King Tuff

WXPN 88.5 Welcomes : The Other Tour

King Tuff

Cut Worms, SASAMI

Sat, May 19, 2018

Doors: 8:30 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

First Unitarian Church

Philadelphia, PA

$18.00

This event is all ages

Facebook comments:

King Tuff
King Tuff
When asked to describe the title track from his new record, Kyle Thomas—aka King Tuff—takes a deep breath. “It’s a song about hitting rock bottom,” he says. “I didn't even know what I wanted to do anymore, but I still had this urge—this feeling—like there was this possibility of something else I could be doing… and then I just followed that possibility. To me, that’s what songwriting, and art in general, is about. You’re chasing something, there is something out there calling to you and you’re trying to get at it. ‘The Other’ is basically where songs come from, it’s the hidden world, it’s the mystery. It’s the invisible hand that guides you whenever you make something. It’s the thing I had to rediscover—the sort of voice I had to follow—to bring me back to making music again in a way that felt true and good.”

After years of non-stop touring, culminating in a particularly arduous stint in support of 2014’s Black Moon Spell, Thomas found himself back in Los Angeles experiencing the flipside of the ultimate rock and roll cliche—that of an exhausted musician suddenly unsure where to go or what to do, held prisoner by a persona that he never meant to create, that bore little resemblance to the worn out person they now saw in the mirror. Thomas was suddenly at odds with the storied rock and roll misfit mythology that he’d spent the past ten years, four full-length albums, a handful of EPs, and multiple live records, unwittingly bringing to life.

“At that point I had literally been on tour for years,” recalls Thomas. “It was exhausting. Physically and mentally. At the end of it I was like, I just can't do this. I’m essentially playing this character of King Tuff, this crazy party monster, and I don’t even drink or do drugs. It had become a weird persona, which people seemed to want from me, but it was no longer me. I just felt like it had gotten away from me.”

For a time, Thomas involved himself in projects that gave him space from all things King Tuff, and allowed him to, as he says, “go out and play music without having to actually be the boss.” Eventually, after being asked to play a handful of solo shows, Thomas began to see a way through to making new music. “I’d never played a show with just an acoustic guitar,” he says. “It just seemed like the scariest thing. I knew I wanted to write some new songs that could stand up in that kind of setting, which really opened the door to a new way of working.”

“I knew I wanted to record myself on my own time in my own space, so I put together a studio in a room in my house we called the Pine Room. It was like being inside of a wood-paneled spaceship. Suddenly I had all of this new crazy gear that I had no idea how to use in any sort of technical or ‘correct’ way. I just embraced the beauty of not knowing, which I think is where you get interesting things happening." Thomas self-produced the record, as he did his debut, Was Dead, but on a far grander scale, this time playing every instrument aside from drums and saxophone. He pulled Shawn Everett (War On Drugs, Alabama Shakes) in to assist with the mixing process. "From the moment I started recording, it was like going home, like I had finally found myself again.”

The ten tracks that would eventually become The Other represent a kind of psychic evolution for the King Tuff. No less hooky than previous records, the new songs ditch the goofy rock and roll bacchanalia narratives of earlier records in favor of expansive arrangements, a diversity of instrumentation, and lyrics that straddle the fence between painful ruminations and reconnecting with that part of yourself that feels childlike and creative and not corroded by cynicism. The soulful and cosmic new direction is apparent from the album’s first moments: introduced by the the gentle ringing of a chime, acoustic guitar, and warm organ tones, “The Other” is a narrative of redemption born of creativity. As Thomas sings about about being stuck in traffic, directionless, with no particular reason to be alive, he hears the call of “the other,” a kind of proverbial siren song that, instead of leading towards destruction, draws the narrator towards a kind of creative rebirth. Elsewhere, tracks like “Through The Cracks” and “Psycho Star” balance psychedelia with day-glo pop hooks. “The universe is probably an illusion, but isn’t it so beautifully bizarre?” he asks on “Psycho Star,” providing one of the record’s central tenets. At a time when everything in the world feels so deeply spoiled and the concept of making meaning out of the void seems both pointless and impossible, why not try?

“I'm talking about things that I don't necessarily feel good about, that aren’t easy,” says Thomas, who views the record as a way to push back against that internal voice that so often keeps us from trying new things. “I feel like this relates to a song like ‘Birds of Paradise,’ which is definitely about trying hold on to that childlike part of yourself that doesn't care what anyone thinks, the endless curiosity and unbounded creativity.” It’s a sentiment that pops up throughout the record, particularly in the preening funk of “Raindrop Blue,” and the ripping “Ultraviolet,” tracks that crack open new sonic territory for King Tuff, complete with rainbow keyboards, strutting basslines, hot-buttered bongos, harmonicas, angelic backing vocals, and strikingly danceable grooves. After nine songs that take on everything from creative insecurity, the isolating evils of technology, and the redemptive power of art, the album wraps up with “No Man’s Land.” The song is a slow-build gospel-tinged stunner that comes complete with harp strums and pillows of space synths for Thomas’ beleaguered lyrics (“I’m going down to the forgotten part of town with roses and rubies in my hands”), which sound both weary and strangely at peace. It’s a song about ending up where you need to be, even if you have no idea how you might have arrived there. “It’s about attaining The Other,” says Thomas. “‘No Man’s Land’ is a vision of the afterlife, it’s where the journey eventually leads you. It’s some other plane of existence that you kind of aspire to. It’s ending up inside the dream.”

While it would be easy to think of The Other as a kind of reinvention for King Tuff, Thomas views the entire experience of the record as a kind of psychic reset, and something not totally removed from what he’s done in the past. “I can’t help but sound like me,” he says. “It’s just that this time I let the songs lead me where they wanted to go, instead of trying to push them into a certain zone. King Tuff was always just supposed to be me. When I started doing this as a teenager, it was whatever I wanted it to be. King Tuff was never supposed to be just one thing. It was supposed to be everything."
Cut Worms
Cut Worms
Cut worms is a command; if you say so - got a knife?

Cut worms is a crime scene; my god, who would do such a thing? Cover your eyes!

Cut worms is a gardening hazard; they feed at night! Treat with diatomaceous earth before they affect your beans.

Cut worms can mean many things, but today, most likely, Cut Worms means Max Clarke, singing up a storm for you on his new nightcrawler of an EP, “Alien Sunset.”

Some say, if there’s anything in the world you could be doing other than music, please god go do that thing. Well, Max Clarke could have done a number of things; after going to school for illustration, steering toward a career in graphic design, and taking some handy-man type jobs, he realized that songwriting, a pastime since he was twelve years old, was the only type of work that didn’t feel like just work. Writing and finishing songs had never been an effortless task for Max, more like a trip “through heaven and hell,” but he wanted to spend his mid-20s energy on something important and personal- and hey, a little hellfire is good for the complexion.

“Alien Sunset” is a collection of home-recorded “demos” from Max’s time living in Chicago (Side A) and New York City (Side B), written in spurts, like little designated creative coffee breaks. Following the example of a prolific roommate who had endeavored to write a song a day for a year and did so for FOUR years, Max decided to dedicate his daily hour of free-time after work to mindful musical regimen. He challenged himself to record two songs a month and release them online - for better or for worse, praise or criticism. Expecting little more than a few constructive comments regarding his 8-track fidelity, he was surprised by the positive reactions to his antique sound, classic voice, and Everly Brothers style close harmonies.

Each song on “Alien Sunset” has a sturdy, four-legged American quality, but also contains a gentleness and sense of stolen privacy. The arrangements are both dense and airy, decadent without sacrificing an ounce of effervescence. For sure, something about “Alien Sunset” looks back over time’s shoulder, but it isn’t really “retro” music - it just glitters in a way you don’t often hear these days.

If this collection can be said to have any sort through-line, a whiff of motif, it revolves around the obvious delight Max takes in singing his heart out, despite variegated agony. The lyrical work moves from simple, diary-like musings, self-consciousness on the dance floor and general lust problems, to illuminated text. As a lyricist, Max draws upon the Romantics and Symbolists of the rock and roll poet tradition; “Song of the Highest Tower” was written the day Lou Reed died and is an adaptation of a poem from Rimbaud’s “A Season in Hell.” The moniker itself, Cut Worms, borrows its striking and ambiguous imagery from a line in a William Blake poem: “The cut worm forgives the plow.”

For Max, making music is free passage back to the realm of ecstatic teenage feelings, and “Alien Sunset” is full of that intense, feels-so-good-to-feel-so-bad energy. Even when the lyrical content broods, the spirit sparkles, and Max’s emotive vocal performances bubble over with the tipsy dancing and diaphramic laughter of a writer lover fool who, having his wrestled his demons, hit his head upon a multitude of dead ends, and failed thrice and half times at self-immolation, has nowhere left to go but relief.
SASAMI
SASAMI
SASAMI (Sasami Ashworth) has been making music in the Los Angeles area, in almost every way you can, for the last decade. From playing french horn in orchestras and studios, to playing keys and guitar in local rock bands (Dirt Dress, Cherry Glazerr), to contributing vocals/string/horn arrangements to studio albums (Avi Buffalo, Curtis Harding, Wild Nothing, Hand Habits etc.) and producing tracks for other respected artists (Soko), she has gained a reputation as an all-around musical badass. After graduating from the Eastman School of music in 2012, SASAMI spent her time scoring and making orchestral arrangements for films, commercials and studio albums, as well as being a deeply committed music teacher in Los Angeles. She spent the last two and half years as a so-called “Synth Queen,” touring the world non-stop and making records in the band Cherry Glazerr (on Secretly Canadian) and is taking a turn this year to put out her long anticipated solo album in the fall of 2018.
Venue Information:
First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
http://www.philauu.org/