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“We need to find our way out of the cycle of fear and into the blossom of love, compassion, understanding and grace”

Words of Wisdom With Karen and Monika Walker, of The New Tarot

Photo credit: Shervin Lainez

Words of Wisdom With Karen and Monika Walker, of The New Tarot


I look at society, and I see one dominated by fear. Fear of government, of Conservatives, of Liberals, but more poignantly; fear of each-other, of ourselves. Right now, our jails are our largest mental health providers. We lock up more people in the United States today than any nation has on earth ever. Why have we done this to ourselves? To each-other? To our children? We need a reliable network of support in our communities, to solve problems before they become issues. Society should be providing encouragement to get help, empowerment to grow — not furthering more stigmatization. This year, Connecticut closed the door on it’s last Juvenile Training School, a detention center like most in our country; it’s one that is marred by corruption and scandal. This is a first step wrought with controversy, but it is a first step. Data has revealed the truth; Detention does not rehabilitate, it exacerbates. The first parole officer in Boston was a man who went to court of his own accord, and looked people in the eye and said. “Don’t send them to jail. I will vouch for them, I will help them. They are good.” This man had an 100% success rate. He proved that love dominates fear. Love is greater than fear; it is so, so much greater. We need to find our way out of the cycle of fear and into the blossom of love, compassion, understanding and Grace. These are not lofty ideals; they are the bare necessities of human existence. Things you could bring to someone, literally anyone, today, right now. Open your eyes; you can change someone’s life. Don’t just brush by the “homeless person” begging for change. Ask them their name, offer them a hand — a touch of humanity. Grace, Understanding, Love — these are things our soul eats as bread, our heart craves like water, our minds breathe as air. Our broken system cannot change until we actively and radically change our everyday realities.


I had the pleasure of interviewing The New Tarot, a five-person band fronted by two sisters; Karen and Monika Walker, based out of New York, NY. They have been writing and touring original material throughout the east coast for over five years now. An eclectic group, they focus their music on telling stories and weaving archetypes; their discography ranges from trip-hop to dance hall to punk pop and back again.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Monika: I’d like to tell you an origin story from long ago; how we were kids in choirs, watching our parents take the stage in community plays, or young adolescents dreaming to the soundscapes of our own beat. All that’s true, but the fact of the matter is, I am here on this journey through a subtle combination of misfortune and Dumb Luck.

I was supposed to be a scientist. I had attempted to design my own major, studying artificial intelligence from a philosophical and scientific standpoint. I was at the top of my coding classes at Brooklyn College, and deep into the slam poetry scene of campus, but I was also working myself to death, doing odd jobs and waitressing. At the end of the month, I still couldn’t afford both college and the basic cost of living. I was slipping into debt and losing my mind from pressure.

Miraculously, at the same time, I met a man while busking in the subway. He liked my raps and we became fast friends. We went on a trip to Paris and one day, I was strumming a guitar and singing a song I wrote. He asked me what song it was, and he was shocked to hear that it was mine. That was the spark and in that moment, the band was born.

He had produced movies before; now he wanted to produce my music. Still mildly unconvinced, I dropped out of college anyway and we went out and recorded my first demo in Pennsylvania. Luckily for me, my sister Karen had also attempted to fund her own way through college and was running into the same dead end that I had. She also dropped out of school, and at the last minute, came down to Pennsylvania with me to produce the demo. It was a dense, sound-brick sort of affair, but we had done it. We had made a professional record. Thousands of little dreamy lines stashed away in my memory had found their way into reality, into physical form. I was hooked.


Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

M: It’s hard to pick just one. Strange things tend to follow us around. I believe I avoided possession once; is that interesting? In fact, it was during the recording of our first demo in the middle of nowhere in PA, on the old farm. One night, I had a dream I would never forget. It started out completely innocuous, and very simple. It was a game of “pong” — sort of like Atari.

I beat “the computer” and the dream evolved into a slightly more complicated game. Every time I won, the game would evolve, and so would my opponent. Eventually, he materialized; he was a man with an old top hat, with a cane and a sideways grin. The games turned into challenges, which turned slowly into commands.

“Copy the dance” became “Put your hand above the candle for 30 seconds” became “push your family member in the water” and suddenly, I knew something was very, very wrong. I turned to the man with the top hat, and angrily screamed at him, “GET. OUT. OF. MY. HEAD.” The man’s face turned from smile to horrendous grimace. The dream ripped apart, and a great beast with burning eyes and a terrible scream filled my vision. I awoke, screaming.

Later, the producer would tell me how his ex-wife had become possessed when she was on the farm, speaking in tongues, strange markings on her skin, uncontrollable violence… they performed an exorcism on her. I don’t know…maybe the demon likes women. All I know is I had sleep paralysis for months following that incident; I felt the dark force was following me around. I finally performed a smudging and haven’t had a problem since.


What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

K+M: We have worked mostly with producers in the past, but we currently have a self-produced album that will follow our debut album, Book Of Promises (out 10/26), in the works that we’re super excited about. It is a daunting but exciting project. Eliminating some the filters between what we hear in our heads and what we present to the world is extremely gratifying.


Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

M: Actually, I have a funny story about NOT meeting Spike Jones. He was supposed to be at this party we played a few years ago, and my manager pulls me into this conversation with a stranger, who he tells me is Spike Jones under his breath. I then strike up a very awkward one-sided conversation with Fake Spike Jones about how much I love his work, and how his music videos inspired me, how did he like the show… I only found out later that Spike had already come and gone at that point. Oh well, I thought Fake Spike and I really hit it off.


Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

M: When I was a kid my greatest hero was Martin Luther King Jr. I read every book about him and his life I could get a hold of. I was enthralled by his achievements, but most of all by his way with words. He had an honest poetry about him, and a deep sense of Grace. I saw how mighty the pen could really be, when combined with thoughtful and purposeful action.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

M: Karen teaches music and art to kids in our community. I have spent time volunteering, playing music with adolescents staying in mental health hospitals. Karen and I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, yet one that was filled with love, and I think we feel like we survived to be better because of it. We had each other and we had music. Our mother didn’t get the help she needed until very late in life. Those moments of pain have evolved into pathways to help others — to relate and use those stories to show there’s light after darkness. Recently, I participated in storytelling with The JED Foundation and other mental health organizations. It was cathartic for everyone, including myself, as we’re all on a journey alone and together at the same time.


You are people of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

M: I look at society, and I see one dominated by fear. Fear of government, of Conservatives, of Liberals, but more poignantly; fear of each-other, of ourselves. Right now, our jails are our largest mental health providers. We lock up more people in the United States today than any nation has on earth ever. Why have we done this to ourselves? To each-other? To our children? We need a reliable network of support in our communities, to solve problems before they become issues. Society should be providing encouragement to get help, empowerment to grow — not furthering more stigmatization.

This year, Connecticut closed the door on it’s last Juvenile Training School, a detention center like most in our country; it’s one that is marred by corruption and scandal. This is a first step wrought with controversy, but it is a first step. Data has revealed the truth; Detention does not rehabilitate, it exacerbates.

The first parole officer in Boston was a man who went to court of his own accord, and looked people in the eye and said. “Don’t send them to jail. I will vouch for them, I will help them. They are good.” This man had an 100% success rate. He proved that love dominates fear. Love is greater than fear; it is so, so much greater.

We need to find our way out of the cycle of fear and into the blossom of love, compassion, understanding and Grace. These are not lofty ideals; they are the bare necessities of human existence. Things you could bring to someone, literally anyone, today, right now. Open your eyes; you can change someone’s life. Don’t just brush by the “homeless person” begging for change. Ask them their name, offer them a hand — a touch of humanity. Grace, Understanding, Love — these are things our soul eats as bread, our heart craves like water, our minds breathe as air. Our broken system cannot change until we actively and radically change our everyday realities.


Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Breath is important. Remember to breathe. Remember to count your breath, and feel the grass under your feet. Yell at the moon. Beat your chest in the dark. Remember you are a human animal set loose on a strange and lopsided path — you and your wand like a pied piper. Watch where you step. Don’t lead others astray. Fix your eyes on the second star to the right, but don’t forget to enjoy the view, even if you only get a glimpse of paradise. Every moment has its majesty.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Get ready for lots of “paperwork”

Filling stuff out, being diligent with social media, editing album artwork, learning website design, photoshop, interviews, posts, blogs… you are your own secretary, so get organized. That’s a toughie for me, personally. I am just grasping a system of organization. A large external hard drive and a file-share account is your new best friend. Save every stem of every song; you never know what sample you’ll need when.

2) LEARN PEOPLE’S NAMES** VERY IMPORTANT**

Figure it out. Take pictures when you meet someone. Come up with some pneumonic device. I don’t care — just ALWAYS know someone’s name. Fans, industry people, sound engineers, EVERYBODY will appreciate if you take the time to know them.

3) Literally everybody is a critic (I do not use the L word lightly)

Don’t listen to anybody but yourself. Well, okay. Listen to other people. But your vision is important. Don’t sacrifice where you could compromise; you will be kicking yourself later. The easiest way to deal with tough criticism is to be a bigger critic than anyone else. Of course, that’s an easy way to get stuck on perfecting something that will never be “perfect.” You have to learn how to be objective, while also allowing yourself patience. This is a tough balance.

4) A great performer knows how to be a good audience.

Be the first one at the show and the last one home. Take notes from everyone around you; listen to everything, even if you don’t particularly like it. There are so many amazing people out in the scene, doing their thing. Get out there. Get active. Listen. Be in touch with other bands, and DANCE when no one else is dancing. Cheer! Applaud! Enjoy yourself, and spread positivity! Be the crowd you want at your show.

5) Hope for the best; expect the worst.

You could be a female Elvis and have all the talent in the world, and if the deck isn’t stacked quite right, then you might never “make-it”. But to start off with, don’t be especially interested in “making it.” You’ll get too hung up on “shoulds” and “woulds.” Be grateful for every show; be ecstatic with every audience no matter how small. Some of my best shows have been to the ghosts in my bedroom. To play music is a gift and to share it is almost sacred. If you can connect with even one person, you’ve done your job. Be content. More importantly, be able to be content. Allow yourself to take pride in your achievements, your risks and your dreams.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would have to say that meeting Neil Gaimon has been a personal dream of mine. His work was incredibly influential on my life, especially American Gods.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: thenewtarot.com

Twitta: twitter.com/thenewtarot

Insta: instagram.com/thenewtarot/

Face: facebook.com/newtarotmusic

Originally published at medium.com

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