Category Archives: EVERYTHING ELSE

The Tomicks: Rock and Roll’s Smartest New Contenders

By Keith Walsh

It’s been a typically busy day for British fashion maven Tom Cridland. When I finally got him on the phone (after difficulties due to the transatlantic time difference) it was on a rainy afternoon in London, where he had just left the BBC, after spending hours canvassing media outlets with copies of the debut release from his new band The Tomicks. With the same hustle and flair for promotion that moved his sustainable fashion brand to the front of the pack, this 27-year-old entrepreneur has shifted his focus to the newly-minted ten track disc on the Tom Cridland Entertainment Label.

“I’ve actually set aside the whole day today to just go around to key areas in London,” he told me. “Key places, where I want to get a copy of the record into the right hands – and I’m not even trusting the post to do that. I’ve identified twelve places in radio and print; newspapers, magazines and radio.”

The Tomicks, Tom Cridland, Elton John, Hair Clip, Candlelight, Break Up Anthem
The Tomicks: Nick Whitehead, Tom Cridland, Deborah Marx

www.thetomicks.com/

With core members Cridland, on drums and vocals, and his girlfriend Deborah Marx on vocals (and keyboards in their live shows), along with Nick Whitehead on piano, The Tomicks came into existence in 2015 after Cridland, a devoted Elton John fan, met working musician Whitehead at an EJ gig. Soon after, music industry veteran Kenji Suzuki came aboard during the demo making phase to contribute guitar and bass, and also did so on the recent studio recordings as well.

With the release on October 30th of their first three songs, “Break Up Anthem,” “Hair Clip,” and “Candlelight” and a number of live gigs lined up for later this year and well into summer of 2018, The Tomicks are serious contenders for a commercial breakthrough. An additional seven songs are set for release on February 2, 2018.

The sound is piano-centric rock, heavily influenced by the classic tunes of the ‘70s and Cridland’s favorite artists across the decades. The musicianship, vocals and production are top notch, while the songwriting is tight and loaded with commercial potential. Several connections to Elton John – including a powerful influence on the sound – are not coincidence: John is one of Cridland’s all-time favorite artists, and the studio where the ten tracks were recorded – The Village Studio in Los Angeles – was chosen because of its legendary status and because John recorded three recent albums there: 2013’s “The Diving Board” and 2016’s “Wonderful Crazy Night,” in addition to his 2010 collaboration with Leon Russell, “The Union.”

TheTomicks EP Available Now On Apple Music

Cridland is no stranger to promotion; in addition to the fashion line he also runs Tom Cridland Public Relations, with his efforts landing coverage of his clothing business in Forbes, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Economist, GQ, and on CNN, CNBC, BBC News, CBS and numerous other media outlets. “We’re self-releasing and therefore we’re putting it out on an indie label, Tom Cridland Entertainment,” Cridland explains. The Tomicks are also in a position to benefit from some very expert support.

“Sadly, it’s not the ‘70s anymore.  If you make a fantastic record, which I think we have, you can’t just sell it to a label, you’ve gotta work it yourself, you’ve gotta book your own shows to start with, you’ve got to get your social media numbers up, you’ve gotta get numbers on streaming, you’ve really gotta put in the groundwork.” Tom Cridland 

“We’re kindly being given some advice by Rocket Music, Elton John’s management company,” Cridland says. “They’re just doing that on a casual basis. They’re not managing us, they’ve just literally agreed to meet with us, and they’re giving us some pointers over email. And the music industry, sadly, it’s not the ‘70s anymore.  If you make a fantastic record, which I think we have, you can’t just sell it to a label, you’ve gotta work it yourself, you’ve gotta book your own shows to start with, you’ve got to get your social media numbers up, you’ve gotta get numbers on streaming, you’ve really gotta put in the groundwork.”

After forming his sustainable fashion line with Marx in 2014 with a £6,000 loan, Cridland struck up a friendship with long-standing Elton John drummer Nigel Olsson by way of making clothes for him. It was this relationship that eventually led to the creation of The Tomicks. “In terms of me being in bands” Cridland explains, “I wasn’t even really in a band until this, not seriously anyway. I’ve always been passionate about music but I’ve never really taken it to the next step. I guess it’s my friendship with Nigel that inspired me. He taught himself, he took up drums fairly late, it’s never too late. You only live once and music is such an amazing thing. So that was kind of what inspired me to do it. I just kind of ended up randomly meeting Nick, and so a bit of happenstance and luck there.”

‘Cause Writing’s Lighting Up
When Cridland and Whitehead met up at the Elton John gig in Kent in South East England,  it was pure kismet. “By all accounts,” Cridland explains, “Elton likes playing in fairly random places; it was a kind of special outdoor show, the crew had come in and set up for a one-off gig, and we were in the backstage trailer areas, and Debs and I were having a cup of tea with Nigel. And Nick was visiting Kim Bullard (keyboardist for Elton’s band). He asked for a lift back home to London, and we got chatting – and it was great to meet somebody who was so into the same kind of music that I am, and we started playing music casually together.”

The Tomicks, Break Up Anthem, Hair Clip, Candlelight
Tomicks pianist Nick Whitehead and his Nord synthesizer

This random meeting has turned into an ongoing, fruitful collaboration, with Cridland working out the lyrics first then presenting them to Whitehead, then the two working together to flesh out the melodic ideas. “It’s really a very collaborative process” Cridland explains. “He’s got some musical ideas, I’ve got some lyrical ideas, and then we merge the two. We got together to write ten times, and we wrote ten songs. There was never a time when we met up and didn’t write a song…We’re actually songwriting again tonight, for the second record, because I think it’s a bit pointless to stop doing the enjoyable side of things, when, and I think, when you’re still hungry, and you haven’t made it and had any success, you’re probably going to write better lyrics.”

“And the lyrical content, it’s about real stuff, it’s not kind of, you know, computerized, or calculated by a team of 15 songwriters. I like to say that this is music from the heart, and it really means a lot to us when we play it.” Tom Cridland

For inspiration, Cridland and Whitehead turned to their favorites. “Obviously, there’s a ‘70s sound to it, it’s very influenced by Elton, The Eagles, The Beatles, John Lennon solo stuff. But it’s very personal to us as well. And the lyrical content, it’s about real stuff, it’s not kind of, you know, computerized, or calculated by a team of 15 songwriters. I like to say that this is music from the heart, and it really means a lot to us when we play it. And when we recorded it, it was such a wonderful experience. We want to do it justice now – it’s not as much fun doing the grass roots foot work, trying to promote and get it into people’s hands and to get people to find out about it and listen to it, but that process is still incredibly rewarding. But nothing can compare to songwriting and obviously making the record at The Village was amazing as well.”

The Tomicks: Break Up Anthem, Candlelight, Hair Clip
Deborah Marx and Tom Cridland of The Tomicks

Electric Music, Solid Walls Of Sound
Well aware of the history of The Village Studios, Cridland, Marx, Whitehead and Suzuki were awestruck. “I mean, we went round sort of gawking at all the gold and platinum records on the wall. Phil Collins recorded ‘Face Value’ there. The Stones recorded ‘Goats Head Soup;’  Sly and The Family Stone recorded some of their best records there. Then all the way over to Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg and just so many great records. ‘Rumours’ was recorded there.’ There’s a vocal booth that Stevie Nicks had kind of themed, like Hawaiian theme, cause that’s what she wanted, and that’s remained there since the ‘Rumours’ sessions. It’s really a historical place.”

With the help of the studio’s engineers, Cridland was dialed in the exact musical sound he desired, down to every last detail.  “The Village was so accommodating and great. I just said, ‘I want a drum sound similar to Nigel Olsson’s drum sound, I know you did the ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’ sessions there; set me up something similar to that, please.’  I didn’t have to bring my drums.”

The Tomicks, Tom Cridland, drums
Tom Cridland at his drum set

In a similar fashion, the availability of equipment at The Village allowed Whitehead to travel light. “Actually,” Cridland says, “Nick didn’t use any keyboards on the record at all. All the sounds on that record are a Yamaha grand piano – concert grand nine foot. And an old Hammond organ. It’s a proper Hammond organ on that. He’d never played a Hammond organ before – he was incredibly excited about it. And I think some of the Hammond organ on ‘Hair Clip’ and ‘Break Up Anthem’ just sounds amazing.”

Cridland is investing his venture into music with all the energy he put into building his fashion brand and public relations firm – and then some. I asked him how he planned to balance these three careers. “I’m just going to work as hard as I possibly can,” he explained. “Obviously the music I’m extremely passionate about. I love the other businesses as well. I’m living fairly clean at the moment, I don’t drink. I think that taking care of yourself really contributes to having a bit more energy and being able to work weekends. It’s quite full on, you know. This is a hobby for me. It’s just one I’m taking seriously and treating like a business.”

At the end of our conversation, Cridland told me he was on his way to “Capital FM and Magic FM and a couple other radio stations in London, and then I’m going to head to The Times newspaper and then hopefully relatively soon, in the next couple of hours, more songwriting.” All of which may soon lead to Cridland earning the title of the new hardest working man in show business.

www.thetomicks.com/
www.tomcridland.com/

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From The Bogtrotters to The Beatles: Ed Ward’s “History Of Rock & Roll, Volume One”

It’s a truism that technology can (and should) liberate. The history of rock music demonstrates this axiom quite well, as shown in Ed Ward’s new book “The History of Rock and Roll, Volume One –1920 to 1963” (Flatiron Books, 390 pages, $35). Beginning with folk music and what was called race music, first recorded on phonographic discs in the 1920s, to the birth of the radio and the electric guitar, through the electrifying of the blues, to jukeboxes, early TV broadcasts, and Hollywood films,  the book is packed with info about the personalities that created rock and roll, and the technologies that made the genre possible.

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics,  laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist. Folk, country and western, blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, pop and rock all come into play, across the decades in Ward’s detail-rich book. It’s a page turner, ideally next to your computer, smartphone or tablet (YouTube has pretty much all the tracks he mentions), so you can follow along while listening. All the characters that transformed a diverse array of genres into the world’s (arguably) most influential music genre are presented, and Ward doesn’t disappoint those who prefer their music history served with a side dish of gossip (Colonel Parker was an illegal immigrant, Chuck Berry went to jail for violating the Mann Act, John Lennon was a popper of pep pills, etc.). Oh My! 

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics, laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist.

As the resident rock and roll historian for NPR’s Fresh Air, Ward’s encyclopedic knowledge serves him well here, and offers up more than mere gossip. Along the way he covers the clubs, the rise of the labels, the record stores, the DJs, the managers, and the stars they created, along with Billboard stats of hundreds of songs making it convenient to listen as you read. There’s an emphasis on the United States, with a few chapters devoted to Britain, which reacted to this uniquely American creation in a variety of interesting ways.

It starts with the music presented in traveling medicine shows, which allowed new sounds to spread from town to town, and eventually, when radio caught on, it spread even faster. When things really start to take off in the ’50s, the book goes deeply into vocal groups, the beginning of Motown, pop groups and rock groups, as well as the role of the electric guitar, mentioning the Fender Stratocaster at least four times (Fullerton shout out!) as well as continuing to follow the second and third careers of those who started out in the ’30s and ’40s. Lots of background info here, along with the wonderful songs that are still staples on oldies stations today (and many others that should be).

Ward’s book ends in January of 1964, just as the Beatles are set to take the United States by storm. Ward spends more than 50 pages on the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and a good number of pages to the beginning of Elvis’ career as well, but only after setting up these pop/rock phenomena in the context of the decades of blues, gospel, and folk artists and others who started it all. Highly recommended.

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Thanks To Steven Boriak at Flatiron Books for the review copy. Get yours at: “The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1” by Ed Ward at Amazon.com

Tom Cridland: How Rock And Roll Inspired Me To Create The World’s Leading Sustainable Fashion Brand

By Tom Cridland

I’ve always loved rock ’n’ roll music since I can remember. The first song I ever recall listening to was “My Blue Heaven” by Fats Domino. My Dad worked all week and, when my brother and I were little, we always used to really look forward to him being at home on Saturdays, so on that morning we always used to interrupt his lie in and wake him up so he could cook us breakfast. I have memories of us jumping around in the living room to that tune after our bacon, Coco Pops or pain au chocolat! Listening to music on family car journeys from when I was very young also had a huge effect on me. My brother and I used to love The Beach Boys (though he’s become more of a Drake fan these days), which my Dad put on for us on the school run.

Then came my obsession with The Beatles and that was when my love of rock ’n’ roll extended to more than just the music but also the back story, the culture, the liner notes of the records, the attitude and, of course the look. It started with their two greatest hits records that are divided into a first with the “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” hits and then a second with their later, more experimental and groundbreaking classics such as “I Am The Walrus” and “Revolution”. My knowledge grew and grew, helped hugely by the wonderful anthology documentary series that was released in the 90s, which I watched again and again. I distinctly remember my Mum buying me “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” as a special treat for doing well at school and being delighted! At one stage one of my best school friends used to take the piss out of me for knowing the year every Beatles record was released and the order of every single track on each of them.

Growing up in a house full of music was a joy. My Mum especially loves the wonderful pop music of the 70s, such as The Bee Gees, James Taylor, Paul Simon, The Eagles and Carole King, and, being in the car with my dad, you could hear something by Van Morrison followed by The Stones or Led Zeppelin followed by the new Groove Armada record he’d decided to check out and then maybe some soul by Marvin Gaye.

Throughout my teens I got into habits I still have today. I organise my iTunes music library in a regimented fashion, with everything neatly labelled and with the album artwork in high res on every record. All my CDs are always in alphabetical order and, a few years ago, I got my parents’ old 70s vinyl collection out, re-ordered it, bought a couple of record players and have been adding some classic contemporary releases to the library, such as Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” or John Grant’s “Pale Green Ghosts.” I use Shazam every day, listen to Beats1, SiriusXM and FM radio and read Rolling Stone and Q, noting down any song I like or record I need to check out in my music notebook.

I listen to all genres regularly: electronic, dance, reggae and hip hop often feature in my playlists, classical less so, but you can be certain that I’ll always be into some rock, pop, soul and blues records. I think it’s important not to be a snob and to admit that, as well as enjoying Muddy Waters, I do occasionally find myself dancing to “High” by Lighthouse Family when I’m doing the dishes.

Since The Beatles, I’ve become a massive fan, in phases, of, first, Eminem, then Nine Inch Nails, Michael Jackson, Metallica, The Eagles and, finally Elton John, the latter becoming my favourite music act of all time, along with the Fab Four (not that I ever refer to them as that unless I’m writing articles). I firmly believe Elton and his band are the best rock ’n’ roll act left on the road today and his drummer, Nigel Olsson, has such a great sound that I felt inspired to finally bother to learn a musical instrument and join a band. He taught himself listening to records in his teens and, hearing that, I realised that it’s never too late and you don’t even need to read!

As part of my “day” job, I run the world’s leading sustainable fashion brand, Tom Cridland, and we are best known for our groundbreaking project, The 30 Year Sweatshirt, an anti-fast fashion campaign in the form of a luxury jumper that is so durably made that we guarantee it to last for three decades.Rock ’n’ roll has influenced me at every turn and we even have a collage of some of my vinyl as the backdrop for our product shots!

Rock ’n’ roll has influenced me at every turn…the rock musicians that I so admire have inspired me to follow my dream to be an entrepreneur and a designer.

The rock musicians that I so admire have inspired me to follow my dream to be an entrepreneur and a designer. Though many of the great rock stars happen to be rich, it is not money that informed their choice of career, it was a genuine love for what they do. That’s why, against the advice of many, I applied for a £6,000 government start-up loan and, with no major business or fashion experience, threw myself head first into creating the Tom Cridland brand.

I couldn’t be happier that I did. We started off trying to create the perfect pair of chinos. We ended up making navy ones for Daniel Craig and Ben Stiller, beige ones for Leonardo DiCaprio and Frankie Valli, pink ones for Rod Stewart and Nile Rodgers, and red ones for Brandon Flowers. Most excitingly though, Nigel Olsson turned out to be our biggest fan and the trousers fit him perfectly. I’m pleased to say he has now become a friend, has a lot of Tom Cridland clothing and we meet up with him a few times every year to go backstage at Elton John shows and for dinner.

Rock ’n’ roll is, in many ways a dying art. There is so much great new music coming out from young artists, such as Sturgill Simpson, Tobias Jesso Jr. and Tame Impala, but one has to wade through layers of excrement to find it. The days of groups of young people picking up actual instruments and travelling around the country in a van playing small pubs and clubs to hone their craft feel like they’re almost over. We may never see the likes of Aretha Franklin or Elvis Presley again. Luckily for me, however, I was born at the tail end of rock’s golden era and I’ve had the privilege of seeing The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Paul Simon, Sting, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, Santana, Electric Light Orchestra, Elton John and even The Beach Boys live in concert. And they’ve inspired me to spend the rest of my life doing what I love.

Tom Cridland is founder and CEO of the globally-renowned sustainable fashion brand that bears his name, and more recently, with Deborah Marx, founder of Tom Cridland Public Relations.

www.tomcridland.com
www.twitter.com/thetomcridland