In 2009, I started writing songs, locked in the bedroom of my mom’s house in Burbank, no clue what I was going to do with my life. I had just dropped out of college (not the first time I had dropped out of school) and was living back in my home state of California, with no fucking idea what my life was about to become. Everyday I would write a song or two about the angst, confusion, anxiety, and existential dread I felt as an early 20-something college drop out. I would sit in that little room, on a mattress on the floor, and have what felt to me like a therapy session with my guitar and a notepad. I started sending these songs to my friend Bobb Bruno, who I’d known since I was 17, and he started sprinkling his parts on top of them.
I really wish I could explain Best Coast’s story in a more profound way, but in all honesty, I can’t — because I remember so little of it. Before I knew it, we were a band with a record deal touring the world, playing on late night TV, signing peoples LP sleeves, and doing music videos with Drew Barrymore. The majority of the time that my band was taking off, I was stuck in a dark daze. My romantic relationship was a topic of conversation, my cat was asked about in interviews, my drug and alcohol abuse was on public display. Everyday was like Groundhog’s Day — I was repeating the same self-destructive patterns day in an day out.
We played Lollapooloza in 2011 and I literally started the set by flipping someone off in the crowd and saying, “Fuck you, we’re Best Coast.” I didn’t do that because I was some badass Joan Jett rock star. I did that because I was deeply miserable and deeply insecure about what you thought of me so I wanted you to see me as someone who didn’t give a fuck.
After we finished the album cycle for California Nights, something terrifying happened to me. I felt creatively paralyzed. I couldn’t write music. For the first time in my entire life, I had nothing to say. There was so much bubbling inside of me, so many things happening, so much to process, but I couldn’t get any of it out. I didn’t leave my house. I drank wine alone on my couch. I watched every season of Vanderpump Rules available on Hulu. Trump had won the election. I was miserable and nothing was ever going to change. One day, I locked myself in my closet and I forced myself to write. It was the first time in years I was able to get something out. And out came “Everything Has Changed.” The song was like a vision of life I wished I was living. A life in which things didn’t look so foggy. A life in which I didn’t drink anymore. It wasn’t the life I was living. Not yet. But that song was prophetic. It described the life I would soon be living.
I guess it’s no secret that I was a bit of a “party girl” in the early stages of Best Coast. My life went from college drop-out to Billboard-charting indie musician in a very short period of time. No one teaches you how to handle success or failure. I had zero coping skills. I turned to the only help I could think of, numbing the problems and the pain away. And it worked, until it didn’t. On November 12, 2017, I decided that enough was enough and made the decision to get sober. It’s been hard, it’s been beautiful, it’s been scary — and something I’m proud of. I can’t tell the story of this album without mentioning my sobriety, because it’s a huge part of this story.
Always Tomorrow is the story of where I was and where I am now. As well as the struggles I am still learning to identify and figure out because lets face it, life is fucking hard, and like I said before, there is no guidebook. Some days I wake up and I feel like I’m on top of the world and I forget about everything that’s ever bummed me out, and other days, it all comes flooding back. This album is about leaving the darkness for the light, but still understanding that nothing is ever going to be perfect. It’s an album about attempting to fix your broken patterns and learning to get out of your own way. It’s about burning it all down and starting from scratch even when the idea of that is fucking terrifying. Closing one chapter and moving onto the next even when you have no idea what is on the other side. Acceptance. It’s about taking a gigantic leap of faith.
I hope this record helps people. It’s easier to stay comfortable in the insanity, but for me, there just came a time where I had to get off the ride. I had to look at life and ask, Why am I still doing this? I was writing the same song over and over again: I’m miserable! But I wasn’t doing much to change that. I still fail at times, but I’m less afraid of failing than ever before. This record is the story of a second chance.
Now comes the third album from Rosie Tucker, ‘Sucker Supreme.’
It’s a coming of age album, yes, and an album that aches with self-discovery, self-definition, and self-redefinition: “Nothing is simple just cause you wish that it is.” “I can’t believe I’ll die before becoming a frog.” “Wolfing down Doritos, lickin’ on my fingers, anger on my tongue, Doritos in my anger!” “Wouldn’t we be perfect together if we wanted exactly the same thing?” But ‘Sucker Supreme,’ Tucker’s first album for Epitaph, is also just the right follow-up to where their last album, 2019’s ‘Never Not Never Not Never Not,’ left off: still playfully observed, still sneakily political, still indebted to folk singers of the past – but also much, much bigger, brighter, louder and noisier than anything Tucker has dared before. It delivers mightily on an ambitious M.O.: to be relentlessly catchy and muscular and noisy but also beautiful; be achingly sad and searching, but never too far away from funny, either; and to spotlight Tucker’s empathetic, yearning vocals on top of it all.
In the world of ‘Sucker Supreme,’ Rosie’s openhearted, sing-song alto melodies are king; wry, detailed lyricism is queen; and noise is the old man with the long beard who seems like he came from nowhere. Noise creaks in every layer of these songs: ticking Geiger counters, synthesized whale calls, tape machine slams, walls of distorted guitar rolling in and then blooming out into infinite repeats.
“I’ve spent a lot of time refusing to come to terms with the fact that I am stuck with myself, being the person I am all the time,” says Tucker, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. “Yes, I’ve gotten better at using a calendar, and exercising, and telling people about my stupid feelings when it’s relevant to do so. Sure, I floss sometimes. I read nonfiction and take out the trash. I’m a paragon of decency. All this to say I have gotten adequate at living while impatiently waiting for the smarter, kinder, better looking version of myself to come along, lead me out back, and put me out of my misery.”
Nowhere is this self-exploration more poignant than on “Habanero,” a song about waiting for a transformation that isn’t coming. “The first two verses are about flirting, which is an important distraction from both the problems of the self and the issue of mortality,” Tucker says. “Desire is not the same thing as a sense of self, but it’ll work as an added sugar corn syrup kind of substitute. The third verse pulls from an early memory of a stream dense with tadpoles, watching them wriggle around my fingers in the water. I was obsessed – obsessed – with amphibians in general, and frogs in particular. I loved that they couldn’t be confined to one environment. I loved that they grow up by way of shape-shifting.”
Album leadoff track “Barbara Ann,” visits coming of age in an emphatically hard-rocking tale of family conflict, knowing yourself, and agribusiness. “My maternal grandparents worked out a living on a farm in northeast Illinois, and I have many vivid memories of visiting with them, collecting chicken eggs and feeding the cows and rooting around in the mildewy basement. I was allowed total freedom to roam in the corn, or to climb into the hay loft and peer at dead birds. Once, in complete secrecy, I laid an open palm on the electric wire that ran around the property even though I’d been told a million times not to. I desired the knowledge more than I feared my parents,” Tucker says. “At birth we inherit our families and spend the rest of our time struggling to make sense of those aspects of our life we have no control over.”
It takes a unique group of people to make an album that leaps out of the speakers at you like this one. ‘Sucker Supreme’ is the first record made by Tucker’s current touring band: drummer Jessy Reed, guitarist Jess Kallen, and bassist Wolfy, who also occupied the producer’s chair. It’s a group of people as eager to share their long-dead folk music heroes as they are to pay homage to their still-kicking pop-punk heartthrobs.
As with all things Rosie Tucker, this album is not easily slotted into a binary like happy or sad. In the world of ‘Sucker Supreme,’ concepts like male or female, married or divorced, destruction or salvation, are not two opposite sides of the same coin, they are all connected points on the same sphere. It’s 2021! Abolish the binary! Transcend genre! Go to therapy!
No one involved with this album is boring enough to say that these are sad songs that sound happy. Some of them are just sad songs that sound sad. Indelible pre-album single “Ambrosia” serves as the centerpiece of ‘Sucker Supreme,’ with its self-conscious, yearning, but still faintly playful lyrics like, “You’ve got money stress so I pick up the check / I check my balance as I lean to one side,” shortly before bursting open with a blustery sigh of, “Nothing is simple just ‘cause you wish that it is: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” But then there is the forceful “Brand New Beast” with its unforgettably bitter riposte of “You won’t even eat me out!” And there’s the Ralph Nader-inspired ode to a clunker, “For Sale: Ford Pinto,” with its imagery of crashing into a cop car, and then, “Time is a trash compactor – I’m feeling pressed, but at least you’re here with me and we’ve got sexual tension.” Classic Rosie: sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes singing, sometimes howling, but always saying the exact right thing at the exact right time.