Tomato Flower is the Baltimore-based experimental pop outfit composed of Austyn Wohlers, Jamison Murphy, Mike Alfieri, and Ruby Mars. Though they every share totally different musical pursuits, their collaboration prioritizes the kind of inventive synthesis that’s arduous to withstand, a mix of free-flowing experimentation and pop hookiness that usually takes years to grasp. With only one EP underneath 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 Construction got here collectively between 2019 and 2021 and showcase a band that’s not simply versatile and playful of their method to sound, but in addition intensely rigorous and emotionally expressive in relation to shaping it into one thing memorable. The group – which is about to go on tour with Animal Collective – is now targeted on finishing their first LP; these two collections, with their expansive, idiosyncratic soundscapes and joyously imaginative world-building, are proof they’re already dreaming massive.
We caught up with Tomato Flower for this version of our Artist Spotlight interview series to speak in regards to the origins of the undertaking, the method behind their two EPs, and extra.
Might you discuss how the 4 of you met and what your first impressions of one another had been?
Austyn Wohlers: Jamison and Ruby and I all met at this summer season camp in Georgia, an educational kind of summer season camp. We had been all finding out English, and we’re audio engineering minors. I feel we had been the one three individuals with that mixture of research. Jamison and Ruby can most likely communicate extra to their friendship, as a result of they really hit it off at this camp the place I used to be kind of in a unique circle. However like I knew of them, and I believed they had been very cool. I keep 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 frivolously poking enjoyable at individuals who performed music on the garden.
Ruby Mars: It was successful piece.
AW: Yeah, completely. And I keep in mind we had been in a critique for it, me and Jamison, and Jamison advised me to recover from myself. [Jamison laughs] So, truthfully, 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 had been engaged on among the first songs that are on each Development and Gold Arc, and we performed a few exhibits simply the 2 of us.
I really met Mike whereas volunteering at an experimental music pageant known as Excessive Zero. And that was additionally a humorous scenario the place we had been simply sitting subsequent to one another, we had been each ushering, I feel. 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 searching for a drummer.” And Mike was like, “I’m a drummer!” Mike noticed one among Jamison and I’s exhibits, simply with somewhat 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 stored enjoying with no bassist. And Jamison and I had been each like, “We actually need Ruby to be the bassist.” So we kind of steadily satisfied Ruby to maneuver up. We form of yanked our bassist up from Atlanta, after which we obtained 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 related 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 keep in mind listening to these songs, those which might 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 had 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’d 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 feel it was extra a query of gathering issues which might 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 had been so concerned with every particular person piece, crafting them earlier than sequencing any of it – I solely began listening to them that manner later. I suppose a common technique to distinguish them, the songs within the second EP are typically a bit longer, it’s considerably darker as a common vibe. However each EPs have their ft in each pop and experimental music, so it’s kind of only a query of the place had been vibes between the songs coalesce.
Did your collabroative course of change in any respect relying on what vibe you leaned extra in direction of for every music?
AW: I’d say all of the songs have some aspect of being collaborative, however a few of them come out extra absolutely shaped as demos than others. A extremely enjoyable working course of that we now have is we’ll begin with a form 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 feel we generally seek advice from 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 are able to make it warp.
I really feel like each EPs revolve across the concept of a utopian world, however Development appears to have a extra human, summary, and nearly emotional method to it. Was that one thing you needed to collectively discover?
JM: I’d say the the utopian a part of the primary EP, for me that kind of suite of the primary 4 songs that we gathered collectively I feel obtained that theme very succinctly. And we knew in sequencing it, these first 4 songs had been a unit and would work very properly that manner. However I’d say on this batch of songs that we had been writing, there at all times had been some songs that got here from a barely much less heady, barely extra human place. I feel 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 method. Even the best way you sing the phrase ‘Fancy’ is so near “fantasy,” which form of sums up a part of what the songs are about. How did that one come collectively?
JM: That one began I feel in 2016 when Austyn and I had been in faculty. We had been simply enjoying that riff, we had been listening to Duster and slowcore music and making an attempt to play a riff like that. And we had that riff eternally. I’ve tried to demo that riff at the least 10 instances. And winter 2020, we simply had a day the place we holed up and simply tried to work on it. I began enjoying it in Drop D the place I often had performed it in commonplace, so the truth that I had that open D kind of opened up this second chord voicing to it. These lyrics of the verse had been additionally there since 2016 and had been for a very long time contentless. However once we had been making an attempt to jot down the remainder of it, it kind of took on this different which means of – principally, we hadn’t launched any music at the moment, and I feel we had been in a state of frustration. It turned about each want for fulfillment and a sure form of bitterness towards it, this steadiness between eager to shove away issues that you simply don’t have, but in addition wanting them.
AW: I keep in mind the refrain to that one got here so rapidly, 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: Undoubtedly the ocean, particularly on that music.
Mike Alfieri: I consider it simply generally as a temper, just like the blues or A Type of Blue, the place it’s not significantly disappointment however adjustments in feelings. That’s form of the place I’m coming from approaching loads of this music, with the blues and the concept 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: Effectively, 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 when you’ve seen it, nevertheless it will need to have price like $10 million. It’s all these blue dudes within the crowd they usually’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 stated that you’ve got this sound in your head that doesn’t exist but. Do you are feeling such as you’re getting nearer to understanding what it’s?
JM: I’d say once we had been forming this band and planning out how it could sound, loads of that was realized within the two EPs. It’s shaping up in a different 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 at the least a reference level that this feels like Tomato Flower, and we’ll say that once we’re engaged on songs. We couldn’t say that earlier than, it could be extra summary. However on the similar time, I feel the precise moment-to-moment expertise of enjoying is, if something, freer and extra generative than previously. Additionally just because we’re extra comfy with one another. Previously couple of days, Ruby and I had been enjoying and Mike and I had been enjoying, and it feels, really, form 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 wish the subsequent factor to sound like, however I’d say the true work of it is available in simply enjoying.
AW: But additionally, I do suppose that our imaginative and prescient for it modified as we continued making stuff. I keep in mind once we began, we needed it to be very clear, spare guitars and delicate drums, and there was a form of minimalism, I feel, that Jamison and I had been inquisitive about, particularly writing the primary 5 songs for the band that we wrote. However then we had been mixing them and we had been like, “Ought to we flip up the cello?” We couldn’t escape the components of us which might be inquisitive about a form of lushness. And I do suppose that’s for the higher. There was a sure textural aspect that we thought we needed to stay to firstly, however we simply love strings an excessive amount of.
JM: Yeah, I didn’t personal a distortion pedal once we wrote the primary music.
Mike and Ruby, has it felt equally free to you previously few days?
MA: I really feel like regardless that there’s now a template and a kind for the way we need to sound and our method 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 totally 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 now have and make them match into our sound. Now particularly, writing an album, I feel we now have a greater focus. I really feel like the primary 5 songs had been written already, after which then we obtained 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 needed to and had been captivated with doing it. So now we now have that keenness and it’s amplified, however we now have a cohesive finish level in thoughts now, so I feel that’s actually serving to the best way we’re writing. I feel we’re actually developing with some superb stuff, if I can say that. All of the elements 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 persons are my nice mates and superb collaborators. I feel 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 an incredible group to be part of. We’ve all performed in numerous eventualities and performed in numerous 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 trustworthy and private, and we’re all permitting that to occur for one another. And that feels great. Everyone’s allowed to be themselves and convey their greatest 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 kind of voracious about ensuring that artwork is prime in our lives. For instance, Jamison and Ruby and I dwell collectively and we now have a form of unstated “music at all times first” rule. We have now a piano in the lounge, we now have our drum set within the basement. There’s always music enjoying in any respect hours of the day, even quarter-hour earlier than it’s important to 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, when it comes to affect, too; none of us are pigeonholed in fashion. Typically we’ll be speaking about – that is the instance I’m at all times utilizing lately, however the Jesus Lizard and Aqua in the identical breath. There’s kind of an infinite openness that I feel all of us should making an attempt 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 be taught one thing, no matter they’re getting their arms into.
RM: Similar with Austyn, I recognize having a bunch of individuals the place artwork is the primary precedence. It seems like we’re all on the identical religious prepare automotive, and we’re going actually rapidly.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.