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HomeCultureArtist Highlight: Tomato Flower - Our Tradition

Artist Highlight: Tomato Flower – Our Tradition


Tomato Flower is the Baltimore-based experimental pop outfit composed of Austyn Wohlers, Jamison Murphy, Mike Alfieri, and Ruby Mars. Though they every share completely different musical pursuits, their collaboration prioritizes the type of creative synthesis that’s laborious to withstand, a mix of free-flowing experimentation and pop hookiness that usually takes years to grasp. With only one EP beneath the belt, and a second one arriving tomorrow, Tomato Flower have managed to hit the candy spot fairly early on: the songs on February’s Gold Arc and Development got here collectively between 2019 and 2021 and showcase a band that’s not simply versatile and playful of their strategy to sound, but in addition intensely rigorous and emotionally expressive relating to shaping it into one thing memorable. The group – which is about to go on tour with Animal Collective – is now centered on finishing their first LP; these two collections, with their expansive, idiosyncratic soundscapes and joyously imaginative world-building, are proof they’re already dreaming huge.

We caught up with Tomato Flower for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak concerning the origins of the undertaking, the method behind their two EPs, and extra.


May you discuss how the 4 of you met and what your first impressions of one another have been?

Austyn Wohlers: Jamison and Ruby and I all met at this summer season camp in Georgia, a tutorial sort of summer season camp. We have been all learning English, and we’re audio engineering minors. I believe we have been the one three individuals with that mixture of research. Jamison and Ruby can most likely converse extra to their friendship, as a result of they really hit it off at this camp the place I used to be type of in a special circle. However like I knew of them, and I assumed they have been very cool. I bear in mind speaking to Jamison about literature very early on. Ruby and Jaison would play music on the garden, and I learn this piece for this gonzo journalism class evenly poking enjoyable at individuals who performed music on the garden.

Ruby Mars: It was a success piece.

AW: Yeah, completely. And I bear in mind we have been in a critique for it, me and Jamison, and Jamison instructed me to recover from myself. [Jamison laughs] So, actually, we had a second of friction early. And I didn’t understand really that it had been him till later as a result of it was his handwriting. Then I went to undergrad and Jamison was a yr above me, and we performed music collectively all by means of faculty. And my senior yr, we began a band known as Paradise Montage with me, Jamison, and Ruby, performed in that for a couple of yr till Jamison and I moved to Baltimore. After which Jamison and I moved to Baltimore with the partial intention of forming Tomato Flower. We have been engaged on a number of the first songs that are on each Development and Gold Arc, and we performed a few reveals simply the 2 of us.

I really met Mike whereas volunteering at an experimental music competition known as Excessive Zero. And that was additionally a humorous state of affairs the place we have been simply sitting subsequent to one another, we have been each ushering, I believe. And Mike was like, “Do you play music,” blah, blah, blah. And I used to be like, “Yeah, I’ve an experimental band, we’re on the lookout for a drummer.” And Mike was like, “I’m a drummer!” Mike noticed one in every of Jamison and I’s reveals, simply with a bit drum machine, and he was like, “I wanna play collectively.” So we performed for a minute as a three-piece, recorded each of those EPs, and we saved taking part in and not using a bassist. And Jamison and I have been each like, “We actually need Ruby to be the bassist.” So we type of regularly satisfied Ruby to maneuver up. We sort of yanked our bassist up from Atlanta, after which we received collectively.

Jamison and Ruby, how do you keep in mind that time?

Jamison Murphy: Very fondly.

RM: It was a quick friendship.

Did becoming a member of the band really feel very sudden to you, or did it really feel pure from the second you first performed collectively?

RM: It did really feel fairly pure as a result of I’ve at all times felt so linked and tuned in to the music that Austyn and Jamison have been making for a very long time. Listening to the songs that they’d recorded with Mike and coming as much as Baltimore to begin to play bass with these songs, it did really feel very pure. I bear in mind listening to these songs, those which can be in Gold Arc and Development now, for the primary time, strolling round and being simply so in love with them and enthusiastic about being a part of that music.

On condition that the songs have been written across the similar time, I used to be curious when the variations between them got here to mild, and the way you went about separating them into two distinct collections.

JM: I might say across the time that we had concrete plans to launch them, we figured that we’re doing them as two. There was probably not a definite precept of choice, I believe it was extra a query of gathering issues which can be considerably nearer in vibe and likewise preserving small-scale sequences between the 2 EPs that we knew labored. The actual form of them as EPs – simply because we have been so concerned with every particular person piece, crafting them earlier than sequencing any of it – I solely began listening to them that method later. I assume a normal approach to distinguish them, the songs within the second EP are typically a bit longer, it’s considerably darker as a normal vibe. However each EPs have their toes in each pop and experimental music, so it’s type of only a query of the place have been vibes between the songs coalesce.

Did your collabroative course of change in any respect relying on what vibe you leaned extra in the direction of for every music? 

AW: I might say all of the songs have some factor of being collaborative, however a few of them come out extra totally shaped as demos than others. A very enjoyable working course of that we have now is we’ll begin with a sort of easy pop music after which attempt to break its legs or one thing, simply to be like, “We’re gonna chop this right here” or “This half must get extra angular.” I believe we typically consult with it as “making the music see the alien” or one thing, simply to attempt to take one thing that feels very excellent and easy and see the place we will make it warp.

I really feel like each EPs revolve across the thought of a utopian world, however Development appears to have a extra human, summary, and virtually emotional strategy to it. Was that one thing you wished to collectively discover? 

JM: I might say the the utopian a part of the primary EP, for me that type of suite of the primary 4 songs that we gathered collectively I believe received that theme very succinctly. And we knew in sequencing it, these first 4 songs have been a unit and would work very properly that method. However I might say on this batch of songs that we have been writing, there at all times have been  some songs that got here from a barely much less heady, barely extra human place. I believe there’s much less of that unified theme, and extra emotional or personally expressive – there’s extra of that on the second.

My favourite observe on the EP might be ‘Fancy’; I really like the way it evokes a really particular feeling regardless of being fairly economical in each its musical and lyrical strategy. Even the best way you sing the phrase ‘Fancy’ is so near “fantasy,” which sort of sums up a part of what the songs are about. How did that one come collectively?

JM: That one began I believe in 2016 when Austyn and I have been in faculty. We have been simply taking part in that riff, we have been listening to Duster and slowcore music and attempting to play a riff like that. And we had that riff endlessly. I’ve tried to demo that riff no less than 10 instances. And winter 2020, we simply had a day the place we holed up and simply tried to work on it. I began taking part in it in Drop D the place I normally had performed it in customary, so the truth that I had that open D type of opened up this second chord voicing to it. These lyrics of the verse have been additionally there since 2016 and have been for a very long time contentless. However after we have been attempting to jot down the remainder of it, it type of took on this different which means of – mainly, we hadn’t launched any music at the moment, and I believe we have been in a state of frustration. It grew to become about each want for achievement and a sure sort of bitterness towards it, this stability between desirous to shove away issues that you simply don’t have, but in addition wanting them.

AW: I bear in mind the refrain to that one got here so shortly, which was good, as a result of there’s another songs that I felt we needed to actually hammer it out.

What do you every affiliate with the color blue? What’s the very first thing that involves thoughts?

AW: Positively the ocean, particularly on that music.

Mike Alfieri: I consider it simply typically as a temper, just like the blues or A Type of Blue, the place it’s not significantly unhappiness however modifications in feelings. That’s sort of the place I’m coming from approaching lots of this music, with the blues and the thought of the blues. That’s blue to me.

AW: I really like the way you’re such a jazz head that the phrase A Type of Blue simply slipped out of you.

RM: Nicely, I consider the music ‘Blue’ by Eiffel 65. [Jamison laughs] And I consider the music video the place it’s like, I don’t know should you’ve seen it, nevertheless it should have value like $10 million. It’s all these blue dudes within the crowd and so they’re going like this [dances].

MA: Isn’t it like a CGI video?

RM: Yeah, it’s a CGI video. So I consider little blue aliens going like this.

I really like that you simply went from Miles Davis to Eiffel 65.

RM: The entire gamut.

Across the time of your first EP, you mentioned that you’ve got this sound in your head that doesn’t exist but. Do you’re feeling such as you’re getting nearer to understanding what it’s?

JM: I might say after we have been forming this band and planning out how it will sound, lots of that was realized within the two EPs. It’s shaping up in another way now, simply because there’s publicly accessible music that’s some model of that. To a sure diploma, in writing the brand new music, there’s like a template or no less than a reference level that this feels like Tomato Flower, and we’ll say that after we’re engaged on songs. We couldn’t say that earlier than, it will be extra summary. However on the similar time, I believe the precise moment-to-moment expertise of taking part in is, if something, freer and extra generative than up to now. Additionally just because we’re extra comfy with one another. Prior to now couple of days, Ruby and I have been taking part in and Mike and I have been taking part in, and it feels, really, sort of unstoppably generative proper now. And that’s coming into it with actually no preconceptions. A part of it’s deliberate, we’ll have concepts of what we would like the following factor to sound like, however I might say the actual work of it is available in simply taking part in.

AW: But additionally, I do suppose that our imaginative and prescient for it modified as we continued making stuff. I bear in mind after we began, we wished it to be very clear, spare guitars and delicate drums, and there was a sort of minimalism, I believe, that Jamison and I have been serious about, particularly writing the primary 5 songs for the band that we wrote. However then we have been mixing them and we have been like, “Ought to we flip up the cello?” We couldn’t escape the elements of us which can be serious about a sort of lushness. And I do suppose that’s for the higher. There was a sure textural factor that we thought we wished to stay to originally, however we simply love strings an excessive amount of.

JM: Yeah, I didn’t personal a distortion pedal after we wrote the primary music.

Mike and Ruby, has it felt equally free to you up to now few days?

MA: I really feel like although there’s now a template and a type for the way we need to sound and our strategy and our ideas, we’re actually at all times excavating and determining new concepts. After which these new concepts spurring new concepts, and we’re sourcing from completely different locations on a regular basis. So in that sense, it’s at all times free. There actually is not any restrict to what we might do. It’s simply how we refine these concepts that we have now and make them match into our sound. Now particularly, writing an album, I believe we have now a greater focus. I really feel like the primary 5 songs have been written already, after which then we received to jot down extra and write extra. We actually didn’t have an finish in thoughts. We’re writing for the sake of writing, as a result of we actually wished to and have been obsessed with doing it. So now we have now that keenness and it’s amplified, however we have now a cohesive finish level in thoughts now, so I believe that’s actually serving to the best way we’re writing. I believe we’re actually developing with some wonderful stuff, if I can say that. All of the components in our course of are actually pushing us to jot down some actually good music.

RM: Yeah, it’s simply feeling good. It’s simply pleasure.

Are you able to every share one factor about everybody else within the group that evokes you? 

MA: These individuals are my nice mates and wonderful collaborators. I believe each a part of them is inspiring, what they’re doing musically and what they’re doing outdoors of music of their private lives and different skilled lives. It’s simply a tremendous group to be part of. We’ve all performed in several eventualities and performed in several bands, and for me, I really feel like I’m not freelancing anymore, being a drummer. I lastly discovered a bunch that’s expressive and sincere and private, and we’re all permitting that to occur for one another. And that feels fantastic. All people’s allowed to be themselves and convey their finest to the music. That pushes me, I simply need to go do higher work on a regular basis. And it’s enjoyable. It’s all enjoyable.

JM: Aww. That’s actually candy.

AW: I discover everybody else within the band to be type of voracious about ensuring that artwork is prime in our lives. For instance, Jamison and Ruby and I reside collectively and we have now a sort of unstated “music at all times first” rule. We have now a piano in the lounge, we have now our drum set within the basement. There’s consistently music taking part in in any respect hours of the day, even quarter-hour earlier than you must go to work or one thing like this. I simply really feel actually fortunate to have the ability to make music with people who find themselves so uncompromising and voracious, by way of affect, too; none of us are pigeonholed in type. Generally we’ll be speaking about – that is the instance I’m at all times utilizing today, however the Jesus Lizard and Aqua in the identical breath. There’s type of an infinite openness that I believe all of us must attempting issues and bringing issues in.

JM: I’m impressed for every of the bandmates with – associated to Austyn’s factor about voraciousness, however openness to studying. I discover that particularly inspiring as a result of, speaking with any of the three bandmates, it at all times makes me need to exit and study one thing, no matter they’re getting their palms into.

RM: Similar with Austyn, I admire having a bunch of individuals the place artwork is the primary precedence. It seems like we’re all on the identical non secular practice automobile, and we’re going actually shortly.


This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.

Tomato Flower’s Development EP is out August 5 by way of Ramp Native.

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