The Tontons

The Tontons

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 the stolen stuff, and help the band out with the funds to replace if you can, eh?

Band writeup by . Band writeup posted Friday, December 21st, 2012. Filed under Posts.

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