From Musicians in Vegas Cirque Du Soleil Shows to a Band Called TIN TOY CARS! Learn The Whole Story Behind This New Alternative Band!
Posted On 09 Mar 2016
Tag: Aaron Guidry, Absinthe, All Access, All Access Music Group, Andrew Chute, ARIA, Artist Interview, Baaba Maal, Bob Dylan, Brian Burns, Cachao, Cactus Pete, Cactus Pete and the Desert Blooms, Chris Thile, Cirque, Cirque Du Soleil, Do Everything You Can Before You're Dead, Ethnomusicology, Falling, Guinea, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, J.S. Bach, Joni Mitchell, Las Vegas, Le Reve, Los Manequitos De Mantanzas, Mali, Marin St-Pierre, Mystere, Paul Simon, Prairie Home Companion, Putumayo, Rust & Bones, Salif Keita, Sarah Jarozs, Sin City, The Huntridge Tavern, The Punch Brothers, Tin Toy Cars, TTC, West Africa, Youssou N'Dour, Zarkana
On their latest record, “Falling, Rust & Bones”, the group, Tin Toy Cars channels a myriad of influences into nine new songs that are rooted in Americana traditions.
The resulting forward-thinking music rings with echoes of folk and roots, while maintaining an Indie Rock aesthetic. With over two decades spent working in traditional West African music, from Guinea to Mali, Fand’s songwriting lends the band an intriguing, other-worldly slant. That sense of musical adventure has driven the band from the start, with each musician emerging from thriving artistic communities around the U.S., and as far as Montreal, Canada.
Fand met his band-mates after landing in Vegas, and following two Cirque du Soleil’s “Zarkana.” In 2012, “Zarkana” became a resident show at Aria Resort & Casino, and he began to call Sin City home. As Fand laid roots in the Vegas scene, he cultivated a group of musicians who bonded over pushing the limits and creating inspired music. He harvested drummer Aaron Guidry from “Zarkana”, violinist Martin St-Pierre from Cirque’s “Mystére,” and found kindred spirits in local musicians Brian Burns and Andrew Chute.
“On one level this is acoustic music,” says Fand. “At times, the music feels elevated with intricately composed arrangements for the strings. At other times, it simply rocks hard.”
Here’s their recent video for their song, “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead”:
Learn more about Tin Toy Cars in the following All Access interview:
So far, I’d say it’s been quite a year. Very busy, but exciting in some really cool ways. The new album came out with a bit of fanfare on Jan 22nd, and it’s already been added to over 70 radio stations around the country, which has been great fun to watch. We worked hard on that music, and when you’re very close to a project like that, it’s impossible to have perspective about how it will be received by the world at large. We’ve been very grateful for the enthusiasm we’ve gotten from the press, and from fans who have reached out to us from all sorts of places around the globe. Meanwhile, we’ve just completed a video for the song “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead,” which will be coming out in the next few weeks. All in all, I’d say 2016 has gotten off to a good start!
Can you talk about first starting Tin Toy Cars? Where did you all meet? I understand that 3 of the members were from Cirque shows!
Yes, that’s right. Three of us are musicians in Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. The drummer and I are in the show Zarkana, and the fiddle player is from the show Mystére. After performing 10 shows per week with Cirque, with more than 470 shows per year, we are all eager to work on original music projects that bring us back to the core of our artistic interests. This band first emerged as an attempt to bring together the super talented musicians in our community, to do something new and inspired. The idea, which was born in a conversation with drummer Aaron Guidry at The Huntridge Tavern, crystalized when adding local guitarist Andrew Chute and bassist Brian Burns to the mix. When we added the masterful Marin St-Pierre on fiddle it all just clicked and we all knew that we had hit on something special. From there, compositional ideas started flowing quickly, and we began performing around Las Vegas with an ever-growing repertoire of music written specifically for this combination of players.
Where does your band name come from? What other names were you considering?
Las Vegas is situated in a desert valley, surrounded by vast expanses of timeless terrain. It’s the classic “western” landscape, with dramatic desert mountains on the horizon in every direction. If you explore those hills and the desert foothills that surround them, you occasionally stumble on old rusted out cars, often riddled with bullet holes, half buried in the sand. They are relics from forgotten times, but remain there in the hills, in the shadow of the glittery Las Vegas strip. Something about that imagery is reminiscent of our band. We’re playing instruments that are more typical in old time music, with mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, etc. Yet, we’re all together new, and the music is very fresh and current sounding. Tin Toy Cars is a bit of a relic in a modern context.
We actually did play with lots of names before settling on TTC. In fact, at first, just for fun, every time we performed we used a different name. They were typically kind of ridiculous names, that were more about the absurdity of it, then an attempt at anything meaningful. Perhaps my favorite of those was “Cactus Pete, and the Desert Blooms,” although there were some good ones along the way.
You just released your debut album, “Falling, Rust & Bones.” What did that feel like to put out? What was the recording process like for the collection?
The creation and release of “Falling, Rust & Bones” has been a great experience. Compositionally it came together in a really cool way, and I think that we all feel really good about what we recorded. This was the first chance for this combination of musicians to come together like this, and it was an inspired time as we worked together, crafting and developing these songs. Sometimes, in the studio, things happen that influence the direction that the music will go, which may be different from what the original idea was. That’s the richness of the studio process. In this case, although we had been playing these songs live, they really crystalized in the studio, and each one become it’s own little artistic expression.
We have the luxury of having a rather high-level studio to work in, which basically occupies most of my house. It’s a positive environment filled with lots of great gear, so we were able to invest time without watching the clock, and worrying about the cost. That helps a lot, and allowed us to work at any time of day or night.
And then, it’s been particularly exciting to see the positive response we’ve gotten from radio and press. You never know what’s going to happen when the music leaves your hands, and goes into the hands of the world at large, so we’re very grateful for the support we’ve been receiving.
You’ve worked a lot with West African music, from Guinea to Mali. Where did this appetite for international sounds come from exactly?
It’s just one of those things that happen in life I suppose. Early in my career I was living in New York, and playing bass in all sorts of bands, including some salsa groups. This led me to become interested in the relationship between bass and percussion, and ultimately led me to study percussion in a rather serious way. At the same time, I was in college, and ended up on an Ethnomusicology track, exploring traditional music from all over the globe. Before long I found myself traveling back and forth to West Africa, and became somewhat of a fixture in the burgeoning West African music world in New York, performing in bands, and cranking out CD’s and film music. I spent roughly 20 years working in that world, and had all sorts of releases on international music labels like Smithsonian Folkways, Putumayo, etc. It all happened pretty organically, and it continues now, in the new directions that my musical world have turned.
What artists have consistently inspired you all, and the band’s sound? Is there anyone that you would love to work with in the future?
Well, inspiration comes in a lot of forms, and from all sorts of odd places. The focus is always shifting, and it spans a wide panorama of the musical landscape. Also, if you asked all of the members of this band that question, the list would be vast and divergent. That being said, personally, there are lots of important ones…people who I admire, and who I’d have to say have inspired me in one way or another over the years.
Lyrically, I’m always blown away by people who can masterfully craft words into something extraordinary, like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, to name a few, but also the great songsmiths in history like Irving Berlin, or Ira Gershwin. But then, on a musical and compositional level, I have to give deference to Chris Thile and The Punch Brothers, and the whole crop of emerging artists in that genre who are pushing the envelope; artists like Sarah Jarozs and others. Meanwhile, Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Youssou N’Dour cracked open the universe for me at one point, as did Cachao and Los Mañequitos De Mantanzas. And of course, J.S. Bach still plays a regular role in my life.
As for artists who we’d like to work with…well, absolutely The Punch Brothers and the other people in that scene. It would be particularly cool for us to perform on Prairie Home Companion some time when Chris is hosting. Perhaps someone who’s reading this can help make that happen.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I don’t know if there’s one particular underlying message, but if people listen, and come away feeling inspired, then I think we’ll have something to feel proud of. To us, this is about as genuine and exposed as we can be. It’s very honest music, and its acoustic orientation can be somewhat revealing. Hopefully people can feel that when they listen, and will come away with some of the melodies and lyrics floating around in their heads. If they feel the urge to share it with their friends, and include it in their personal playlists, we’ll feel like we’ve done what we set out to do.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about the band or your music?
Well, the big thing is that we’ve just completed a video for the song “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead.” It was a mighty ambitious project, and we’re pretty excited about it right now. That song always felt a bit cinematic to me, and the concept of the video seemed to live within the lyrics. We were grateful to have acrobats and performers from eight different Las Vegas shows in the cast, including many of the Cirque du Soleil shows in town, as well as Absinthe and Le Reve. It’s really a pretty cool video. It will be viewable everywhere in the first week of March. Check it out and let us know what you think. Find us on Facebook, or visit our website www.tintoycars.net for more info.