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INTERVIEW: The Tosspints



How would you classify your music?

We sit somewhere in the realm of Punk and Folk with a heavy Celtic twist, No one’s going to mistake us for The Pogues or Flogging Molly, but we appeal to fans of those acts.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?  

We are all over the place with influences, but If I had to pick 5, The Pogues, The Clash, Dropkick Murphys, Rush, and either Gogol Bordello or Flogging Molly. All three of us are really different in where we draw our influence from, but I’d say that those groups are our biggest overlapping influences.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

We write heavily from our own lives. I’m a combat vet from Operation Iraqi Freedom, and have a lot of issues dealing with that. A lot of the music I write is exercising my own personal demons, and it’s pretty relatable, not just to vets, but people who have similar troubles with anxiety and depression, drinking, or have things that they’ve had a rough time working out from their own pasts. We deal with a lot of really heavy stuff in our songs because of that, but people seem to connect with what we do.  If they take anything away, I suppose that it’s ok to have problems and talk about what’s on your mind. I’m not sure that everyone is going to get the same thing out of listening to a song, but as long as they walk away from it feeling better about their own situation than they did before, then I’d be happy with that.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest album? When will it be released and how does it differ from your previous work?

Our latest, “The Privateer” just released in mid-August. We’ve been pretty excited about it’s reception so far. It’s the first album we’ve had that has a loose theme. Zak, our bassist and I do most of the song writing, and had written a nautical/pirate theme into this album. It’s not entirely about pirates or anything, but has several tracks with nautical themes. It’s not a huge departure from what we’ve done in the past, but we’ve managed to go a little heavier and faster than we have on our previous records, which our punk audience really seems to enjoy. Also, the title track was one of the most major undertakings that we’ve gone through as it’s a 16 minute long homeric epic about a young man who gets in over his head when he joins a privateering crew in the tall-ship naval era. We’ve really enjoyed doing something that difficult, it was a great challenge and we did pretty well with it.

What do you love and hate about the Music Business?

What I love, is the people. I love traveling, meeting new bands, and concert goers. Making friends all over the world. We just traveled out of town to play a show with some great people we’ve known from Australia for a few years now. Not many people get to make the kinds of connections that people in the music business get to make. As for doing the business its self, that’s probably my least favorite thing, organizing, booking, dealing with the logistics is difficult, but you keep doing it because you get to play music for people. Playing an awesome show makes all the difficult stuff worth while. I wouldn’t mind being a musician only, and having someone else do the business, but I like being independent because I work when I want to, as hard as I want to, and don’t have an obligation to anyone. That’s kind of nice.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

Best concert, we’ve done some cool stuff. We really enjoyed Summerfest in Milwaukee, we got to play the Paradise Rock Club in Boston with Dropkick Murphys, which was one of the coolest opportunities we’ve ever had, but I’d say that my favorite was Muddy Roots Music Festival in Cookville Tennessee. Everything was so relaxed, and the line up was a really awesome mix of people we’ve known for years, so it was more of a family reunion than a music festival.

I think that my favorite thing about playing live is this weird feeling that you get in the moment, when you’re playing hard, and the crowd is pumped and they’re singing along, they give you this energy boost, really gets you into the moment, it’s better than just about anything else I’ve ever done, and probably the reason why I beat myself to death doing this, because that feeling is unattainable anywhere else.

Is there a song on this latest CD that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

I have a few that I really get into, for different reasons. I think that the track “Hollow Man” is one of the most personal songs that I’ve written, as a band that’s what we chose to do our music video from because of what it means to me and the kind of love that we put into it. It’s really kind of a pop song, and a departure from what we normally do, but it was such a good song we went forward with recording it. When you do songs like that, it’s tough because you worry about people that have been your fans disliking it because it’s different, and you also worry about attracting people to buying your album then not liking it because the rest of it sounds nothing like that track, but the reception has been great, which is hugely validating. At the end of the day, we make records that we want to listen to, so having positive response to something that was so personal really gives us a great feeling.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last few years? What made you decide to come back into the music business?

I think that our biggest evolution was a gradual rejection of doing things the “normal” way. We’ve rejected being placed into a genre, we’ve rejected the idea that we need to fit a model to get anywhere, we do what makes us happy. The music industry works that way if you’re in main stream rock, pop music, or counrty, where you need to have a certain sound, and every album ends up sounding the same; pro-tools every note is perfect, loud as hell, tuned vocals… We like a warmer, more classic album sound, we play our instruments, and we sing using our own voices, not that we didn’t have those things available to us, we just prefer to be more natural because we like albums with imperfections.

When we put out our first album, we didn’t necessarily feel that way, every song had to be a “Tosspints Song”, and we probably pushed some good material to the back burner because of that. Four records later, where we are now, we put out an album with a western song, surf, pop, punk, and even a huge progressive rock track. We don’t think anyone at a major label is ever going to make us any offers, so we don’t have to follow their rules, and we’re much happier as artists because of that.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, get drunk with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?  

I’d say Shane MacGowan, although I think drinking with him might kill me. His songwriting style has been a huge influence on my own, he tells stories, which is something that I’ve always loved. When you can really get into a song, and you start to feel like you’re a part of it because of the story sucks you in. Nowadays everyone is concerned with writing a hook, and you can have an entire song that has no content because it has a great hook and a beat, and it’s mind numbing, you don’t have to think. I think that kind of thing is boring. Shane MacGowan wrote stories that evoke emotion, I try to do that myself, I’d really like to see what his process for writing is like, what I could do different to better tell my own stories.

So tell us what’s next?

I never really have a concrete plan for what’s next. Our kids are back in school, and we’re off of touring for the moment, but we’re picking up one-off shows here and there. The winter is really rough for us traveling, a few years back we had a really bad accident because of a winter storm while we were on tour, so we try not to do heavy traveling in the winter anymore. We’re working on new music already, our albums haven’t even cooled down from the presses and we’re already talking about another one, and I’m working on booking a short mid-March tour which is normally the start of our year. We’re also talking about an overseas tour, which a lot of our friends have been doing recently and seen great results from, so we’ve really got our fingers crossed that we can get some traction on that, it seems like a ton of fun.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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