The New Tarot’s debut album Book of Promises — coming out Oct. 26 and premiering exclusively below — is a dream come true for New York-based sisters Monika and Karen. And rest assured it was quite a dream.
“We were just writing music,” Monika tells Billboard, “and I just had this dream where I was in this giant room with these gods and old mythic beings.” The dream also included John Dee, a 16th century English scientist, occultist and advisor to Queen Elizabeth. “He approached me and was telling me my album was going to be about his life, but in our modern world. And I thought, ‘OK, great — now I have an album to write!’ So that was kind of like a gift, and the stuff we had been writing at the time coalesced into this story.”
Following several EPs, the 10-track Book of Promises became what the Walkers call “a sci-fi rock opera” taking some of Dee’s philosophies and perspectives and applying them to the current political and social climate. “We’re fans of musicals and that kind of storytelling that goes with musicals,” Karen says, “so it was nice to have something driving the plot.” Monika adds that, “Trump had not even announced his (candidacy) when this story came about. These songs just came to life and started telling us something that felt very urgent, and as events started to happen the album started becoming this reflection of that. A lot of our fears about the future are in the album — but a lot of our hope is, too.”
The genre-blending set shoots wide stylistically as well. Book of Promises rolls from the ambient textures of the opening “Kingdom (Overture)” and “Alaska” to the folk-rock flavor of “America,” the fuller rock sound of “The Ruse” and the slinky Arabic undertone of “The Skinny.” “We both listen to different music and we both have our own favorite styles,” Monika explains. “We also don’t limit our palettes. If we hear a song in our head and we like it enough to get it into creation, we don’t feel like we should have to dumb it down by putting it into one box or the other — especially for this album, those songs have to tell the story, so it made a lot of sense to make them their own kind of worlds.”
The New Tarot has played Book of Promises in its entirety once, during a concert last year that was captured on a live album. The Walkers have ideas for other applications for the story, including a book, stage production or a film “We’re trying to really build this into something with more theatrics that we can take on the road,” Monika says. “We’re hoping this (album) is going to get some traction so we can tour. Wherever listens to it most, that’s where we’re going to go.” Meanwhile, she and her sister are just plain happy to have a full album of their own coming out.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Monika says. “It’s real exciting for us. We’ve been playing this music for awhile and we’ve been working on (the album) for so long. I’m not gonna believe it ’til I finally have a physical copy in my hands, but it feels really good.”