Tasche de la Rocha earned a living and built a reputation on Frenchmen Street, finding rhythms and celebratory sadness in her cloudy, Pacific Northwestern-inspired blues. "You have to go through the struggle first before you find the gold at the end of the rainbow," she says.
Her full-band arrangements on 2017's Gold Rose wring out ethereal, plaintive blues and shuffling, rough-hewn doo-wop and R&B, all tied together by the singer-songwriter's unmistakable voice — a barbed, wiry howl she says is "just what came out" when she started singing.
"People would relate me to Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith before I really knew who they were, which is bizarre and surreal," she says. "It took a lot of work to make it what it is now. When I started singing, I had no control over my voice. I was whispering into the microphone. ... The voice is such a crazy instrument. There are parts of your voice you don't know exist until you're lucky enough to figure it out or someone can nudge you in a direction you can expand more and more. .... You didn't think singing with your cheekbones could be a thing."
De la Rocha's voice is supported by silvery, ghostly three-piece harmonies, which "creates a lot of dimension" and "immediately makes everything spookier," she says. Her recent work is inspired by drone music, Nirvana's MTV Unplugged, Mazzy Star, and Joe Meek's reverb-soaked pop, filtered through her ear for R&B and soul. "It's all going to sound like itself — I don't think it can all fall into a genre," she says.
She also sees her work as something that addresses sexism and is inherently feminist, in part "to prove something to the world as a female — and a person coming from where I'm coming from, it's common to be doubted — and as a female solo artist," she says.
"A lot of it comes from wanting really badly to share and show you can create something polished if you work hard enough and regardless of your background or sex or whatever," she says. "There's also a lot of really talented women musicians out there and I'd like to be among them."
The 2017 Music Issue:
13 Dreams | Blato Zlato | Boyish Charm
Tasche & the Psychedelic Roses | Yung Vul