The country art band Tarnation was essentially a vehicle for Paula Frazer, a talented singer and songwriter who returned to roots music only after a successful foray into 1980s post-punk. Frazer was born and raised in Sautee Nacoochee, GA, a tiny community located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where as a child she sang in her father's church choir, developing a remarkably adept soprano. At the age of 14, the Frazers moved to Arkansas, where she began performing with local jazz groups.
After graduating high school, Frazer relocated to San Francisco, where she followed a stint in a Bulgarian women's choir with tenures in a number of area punk groups, most notably the all-female Frightwig. In 1992, she formed Tarnation with former S.F. Seals members Lincoln Allen and Michelle Cernuto, along with steel guitarist Matt Sullivan. Setting their dark ballads and love songs against a stark, ominous backdrop dominated by reverb-soaked guitars, Tarnation debuted in 1993 with I'll Give You Something to Cry About. In 1995, they issued Gentle Creatures, their first LP for the arty British label 4AD. Shortly after the record's release, Allen, Cernuto, and Sullivan left the group and were replaced by guitarist Alex Oropeza, drummer Joe Byrnes, and bassist/lap steel player Bill Cuevas. ~ Jason Ankeny