This is 2017. A year that may invoke fear in the hearts of some. For others, it is a year that invokes a sense of responsibility to be creating music to combat such fear.
Introducing: TOMBOi – a three piece set of heartthrobs from Jacksonville, Florida. Really, this trio is an all-female queer band that has been creating music for the past three years in this band, but have been playing music for over a decade. TOMBOi just released their first LP: SPECTRUM. Alongside such a powerful project is the premiere of the music video for the track “Rainbow Warrior”.
TOMBOi is made up of Alex E. on vocals, keys, digital programing and guitar, Paige McMullen on guitar and Summer Wood on drums -> each player just as unique as the sounds they create.
I caught the band in the middle of their month-long US tour. Spending time with them during the annual “musicians’ spring break” aka SXSW 2017 in Austin, Texas – we got time to talk about their new album SPECTRUM, the process of securing spaces to perform and the serendipitous experiences that accompany being on the road.
Shelly Simon: Let’s give our readers a recap of TOMBOi’s accomplishments of 2016.
2016 was a great year for us as a band; we played over 70 shows in 10 different states, 21 different cities, and over 50 different venues, including colleges, museums and fashion shows. We released an EP, a signature fragrance, “Surrender”, and began production on our new album, Spectrum. This past year was also our 5th year volunteering with Girls Rock Jacksonville. Above all else, being able to host youth workshops, engage politically on local and national issues, and have the opportunity to share our music with all types of people was what made the year so special.
Shelly Simon: SPECTRUM is out now, how does it feel? Tell us about the road to the completion of this album – especially highlighting the fact SPECTRUM is completely self-produced! Envision for us the road ahead that this album has been able to create for TOMBOi.
After touring over the summer, we spent the last half of 2016 working on the album. We recorded it ourselves, with Alex producing and acting as engineer. Alex states, “I never thought I’d finish mixing process and there are still things I want to go back and change. At some point you have to just let it go and let it be a statement of where we are as a creative collective and I am as a producer.” For us on the whole, it feels really good to self-release something that we produced. It’s difficult finding funding and making it work but there are benefits of doing it yourself. As we’ve grown as a band, we’ve realized how important it is to have control over your sound and image, especially as we explore different topics like identity and gender expression. We don’t want to have someone else trying to market us, we want to establish that conversation ourselves.
Shelly Simon: Speaking of road – this is your first cross-country tour – as a band of BOIs how has it been? What was that like getting that all together? From van rentals, to gig-getting, to housing, to inevitable topic of finances?
For musicians wanting to directly reach their audience, touring is so important. This particular tour took A LOT of planning. We starting working on routing, budgeting, booking, all that – months in advance. We did use Indiegogo to fund a portion of the tour and budgeting for that helped us understand the realities and expenses of traveling across the country.
Shelly Simon: You three are certainly warriors of some kind. As many musicians have fought societal norms by creating change from their music: What does Rainbow Warrior mean to you all. How is its importance as a song, video and ideology really set the tone for TOMBOi and what you want to accomplish.
Rainbow Warrior definitely has a more serious tone to it than our last video for our single, Lobos. We wanted to do something creatively that spoke more in depth about queer identity. Rainbows are a refraction of light. When writing the lyrics I was visualizing that the light is the negative energy that so many people of the LGBTQiA+ spectrum are forced to overcome. So many transcend extreme circumstances just to live their truths…..and some people just can’t handle the truth,” says Alex E.
For the music video, we worked with our friend, Keagan Anfuso (who directed our video for ‘Lobos’) as well as a seriously wonderful cast and crew made up of locals and friends from Jacksonville. Keagan knew the inspiration behind ‘Rainbow Warrior’, so when she came to us we immediately were able to brainstorm together and come up with a really clear concept. In keeping with the song’s themes of identity and constantly having to explain yourself, we wanted the video to have a “queer sideshow” theme. For many queer individuals, their expression of themselves and their gender can be misconstrued and at times, fetishized. We wanted to draw that parallel to basically say, “Hey, we aren’t here for you to gawk at. If you really take a closer look, you might just see how difficult it can be for someone you consider to be an ‘outsider’.”
Shelly Simon: It’s so refreshing to be around artists as hard-working as you, it shows that if you’re passionate about doing something, that’s all the power you need to do it.