Better Know an Artist (Vol 34): Katrina Cain (TOMKAT)

TOMKAT is a band out of Denton, Texas, making dreamy electro pop with touches of jazz and soul. They’re fronted by the golden-tressed and golden-piped Katrina (AKA Kat) Cain. Her voice melts on top of the textured electronics to create a slicked up pop dreamscape. Katrina took the time out from dying her hair to answer our questions. Enjoy!

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

KC: The first time I performed in public, I was four years old. I knew pretty much immediately that I wanted to be a professional musician, and specifically a vocalist. I’ve always known it’s what I wanted to do. Throughout my childhood, I played quite a few different instruments and sang everywhere I could (I was a band, orchestra, choir nerd). I eventually majored in Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas, which is how I started actually gigging and making money. It’s also where I met all the guys in the band. All of us moved to Texas to study music at UNT, and we’ve ended up staying here because of the DFW music scene.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

KC:  I’ve always had trouble classifying our music because I feel like it could fall into several genres. I like to say it’s electro groove pop. We hope people can dance and chill out to our music.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

KC: My early songwriter self was influenced by artists like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. But this current band, TOMKAT, is a mix of all of our influences. I would say we are influenced by artists like Little Dragon, Banks, Polica, and Haitus Kaiyote.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

KC: Our song, “Big Love”, means the most to me because it’s the first song I wrote for this band. Well, the first song I wrote for us that ended up recorded and performed. It’s actually not about love and not about drugs (like it seems), but it’s a metaphor for the music industry. Basically, an obsession or addiction that I can’t stay away from, but sometimes it feels like it’s killing me. My current favorite song is “Icarus”, which we haven’t recorded yet, but we open every show with it. It’s pretty much the story of Icarus, and again just a huge metaphor for being excited/scared to pursue your dreams. The last lines of the song are, “What if I fly, and if I fly too high, what if I fall?”

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

KC: Oh, damn. “Dead or alive” makes it hard to narrow down…if we could open for Little Dragon one day, I would be on top of the world. That’s when I’ll have achieved my definition of success. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them…I was maybe 18 or 19 when a friend told me to check them out. It’s great to see their progress and how far they have come. In my opinion, they are one of the freshest, most innovative bands out there– without being so “out” that it drives the mainstream listeners away. They do a great job of balancing unique sounds and concepts with feel good grooves. Everything they release just blows me away.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

KC: Our guitarist’s new band, Terra Collective, is blowing us away recently. Sorry for the plug, but they’re doing some cool things. Polica is a band from the twin cities up in Minnesota. They’ve been around for a few years, but don’t get as much credit as they should. I’m excited to see where they go. I look up to them a lot.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

KC: I honestly don’t want to answer this question, because there are so many records I could name.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

KC: I love how different each scene is- I truly feel like Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth each have a unique vibe and their own unique fan bases to offer. I love Deep Ellum. I love how much studio work there is here. Any negative experiences I have had here, I have also had in every other city we’ve played, so I’m not sure that there are any negatives about the DFW scene in particular. Houston has so far been the least welcoming city as far as other bands/artists, venues, booking shows, etc.

I will say in general: I wish more people were willing to go out and see live music, to tip the musicians and/or just pay the cover charge. I’m a big spoiled because my “day job” is also playing music (at swanky restaurants and weddings), but honestly it’s a bit ridiculous to think that we should offer our profession for free anywhere. Even when it’s original music….especially when it’s original music! No one ever says, “Oh, I thought that haircut and dye would be free. No thanks, then.” So why do people turn back around when they get to the club door and there’s a small cover charge? I promise you it will be worth the $5!

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

KC: So far, Trees takes the cake. We had the opportunity to play during the Pin Show’s preview event at Trees in December of 2015 and it was amazing. Really hoping we can play there again. Every show I’ve seen there has been incredible. They book some of my favorite acts, and the sound is always fantastic. I also want to give a shoutout to Jimmy at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton for being the best sound guy I’ve ever worked with. He’s also the crankiest, and you can tell him I said that, he knows I love him.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

KC: Absolutely in love with the band Relick, and have always loved hearing Isaac Hoskins play. We also adore playing shows with Rat Rios and Sudie, so check them out as well!

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

KC: My name is Kat, but I like dogs. I am left-handed. I have never done karaoke.

Many thanks to Kat for taking the time to do this for us. I don’t think TomKat has any local dates upcoming. They’re in Houston and Austin the next couple days. For now, you can listen to their track, “Big Love”, below, and pick up the EP here. Keep an eye out for TomKat dates here.

 

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DFWd Hype Project: Andy Pickett “It Happens

One of the most recognizable faces in the Fort Worth music scene, Andy Pickett, fought back against stage fright to reveal his musical side to us all last year. His debut record, It Happens Every Night, introduces some natural pop sensibilities that hearken back to folks like Billy Joel, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. The album’s title track is one of the toe-tappingest, sing-alongiest tracks to drop in town for a while. He’s a  good dude with good things ahead of him. Andy has been running down to Austin every few months this year to work on his sophomore record with James Petralli (of White Denim), so expect to hear some new material (and more buzz) pretty soon, but for now, enjoy this little gem. You can pick up the full album here.

About the DFWd Hype Project series: Now that AsasRecords is a Hype Machine featured blog, I feel the need to drive some attention to some of the great artists in the metroplex that might be overlooked in the global scene. I decided to start the daily Hype Project series to feature those artists and help me fight the urge to just post a long stream of posts in one day. If you’re not a DFWd local and you dig the track, like it, share it, reblog it, get the word out. We’ve got some great talent here in our area and would love to get them out to your area.

New Music: Cut Throat Finches “Boundaries”

So, the debut album from the recently formed Fort Worth jangle-pop group, Cut Throat Finches, dropped a couple weeks ago, and it’s eclectic, accessible, joyous and highly enjoyable. You can check out Reality on Spotify right now and preorder it on vinyl here.

However, what we’re really here to talk about might be the coolest thing in DFW music this month, and that’s the 4k, 360 degree Virtual Reality video they made for their song “Boundaries”. You’re definitely going to want to take the 4 minutes to watch this, or you know an hour, if you want to try to catch every angle of it.

Cut Throat Finches “Boundaries”

DFWd Hype Project: Vodeo “Pillow Talking”

So, if you’re not from Fort Worth, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of our favorite yacht rock sons, Vodeo. If you are from Fort Worth, you know them as the guys that racked up pretty much all of the Fort Worth Weekly Music Award nominations. Now that we’re officially into summer, I figure their summery goodness is the perfect sound to start off this series. Down below, you can take a listen to the smooth grooving sounds of Vodeo’s “Pillow Talking”, complete with new music video. You can jam it on repeat this summer and go check out more of that good good here.

You can read my Better Know an Artist interview with the boys from Vodeo here.

About the DFWd Hype Project series: Now that AsasRecords is a Hype Machine featured blog, I feel the need to drive some attention to some of the great artists in the metroplex that might be overlooked in the global scene. I decided to start the daily Hype Project series to feature those artists and help me fight the urge to just post a long stream of posts in one day. If you’re not a DFWd local and you dig the track, like it, share it, reblog it, get the word out. We’ve got some great talent here in our area and would love to get them out to your area.

Better Know an Artist (Vol 33): Nicholas Altobelli

Whether the Observer wants to show him the love or not, Nicholas Altobelli is, without a doubt, one of the most gifted songwriters in the DFWd market. He crafts simple and wonderful pop songs with intricate and personal lyrics, and even throws in a key change every now and then. We had Nicholas sit down and answer our usual questions and this is how that went. 🙂

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

NA: I first got into writing music after I graduated high school. Before then, I spent my time playing drums to top 40 country radio in my bedroom. But after high school, I picked up the guitar and started writing terrible alt-country songs.

I knew it was something I wanted to pursue after I performed my first official show in 2007. I was opening for the newly formed Somebody’s Darling at a little coffee shop in Addison. The live setting hooked me in and I wanted to do it over and over again.

I’m not sure if I’m playing music for a living. I tried, but it never really worked out. Once I made the decision not to pursue music as a career, I started making more money and getting more press from it — funny how that works out. But I have other interests such as writing and teaching that I’m doing now that I’m really excited about.

Music has evolved into a side gig that I do to keep from going insane. So far, it’s working okay — on good days.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

NA: A panic attack wrapped inside a catchy, yet familiar melody. I don’t claim to be doing anything new. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just keeping it spinning.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

NA: That’s a hard question because I’m influenced by everything. I’m mostly influenced by non-music things such as seasons and landscapes. I usually write about the season I’m currently not experiencing. That’s why Searching Through That Minor Key sounds like autumn, because I wrote and recorded it during the summer.

Southern California also influences my music a lot — it’s okay to say that, I used to live there. I have a super secret plan to move back out there if an opportunity arises. If that happens, my catalog will transition quite nicely.

Also, anything by Nick Lowe.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

NA: This changes a lot, but right now, it’s a song called “Pile of Leaves” on my last album. It’s the perfect autumn song, in my opinion. I was reading about the afterlife in the Wikipedia wormhole late at night; I read somewhere that there is a theory that the afterlife is whatever you want it to be. I’m not religious but that was something I could get behing. I asked myself, “What would my afterlife look like?” And that’s what this song addresses. I also love a good chord progression that walks down and this song really nails that out of the park.

I’m also really fond of “L.A. Rain.” It’s the typical story of someone going to Hollywood to chase their dreams, but I flipped the perspective and wrote it through the point of view of a family member/friend/partner back at home questioning their decision to move to California. It was also one of the first songs I wrote on piano, which is probably why I like it so much.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

NA: I would love to open for Electric Light Orchestra. I love all things Jeff Lynne. I think he’s a genius. I’ve also been really getting into ELO lately — I forget how many great songs they have. So, yeah… ELO at the Hollywood Bowl… somebody make that happen. Like 78% of things I do in my music career, I’d do that gig for free or for a $20 IHOP gift card.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

NA: I really don’t listen to new music very much. I sound so pretentious saying that, but it’s true. I mainly listen to 60’s/70’s soul, R&B, Motown stuff. I really think that’s the golden age of music. If that’s something you’re interested in, I got you covered — I created an eight hour playlist called “Nicholas Altobelli’s Jukebox” on Spotify. Just turn on the random button and hit play.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

NA: Probably a live anthology from the Grateful Dead, so it will last a really long time. Or, if I wanted to end my suffering, I’d pick an album from one of those new folk bands — that would be the much needed motivation to drown myself in the sea.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

NA: My favorite thing about the local music scene is that there are still venues out there that will book me. Honestly, it’s amazing I can still get a gig. I don’t exactly put asses in the seats. I’m that artist who you book where you’re a dozen away from a sellout and you need that extra boost to push you over. I’m a professional support act and I’m okay with that — I actually really love doing it.

My least favorite thing about the music scene are those yearly music awards and the bands who give those ridiculous thank you speeches.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

NA: I have three favorite venues: the Kessler, Dan’s Silverleaf, and the Live Oak. All three have very friendly staffs and the best sound guys. Also, parking is a breeze at these venues.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

NA: Where do I begin? Brian Lambert has a new album coming out and I was lucky enough to be in the studio while he was recording some of it — it’s pretty damn great. Look out for that one.

Daniel Markham’s new album is amazing. Matthew Gray is always doing amazing things. Salim Nourallah and his boombox are a force to behold. John Dufilho has 1,389 bands that are incredible. I hear Rahim Quazi has new songs that I’m excited to hear. The Blondettes are killing it in Dallas. Vanessa Peters’ new album is her best.

I know there are more out there and I apologize if I left a few off this list. I think the music scene is the best it’s been since I began in 2007.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

NA: I have this weird phobia of looking up. It freaks me out.

Also, my older brother and I go on these strange adventures. We have done storm chasing, ghost hunting, hosted a short lived radio show, made a found footage Bigfoot movie, and much more. I’m currently writing these adventures out and maybe I’ll post the stories on my website or find someone to publish them — they are incredible.

Big, big thanks, to Nicholas for sitting down with us. I featured his latest single, “Exit Polls”, last week, and you can find it here. You can find another recent track, “Everybody Knows the Truth” down below. Fort Worth peeps can catch Nicholas at the Live Oak this Thurs, opening for Matthew Gray. Dallas peeps can catch Nicholas at the AllGood Café on Friday for a song swap with Taylor Young (the O’s) and Sean Russell (Cut Throat Finches). If you can’t make those, he’ll be playing at Salim Nourallah’s Open Mic at Sundown at Granada on Jul 26 and at the Local Brews Local Grooves at House of Blues on August 6. Now that I’m a Hype Machine featured blog, you can go favorite “Exit Polls” here.

 

New Alexandria Rhea track: “Busy”

Just getting all sorts of awesome new stuff today. This lovely, little vintagey track from Fort Worth songstress, Alexandria Rhea, is pretty freaking amazing. I’m really, really looking forward to this debut Naked Soul EP. Check this gold out below.

Wanna check out my Better Know an Artist Q&A with Alex, click here.

Top Records for May 2016

So….., May sees the return of my favorite band and one of my favorite young solo artists, and they dropped a couple of the best records of the year thus far, and even after that, there’s several other great records out this month, as well as a few highly anticipated local records. By all means, let’s do this.

1 Radiohead “A Moon Shaped Pool” 9.1
2 James Blake “the Colour in Anything” 8.7
3 Car Seat Headrest “Teens of Denial” 8.6
4 Anohni “Hopelessness” 8.4
5 the Hotelier “Goodness” 8.4
6 Chance the Rapper “Coloring Book” 8.4
7 Modern Baseball “Holy Ghost” 8.3
8 Hard Working Americans “Rest in Chaos” 8.3
9 Karl Blau “Introducing Karl Blau” 8.3
10 Quaker City Night Hawks “El Astronauta” 8.2
11 Jessy Lanza “Oh No” 8.2
12 Trashcan Sinatras “Wild Pendulum” 8.1
13 Daniel Markham “Disintegrator” 8.1
14 Andy Shauf “the Party” 8.1
15 Mudcrutch “2” 8.1
16 Kvelertak “Nattesferd” 8.1
17 Gregory Porter “Take Me to the Alley” 8.1
18 the So So Glos “Kamikaze” 8.1
19 Yak “Alas Salvation” 8.1
20 Big Thief “Masterpiece” 8.1
21 Flume “Skin” 8.1
22 Against the Current “In Our Bones” 8.1
23 Death Grips “Bottomless Pit” 8.1
24 Marissa Nadler “Strangers” 8

25 Kaytranada “99.9%” 8

I’ll see you next month with some more highly anticipated local records, hopefully. Happy listening.