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 inventive synthesis that’s exhausting to withstand, a mix of free-flowing experimentation and pop hookiness that usually takes years to grasp. With only one EP below 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 Building got here collectively between 2019 and 2021 and showcase a band that’s not simply versatile and playful of their strategy to sound, but additionally 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 massive.
We caught up with Tomato Flower for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak in regards to the origins of the mission, 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 have been?
Austyn Wohlers: Jamison and Ruby and I all met at this summer time camp in Georgia, an educational sort of summer time camp. We have been all finding out English, and we’re audio engineering minors. I feel we have been the one three folks 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 distinct circle. However like I knew of them, and I believed they have been very cool. I keep in mind speaking to Jamison about literature very early on. Ruby and Jamison 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 keep 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 truly 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 faculty. And my senior yr, we began a band referred to as Paradise Montage with me, Jamison, and Ruby, performed in that for a few 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 Building and Gold Arc, and we performed a few exhibits simply the 2 of us.
I truly met Mike whereas volunteering at an experimental music pageant referred to as Excessive Zero. And that was additionally a humorous scenario the place we have been simply sitting subsequent to one another, we have 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 on the lookout for a drummer.” And Mike was like, “I’m a drummer!” Mike noticed certainly one of Jamison and I’s exhibits, simply with slightly 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 taking part in with out a bassist. And Jamison and I have been each like, “We actually need Ruby to be the bassist.” So we type 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 do not forget 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 all the time 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 keep in mind listening to these songs, those which are in Gold Arc and Building now, for the primary time, strolling round and being simply so in love with them and enthusiastic about being a part of that music.
Provided that the songs have been written across the similar time, I used to be curious when the variations between them got here to gentle, 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 are considerably nearer in vibe and in addition 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 approach later. I assume a normal method to distinguish them, the songs within the second EP are usually a bit longer, it’s considerably darker as a normal vibe. However each EPs have their ft in each pop and experimental music, so it’s type of only a query of the place the 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 tune?
AW: I’d say all of the songs have some component of being collaborative, however a few of them come out extra absolutely fashioned as demos than others. A extremely enjoyable working course of that we’ve is we’ll begin with a form of simple pop tune 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 check with it as “making the tune 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 concept of a utopian world, however Building appears to have a extra human, summary, and nearly emotional strategy to it. Was that one thing you wished to collectively discover?
JM: I’d 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 feel obtained that theme very succinctly. And we knew in sequencing it, these first 4 songs have been a unit and would work very properly that approach. However I’d say on this batch of songs that we have been writing, there all the time have 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 like the way it evokes a really particular feeling regardless of being fairly economical in each its musical and lyrical strategy. Even the way in which 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 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 at the very 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 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 once we have been attempting to put in writing the remainder of it, it type of took on this different which means of – principally, we hadn’t launched any music at the moment, and I feel we have been in a state of frustration. It turned about each need for fulfillment and a sure form of bitterness towards it, this stability between desirous to shove away issues that you just don’t have, but additionally 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 tune.
Mike Alfieri: I consider it simply usually as a temper, just like the blues or A Type of Blue, the place it’s not significantly unhappiness however adjustments in feelings. That’s form of the place I’m coming from approaching quite a lot of this music, with the blues and the thought of the blues. That’s blue to me.
AW: I 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 tune ‘Blue’ by Eiffel 65. [Jamison laughs] And I consider the music video the place it’s like, I don’t know if you happen to’ve seen it, but it surely will need to 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 like that you just 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’d say once we have been forming this band and planning out how it might sound, quite a lot 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 very 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 might be extra summary. However on the similar time, I feel the precise moment-to-moment expertise of taking part in is, if something, freer and extra generative than prior to now. Additionally just because we’re extra snug with one another. Up 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, truly, 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 would like the following factor to sound like, however I’d say the true work of it is available in simply taking part in.
AW: But in addition, I do assume that our imaginative and prescient for it modified as we continued making stuff. I keep in mind once we began, we wished it to be very clear, spare guitars and delicate drums, and there was a form of minimalism, I feel, that Jamison and I have been fascinated by, 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 components of us which are fascinated by a form of lushness. And I do assume that’s for the higher. There was a sure textural component 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 once we wrote the primary tune.
Mike and Ruby, has it felt equally free to you prior to now few days?
MA: I really feel like though there may be now a template and a kind for a way we wish to sound and our strategy and our ideas, we’re actually all the time 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 all the time free. There actually isn’t any restrict to what we might do. It’s simply how we refine these concepts that we’ve and make them match into our sound. Now particularly, writing an album, I feel we’ve a greater focus. I really feel like the primary 5 songs have been written already, after which then we obtained to put in writing 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 captivated with doing it. So now we’ve that keenness and it’s amplified, however we’ve a cohesive finish level in thoughts now, so I feel that’s actually serving to the way in which we’re writing. I feel we’re actually developing with some wonderful stuff, if I can say that. All of the elements in our course of are actually pushing us to put in writing 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 conjures up you?
MA: These persons are my nice associates and wonderful collaborators. I feel each a part of them is inspiring, what they’re doing musically and what they’re doing exterior 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 several situations 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 great. Everyone’s allowed to be themselves and convey their greatest to the music. That pushes me, I simply wish 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 stay collectively and we’ve a form of unstated “music all the time first” rule. Now we have a piano in the lounge, we’ve our drum set within the basement. There’s always music taking part in 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, by way of affect, too; none of us are pigeonholed in fashion. Generally we’ll be speaking about – that is the instance I’m all the time utilizing today, however the Jesus Lizard and Aqua in the identical breath. There’s type of an infinite openness that I feel all of us should 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 all the time makes me wish to exit and study one thing, no matter they’re getting their fingers into.
RM: Identical with Austyn, I recognize having a bunch of individuals the place artwork is the primary precedence. It appears like we’re all on the identical religious practice automotive, and we’re going actually rapidly.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.