Andy and Edwin White of Tonstartssbandht talked to us about their new record on Mexican Summer, Sorcerer.
How do you coordinate songwriting and recording? Is it a totally collaborative endeavor?
Andy: As of lately (the last couple of years) the compositions and arrangements have generally come from Andy, mostly because we have been leaning a bit more towards the live show set-up of live guitar and drums with both of us singing. I’m a guitar-player at heart and I do most of my songwriting on the guitar. In this songwriting set-up, Ed has been more substantive in contributing vocal harmonies and helping to arrange the guitar parts into the live fold with tempo and rhythm transitions.
You are a brother-duo band. Has music been a part of your brotherhood for your whole life or was this collaboration a more recent development? When did Tonstartssbandht become a thing for you guys?
Edwin: Music is part of the family for sure. Our dad was a working musician throughout our childhood, playing until late at night in local Orlando bars. He's an incredibly talented musician and his encouragement and support is what pushed us from being merely listeners to the players that we are. We took lessons in grade school and started playing music together in high school, alongside friends in big free improv noise bands. Later we began recording some covers as a duo, and soon tried writing songs together, and this became Tonstartssbandht. That was in 2007 when I was 20 and Andy was 18.
What level of chemistry exists between you two creatively that may not exist between yourself and other musicians? What challenges present themselves for a "family band" if that term applies here?
Edwin: We grew up listening to all the same music, and sharing discoveries with each other. I think this helps add an intuitive layer. It's hard to say what for sure what creates the chemistry. I'm not sure what challenges we have, I think it's easier to be in a band with your brother honestly.
The band just announced the newest record Sorcerer out March 24 on Mexican Summer. What makes this record different than your earlier releases?
Edwin: Sorcerer is our first full length "studio" album in 6 years. We've released a lot of live albums recently. It's structured different from some of the earlier releases in that it's 3 long songs, at or around the 10 minute mark.
What was the recording and production process like for Sorcerer?
Andy: We would set up our drums and amps in the common area of our living space in New York and live-track the guitar and drums, playing pretty loudly and relying on room mics to capture the dynamics of our playing and the acoustics of the room. As we weren’t on anyone else’s schedule or using limited/paid studio-time, we took our time, trying different takes and mic set-ups on various days throughout the year. If we weren’t feeling it, we just waited and came back. After we listened back and found takes that we thought were well captured, we overdubbed vocals and mixed everything down, which we mostly did after moving back to Orlando early last year.
What things were influential during the songwriting for Sorcerer? Were there new motivations that haven't been felt for previous records?
Andy: Sorcerer was our first attempt in a few years at making a “studio” album after releasing only live albums for awhile. Although we consider both formats as valid as the other, the shift in the creative process is pretty distinct: with the live records, you’re simply curating and mixing from a single long session (a recorded live show), whereas with the studio record you’re starting a collection of recorded moments scattered across different days and emotions and feelings. A live record carries its own built-in cohesion, maybe just the energy of the evening, but a studio record is maybe only as connected and focused as you intend it to be. Trying to match the feeling of cohesion was important to me on Sorcerer as I feel that’s a singular aspect of Tonstartssbandht these days. A lot of the songs on Sorcerer came together during and throughout pretty profound and severe periods of depression that I’ve struggled with over the last few years. At times, working on music when you’re depressed is certainly a drag because you find the process itself to be depressing and fruitless. But in the moments of clarity and calm, its a very relieving and cathartic process to share and relate with other people over the same vicious emotions that we’re all capable of experiencing.
What pressures, if any, are there to signing to a bigger label like Mexican Summer? Does signing set new expectations for you as a band?
Edwin: I'm not sure what pressures there are. We always strive to create music we love and are proud of. This hasn't changed with joining Mexican Summer, and I think Sorcerer is album to start with them. The label has been very supportive so it's all good vibes. I'm excited to continue working on our next album after this European tour ends.
You're going out on a big tour through Europe then traveling around the US with Mac Demarco in May. What do you look forward to most about touring?
Edwin: Touring Europe is always nice because you're on a different continent, everything feels new and unknown. The May tour will be interesting as we'll be playing for much larger audiences each night, performing for thousands of people unfamiliar with our music. I love playing in small clubs for Tonstartssbandht fans but this will be a nice opportunity to show other people what we do.