On a very cold and rainy Sunday afternoon in December, Tchotchke and I are ordering the sort of unconventional 3 p.m. “lunch” one can only get at a kosher diner where the three meals of the day are mashed into one menu. For Anastasia Sanchez (vocals, drums), a tuna melt; for Emily Tooraen (guitar), mushroom barley soup; and for Eva León Chambers (bass), the challah french toast. “This is so our personalities so far,” Eva says.
“I’m addicted to sugary, cakey, unhealthy food. That’s kind of all I ever order, ” Eva says, a white fur hat neatly affixed atop shaggy long hair. “And Emily’s always so health- conscious. And Anastasia will get something, like, stinky.”
I order a blueberry blintz. “That’s so you,” Eva jokes.
One thing you gotta know about Tchotchke (and this interview) is that the band finishes each other’s sentences a lot. It’s clear from the moment we sit down that these three are die-hard friends, and the speed of their banter—great banter, by the way—reflects it. Eva is the group’s natural goofball; she has a funny, kinda nasal voice that’s employed to maximum effect on a punchline. Anastasia, bright red hair and wearing a boldly printed long knit dress, is more of a dry funny, with bonus sarcasm. (When CREEM photographer Jane Pain, who’s come along for the day, warns that she tends to take an excessive amount of photos, Anastasia assures, “Yeah, we’re gonna need a lot of takes.”) And finally Emily, dark hair and big eyes, is sweet and polite—she regularly says words like “gosh.” “She’s our Southern belle,” Anastasia says.
I’ve forced Tchotchke to eat lunch with me at this East Village diner because, simply, I am in love with their debut album, appropriately titled Tchotchke. Released in 2022 and produced by the sprightly rock sensations Michael and Brian D’Addario, a.k.a. the Lemon Twigs (more on that later), the album is the living definition of classic power pop. Every song delights in prioritizing the hook and then dressing it up in three-part harmonies, tambourines, and oohs and ahs. Think Dolly Mixture mixed into a lollipop’s spiral with Todd Rundgren and the Kinks. Where a majority of indie guitar bands are drawing on pedal-heavy shoegaze and slacker rock to achieve their version of a lo-fi sound, Tchotchke stand apart with clean guitars and warm, ’70s-tinged piano lines. But it feels classic rather than redundant—a balance that’s hard for new bands to master at a cultural moment where nostalgia has such high value.
At the center of all this is Anastasia’s massive vocal range, which takes her from Kate Bush peaks to deep and woeful valleys. The band has released three singles and toured the Northeast and West Coast, and will be supporting King Tuff on the road this spring. Not bad for a group that’s only been together for a little over a year. Well, that’s not exactly true; the origin story goes back nearly a decade.
“Anastasia and I actually met in the mirror in the high school locker room,” Eva says. “She was fixing her bangs. We both had baby bangs. You had to wear a gray shirt for PE, and I was wearing a school PE shirt and she was wearing a gray Bowie shirt—”
“From H&M,” says Anastasia.
“And I was like, ‘I like your shirt.’”
At their L.A. high school, teenage Eva had already made an impression on Anastasia prior to the mirror incident. “She was like an Instagram legend,” she says between mouthfuls of tuna melt. “She made these tampon pins that had glitter blood on them. A lot of people copied her after that. This was, like, 2012.”
“I made the tampins and shook the internet,” Eva says, faux-dramatically. “I was making these glittery tampon pins and people were, like, shit-talking me on the internet. But then Kelly Osbourne got one, Kirsten Dunst got one.”
Anastasia says she reached out to Eva to buy one and ended up getting it for free.
From the glitter bond (Bowie and tampins alike) flowed a slew of musical attempts. “We had, like, 50 teenage bands,” Eva says.
“All with actresses, other musicians, movie stars...” says Anastasia.
“We really stuck it out with each other through all the bands. You know, L.A...it’s weird. Weird teenagers.”
Eventually, one band—called Pinky Pinky—also stuck, and lasted three years. Emily, who had moved to L.A. from Shreveport, Louisiana, as a teen, was originally brought into that group as a hired gun. “I wasn’t feeling connected to anyone I was playing with that much,” she says of that time.
“Yeah, ’cause you were playing with all guys!” says Eva.
The three girls clicked and did some tour stints together, including Europe. When the pandemic happened, Eva and Anastasia decided it was time to move on from the band. But they still had a bunch of new songs. “In L.A., Eva and I wrote all these songs. This was kind of before Emily was [totally in the band],” says Anastasia.
“We didn’t have a band name, we didn’t have anything,” says Eva.
“So after we wrote the album we went to our besties’ house, the Lemon Twigs. We basically lived with them—” Anastasia begins.
“—and their parents for two months on Long Island, and recorded everything in their basement,” says Eva. She grins when I ask what it was like to live and record in such an isolated way. “We had a great experience. [But] we were trying to find a lot of things to keep it fun; we had fake film festivals in the backyard, screening movies.”
It was still a pretty great deal for making a record. “They were just kind of doing us this favor,” she continues.
At one point, the Twigs’ mom went out of town for her birthday, and Eva and Anastasia thought it might be nice to do something as a thank-you. “For recording expenses,” Eva says. “But it turned into repainting the living room, getting rid of furniture.... We, like, redecorated their house. Organized the entire basement.”
“It was a little insane,” says Anastasia. “But they did it with us!”
Even though the band’s personality comes off as goofy and a little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (what’s wrong with that?), when it comes to musical ability, Tchotchke are seriously no slouches. Emily eventually came to New York to do some finishing touches on the album and cement Tchotchke as a real thing (the band is now fully settled in NYC). The record itself is laden with complicated, multipart harmonies. “That just came along by being produced by Brian and Michael. They’re incredible at arranging harmonies,” Eva says. The trio manage to replicate them on stage with ease, all while simultaneously shredding. At one point prior to moving to New York, Emily was actually a full-time guitar teacher. “They say when you teach something you really learn it,” she says. “I really got a lot of the knowledge very ingrained.”
As something of a flex, Tchotchke’s live set includes an old Pinky Pinky song called “Hot Tears.” It’s a blues-charged number that starts on an isolated swing beat before launching into an epic, long solo for Emily, before shifting once more into a dainty pop song. The song gets consistent cheers from the crowd and has the most video clips on YouTube. “I guess it’s a crowd-pleaser ’cause people think they’re in for a blues jam and then it’s a plot twist into doo-wop,” Eva says.
All of the above aside, they don’t exactly consider themselves rock nerds. “It almost makes me not want to be a rock nerd, being so close to rock nerds.” Eva says, loosely referring to the music scene. “They’re always like, ‘Look at this factoid!’ And then out-facting each other.”
“Yeah, guys love factoids,” Anastasia says.
“But then they’re also the guys who are like, ‘Separate the art from the artist,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, how are you doing that if you need to know where they took a shit in 1973 on this specific day?’” Eva says. “Don’t you like the mystery about people sometimes?”
Fair enough, and we’ve finished lunch anyway.