Other bands’ Behind the Music stories are lurid tales of drugs, groupies, and trashed hotel rooms. Pig Snout drummer and keyboardist Dahlia Tamminga is a rising rock star, but her best road story so far is not nearly so salacious.
The thing she’s most excited to talk about: getting slimed by a seal at the Central Park Zoo. She’s 8 years old. “The worst part in New York is we got sneezed on by a seal,” she declared, grinning broadly at her father, Justin Tamminga, and big brother Lucien, 11, who sit across the table awaiting preshow snacks at Ah Bada Bing Pizza in South Tacoma. “I thought it was yawning, but then it sneezed. Dad was about to take a picture of it, and he got stuff all over the phone.”
“All over it. My face smelled like rotten fish,” said Tamminga, Pig Snout’s singer-guitarist. “I had snot all over my phone. It was so gross. We had to go wash up in the bathroom thanks to ‘Sneal.’”
“See! I did it again,” he added, and Dahlia cracks up at their inside joke about “Sneal.” It’s fitting considering the band’s name — perhaps “Sneal” was a fan?
An hour later, the trio is onstage at nearby all-ages venue Real Art Tacoma, opening for popular Olympia singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson. Pig Snout has been a staple of the South Sound music scene for two years, and has played all over Tacoma, from Broadway Center’s Rialto Theater to the city’s summer alt-rock showcase, Music and Art in Wright Park. But now, thanks to some big developments this spring, the trio is poised to start building a much larger regional and national fan base.
In March, Pig Snout played Seattle’s Victory Studios for an episode of Band in Seattle, which will air soon on CW 11. The same week, an ad spot that the trio filmed last year in California highlighting inspiring kids for Nordstrom made its debut online.
And the reason the Tammingas were in New York is the biggest deal of all; they were in the Big Apple so Dahlia could work with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who is best known as the drummer for legendary hip-hop act The Roots, and as band leader on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Thompson designed a new kids’ drum set for Ludwig Drums, called the Pocket Kit, and Dahlia will be featured in a series of related videos.
“Dahlia was featured in Tom Tom magazine (in February 2015), and Ludwig saw the article and contacted us,” Justin said. “They ended up giving us a Questlove Breakbeats Kit. It’s his kit that he designed to throw in a cab and cruise around Brooklyn and play shows or whatever. So it’s fast. It tears down, is really small. For the kids it’s perfect size. We’ve been playing that thing for a year.”
Thompson’s Pocket Kit will be marketed for children, ages 3 to 10, who are just starting to learn how to play. Dahlia will be featured in a series of videos aimed at helping kids learn. “So Dahlia’s the little kid that’s telling other kids how to play,” Justin said. “And then, I show her how to put the thing together, basically, using Dahlia and this other little boy that was there. … You’re hearing what (the narrator) says, but you’re watching them do it. It’s cool. It’s really cool, and really fun.”
Starring in two national marketing campaigns is no small feat for a local band, let alone one with two-thirds of its roster still in elementary school. What’s more, the band came into being totally by accident.
Pig Snout’s roots trace back to March 2014, when Dahlia and Lucien asked Tamminga to give them drumming lessons. “When they started showing an interest, I jumped all over it,” said Tamminga, who teaches music for a living. “I started posting videos of them playing. I’m their dad, so I think it’s amazing, but people were freaking out, and just eating it up.”
The tipping point occurred when he was asked to perform at a scholarship benefit show held annually at Tacoma’s Jazzbones in the name of Brian Redman, Justin’s former bandmate in a duo called Braski.
Redman died in a scooter accident in 2009. His brother, Jim, asked Justin to play in the show, to which he replied that he didn’t have a band. “He said, ‘Yeah you do. How about the kids?’” Tamminga recalled. “That’s literally what started it. He would see the videos online that I posted. They were getting good really fast, so he was like, ‘Just play with them.’”
Since then, Tamminga says he’s been shocked at how quickly the kids have learned. “The most surprising thing is watching them playing music like they’re adults,” he said. “When kids get involved, they’re usually playing ‘Barney’ music or something like that. I’ve never changed what I write.”
Among the band’s other big plans for this year are to release a new album this summer. The band’s signature song, “The Tar Trap” is available through iTunes. Learn more about the band and listen to its music online.