Artist Tombo is a heartbroken poet and a lovesick beatsmith, a Midwestern seamstress weaving dreams into song form. Splitting their time between solo work and production for others (see: Family Reunion, Nancy Love, Vela Seff), Tombo remains a Jack of All Trades, a Jill of Awe and Haze. An affiliate of Sick Sad World, the prolific artist released half a dozen projects in 2018 and has plenty more planned for this calendar year. Along with a premiere of the new short, atmospheric track ‘Babayaga’, I spoke with Tombo (featured below) about their creative process, their history with music, their dream with Adam Scott, and the transformation of sorrow into beauty.
How has the year been treating you so far? What are you currently working on?
It’s been up and down but I’m learning a lot. Right now I’m in the middle of my solo album, maybe an EP, a couple collaborative small releases, a lot of beats.
How long have you been working on music?
I’ve been more or less playing music for 10 years, but didn’t start being serious and full throttle until 4/maybe 5 years ago when I got a laptop of my own.
You recently posted about a former band you were in back in 2015/2016. You were the lead singer? Was that your first time really taking music seriously?
I played guitar, sang, and wrote a handful of the songs in that band (Baron Park), but I had played a lot of bands before that.
How do you look back on those early days of music?
It was so much fun. I love being able to feel what you’re playing through speakers blaring and screaming to a bunch of people you don’t know in basements and art galleries. There was less thought put into the songs at the time, it felt like such raw energy anytime I would play a show. I definitely do not miss having to carry all of the gear around all the time, though.
Moving back into the present day, your sound is quite eclectic. From atmospheric/hazy production to a more folk/acoustic style. Does this sound often have to do with who you're working with? In other words, how do you approach a blank canvas?
My approach varies if I’m producing for someone - I want to step into their world and make something weird for them, or not something they would normally do, but is still unmistakably their vibe or sound, just drenched in fog and noise.
Whenever I sit down to create I rarely have a preconceived idea, I just want to make something that I feel. but I make so many different kinds of music that’s for me, my friends, or just for science experimenting that when I sit down I never know what kind of sound I’m gonna end up with.
In the last year or so, you've formed Sick Sad World with your friends and frequent collaborators. How would you describe that collective to someone that's unfamiliar?
Sick Sad World grew from close friends who like to make sounds you’ve never heard before. SSW is not so much a collective, just a group of people that want to make something bigger than them. It’s showing love, bringing people together, and making cool weird art.
I always find your lyricism to be so poetic. Do you write in journals even when it's not related to music? Ever tried short stories or something longer than a song?
I used to write short stories in middle and high school, when I started playing music more I focused less other mediums. I’ve written a lot of prose pieces this past year. A lot of songs come from thoughts I write down when I’m feeling bad.
I always try to write my negative feelings as something pretty.
Outside of your own music, what have you been listening to?
Lately, have you had any interesting dreams worth sharing?
I don’t remember a lot of them, but I held hands with Adam Scott in a dream recently.
Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
Do you to the fullest. Take your time to experiment with your art and learn what you love in it, just focus on that part. Worry about the social part later.
Any final thoughts / words of wisdom / shout-outs?
Be respectful and understanding of people. It’s easy, I promise.
It’s a sick sad world, this year is gonna be different.