably the only two vocalists at that time that were good that were doing that type of music. We also both had red hair and we both worked with engineers in the city. She is an inspiration in a sense because she reached a level where I wanted to be and I definitely liked her music. She had depth and a kind of darkness that I liked.

Björk was an influence because, playing with Sigtryggur for so long, I was able to hear stuff that was not yet released. Björk is just a genius. Creatively she is so unique and not fearful. She just jumps in when she writes music and performs. She is a huge influence, and that raw element is something that I aspire to have.

SFS: How did you get involved with Return to Mono?

TK: I moved to San Francisco from Chicago, and I think within six months I ended up falling off a roof and breaking my leg. I was hoping to get involved with music right away, but I ended up being injured and having doctors tell me I was going to be stuck in bed for about a year. It kind of foiled all of my plans, but I started looking around on Craigslist a lot.

There is definitely a lot of weeding that you have to do on Craigslist, but I found Andy and he had some raw tracks that he put on the Internet that I thought were totally amazing. I ended up responding and showing up with a cast on my leg to record a track. We worked really well together and we’ve been working together ever since.

SFS: The overall theme of the EP is pretty mellow and low-key, does that reflect your personality?

TK: Collectively, we are all prêtty chill, which sometimes can be a negative thing because it prevents us from getting things done. I think my vocals have a little bit of darkness and a little bit of light. In my life, I think I’m the same way. I like being balanced, and being able to look at the darkness and the light.

Return to Mono performs at the Elbo Room on August 27th and at the DNA Lounge on September 9th.