I know it’s the height of cliché to declare that some band’s sound is “unique,” but damn it, that’s where I’m at with The Tontons. They really, truly sound like no other band I know, whether you’re talking about Houston or parts further afield. The band meshes together heavy, head-nodding psychedelic rock with smooth-and-sultry soul vocals, and the result is pretty incredible — the best description I’ve been able to come up with is if Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell had all formed a band and Hendrix had decided not to sing but to ask a young Billie Holiday (yes, I know; this is all totally hypothetical, remember). Smoky and raw and bluesy and dreamy and strange, all at once.
The bizarre-yet-awesome mishmash makes some sense when you consider the band members’ past/side projects, mind you. Guitarist Adam Martinez and bassist Tom Nguyen were previously in a more “rock” band, the psychedelic outfit Helicopter Jones, which imploded after playing a show with vocalist Asli Omar’s previous band, Colonnia de Soul. The three got together when their respective musical things went away, recruited Martinez’s brother Justin on drums, and combined the psych-rock leanings with Omar’s more jazzy, soul-heavy background and whisper-to-a-howl voice, and pretty much pulled their name out of a hat — the band got the name after watching The Empire Strikes Back, they swear, not the Haitian gang.
In spite of their success (they won “Best New Band” in the 2008 Houston Press Music Awards), The Tontons haven’t been together all that long, and they’ve only got one release so far, 2007’s Sea and Stars EP on Esthetic Noise Records. They’re currently working on a brand-new set of songs for a full-length on Esthetic Noise, and by all reports, it’s good shit. Sadly, they hit a stumbling block recently when a bunch of Adam’s gear was swiped from his car, right in the middle of the band recording the new songs. Fuck. Keep an eye out for, and help the band out with the funds to replace if you can, eh?
- Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Frog Hair + The Tontons + Young Mammals + Islander + Satin Hooks + Penny & Sparrow + My Twilight Pilot + More
- FPSF 2015 Rundown, Pt. 4: ILoveMakonnen + Rocket From The Crypt + Robert Ellis + RL Grime + the last place you look + Tycho + Charles Bradley + Skrillex + Moji + The Tontons + The Decemberists + R. Kelly
- The Tontons, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love
- Tonight: The Houston Press Music Awards Steal the Show
- FPSF 2014 Preview: The Tontons
- Live: Paste Untapped Festival Houston
- [UPDATED!] Giveaway Time: Paste Untapped Houston, This Saturday
- Live: The Manichean at The Alley
- WE LIKE THINGS 2012: Telling you all about the awesome things you (maybe) missed last year.
- Tomorrow: The Tontons’ Asli Omar Opens the Major League Soccer Season
- Tomorrow Night: Help Out Lucas Gorham of Grandfather Child
- The Tontons, Bones
- Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: the last place you look + Venomous Maximus + Thre3style Massive + The Tontons + More
- Video Time: Jealous Creatures + Glass the Sky + The Tontons + The Manichean
- H-Town Invades NTC: The Texas Takeover, Tonight at CMJ