Posted On 19 Jun 2019
Get to know the Toronto duo Tom Boy, who previously played in the band CAIRO. They recently joined forces with producer Crispin Day (July Talk, Shad) and together they wrote songs that mirrored their train-wreck past – drugs, mental illness, booze, affairs, and all.
What came out is a sonic-assault on the senses. A smack-talking narrative of repressed anger, hurt, and betrayal. A cathartic juxtaposition of laser-focused lyricism, washed-out guitars, and rampaging synths that place you in the center of Tom Boys’ perfect storm. All of this is contrasted by Daniels sometimes soft, faltering vocals that eventually burst into the powerful range he is known for. To hear it is to be reminded of the cheeky irreverence of The Killers, the addictive drone of Børns, and the emotional pull of Broods.
In the words of front-man Nate Daniels, “we can’t continue to live the lie that our lives are perfect and shiny, fit for role model status. Our careers reflect the choices we have made and it’s about time our songs reflected that as well.”
Their newest song “Lowrider” mixes washed out guitars and soft, faltering vocals that eventually burst into a powerful chorus. The music video is lighthearted with an earnest message.
Learn more about Tom Boy in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are well into the 6th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 is treating the band so far? What are some goals that you have for this year? How close are you to reaching them?
It has been a pretty great 2019 for us. We have rolled out two singles since Oct 2019 that have been pretty well received. We are seeing some real interest in the project and what we do and how we position ourselves stylistically. We have also been playing some great Toronto shows that have been a lot of fun to play. That has been the main goal from the start for Nate and I; make shit we like, how we want to make it, release things how we want to, and actually enjoy the process of being in a band. Which is hard to do given the current climate in music.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this band together? Has anything surprised you about this musical journey so far?
Nate and I have been collaborators for almost a decade now. We spent about 7 years in our last project CAIRO. In that time we toured all of the world and coast to coast in Canada. We had huge wins, tons of fan support, industry support, and moderate success. But it was also a stressful, draining, and damaging experience, especially for our mental health. The surprise thus far with Tom Boy has been how easy and fun it has been because we are letting it become whatever it will be organically.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you both carry yourselves in this band?
As incredible as Toronto is for music it is also a weird place for music because it is such a mecca. I think there are certain things about it that have influenced us but we really aren’t plugged into the “scene” here to be honest. We have bigger aspirations than being a “Toronto Band”. Not that there is anything wrong with being a Toronto band, but in my opinion the scene here is very cliquey and hype driven with not many bands actually making the leap out. We are striving to do that.
Why would you say that you two work so well together? Where is one of you weak where the other is strong and vice-versa?
I think our styles of writing complement each other and our likes and dislikes about music align. We have also been friends for so long that there is an inherent trust in each other and in the process. We both have an affinity for fancy things and late fun parties (weakness) and we both look great in tank tops (strength).
Let’s talk about your newest single “Lowrider.” What was the inspiration for this track? How would you say that it prepares listeners for more music from this duo?
It was an acoustic demo Nate wrote forever ago before CAIRO split that really stuck with me. It was in a weird tuning originally and he forgot how to play it so I went and figured it out by ear because I really believed in its potential. After a LONGGGGG process of trying different things and a chorus rewrite musically we finally found its voice with Tom Boy with the help of our producer Crispin Day.
What was it like making the music video for this song? How creatively involved with the overall process were you two?
We were involved in every aspect. Ryan Faist who directed it came up with the concept and the idea to shoot in New York guerilla style and we were both game. Nate and I like causing shit. Once we got there Nate and I were both really really really sick, I was bedridden for one of the days. But we soldiered on and got it done and had some fun doing it with Ryan F and Ryan Brough who shot it with us. It was really one of the most fun experience I have ever had creating art in my life. It is definitely one of the things I am most proud of sonically and visually.
Do you have plans to release more new music soon? How will “Lowrider” compare to your new material?
We are going to be releasing new singles over the next 6 months leading up to an EP before 2020. The next songs sound like us, but we are testing the market right now to see what resonates. Our next single is called “Wastecase” and is a little more bombastic, pop and synthy than “Lowrider” while maintaining our sound. Whatever that means
Where do you think you are both happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I personally hate the studio. Always have. Unless I am alone tinkering with headphones on it is a very stressful experience for me, every time, no matter the scale. I would say on stage is where I am happiest, or in a hammock near a lake with no cell reception.
What has been a favorite show of yours to date? What do you think makes an ideal performance for this band? Where are you excited to play at next?
For Tom Boy we have done a few shows at the Horseshoe that have been really great with better turn outs than we expected. Ideally we would play in small rooms that are packed so that we can feed off the energy of the crowd and curate the show visually to make it more impactful. Big venues bore me and it is usually hard to make the show your own because it is a very “get on get off” meat market type set up.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
Being in control and knowing that I have a collaborator I have full trust in creatively is definitely the best part of this band. I don’t think we have argued once in the last year and a half.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period. If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
We have never really been a political band per say, but we are both voracious readers and follow politics closely. If there is any parallel between the current climate and what we do musically it is definitely an overall feeling of deep frustration and a search for autonomy. We are seeing that now in the political arena and on a cultural level, and I think Nate and I are both struggling with that same battle artistically. We are both white men so we are up there on the privilege totem pole, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t searching for ways to make our lives and the lives of others better.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this duo?
I think working with Frank Ocean would be a dream. He has been a big influence of both of us for a while now. In terms of who I am listening to I would say Julia Jacklin, Sharon Van Etten, Loyle Carner, and Cotton Jones would be my tops right now.
Where would you love to hear your music being played? A TV show, a movie, in your favorite store, etc…?
I think hearing our music in a Darren Aronofsky or Brit Marling piece (big or small) would be my dream.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I just want people to feel something. Whatever that is to them. Music is boring unless it makes you feel. So I hope somehow the stuff we make gives people something that activates “The Feelies” in them.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about your music?
Try listening to “Lowrider” while biking through the city just after dusk a little tipsy. Trust me.