Category Archives: indie rock

The Tomicks at Perfect Sound Forever

In recent months you may have read my coverage of the talented new British group The Tomicks. Now a third article of mine, based on a fresh interview with band drummer and frontman Tom Cridland, is featured in the latest edition of online zine Perfect Sound Forever. This one focuses on promotion in the challenging new digital landscape of the music industry. Check it out at: http://www.furious.com/perfect/tomicks.html

While you’re at it, here’s a link to The Tomicks’ debut album on Spotify.

Thanks, and Happy Easter!

Made In England: Fashion Entrepreneur Tom Cridland Invests In Rock And Roll’s Future

By Keith Walsh

British fashion impresario Tom Cridland is somewhat apologetic about the prospect of annoying Donald Trump supporters. Nevertheless, his new rock band The Tomicks have just purchased large poster advertisements in 105 stations of the London Underground, emblazoned with the band’s logo and the phrase “Forget ‘Make America Great Again – Let’s Make Rock N’ Roll Great Again.”

Cridland explains the logic behind the campaign: “That is going to be designed, not to make us into a political entity, it’s tongue and cheek, but it’s definitely going to get people talking. I think our idea is so eye-catching that it should create some kind of organic buzz of its own.” The ads were released on February 12; the original concept featured the phrase “F*@k Make America Great Again,”  which was rejected by the advertising company’s copy team for its vulgarity.

The  4 x 4 posters – in striking black and white, placed alongside “people advertising iPhones and shaving gels,” Cridland explains, are part of a publicity blitz by The Tomicks for the February 22nd release of their self-titled, self-released debut album. The band features Cridland, who is 27, on drums and vocals, his girlfriend and business parter Deborah Marx, 26,  on vocals (and keyboards for live shows) and Nick Whitehead, 25,  on piano and organ. The album also features guitar and bass work by industry veteran Kenji Suzuki, while a varying lineup of guitarists and bassists will feature on live work at this point.

Forget Make America Great Again, Let's Make Rock 'n' Roll Great Again
The Tomicks’ Ad released in large posters in 105 stations of the London Underground, February 2018

“Tube advertising is usually something taken out by signed bands,” Cridland explained. “I kind of enquired with them as kind of a pie in the sky thing…..It turned out that it’s actually way more affordable than I thought.” Cridland, who built his clothing business mostly through public relations and has received positive press from CNN, Fox News,  The BBC, Forbes, and The Economist among dozens of others, says he hates paying for advertising but made an exception in this case. “There’s a difference,” he says. “Advertising in the London Underground, with big platform ads saying ‘Forget Make America Great Again,’ is more a kind of PR stunt than it is like advertising.”

The Tomicks have a series of  shows set up for the launch. “We’re playing a gig at the Half Moon in Putney,” Cridland explains, “which is a pretty legendary rock and roll pub, that has been played by The Who, and the Rolling Stones, and U2. The Troubadour, we’re going back there for two nights there after, sort of an extended album launch celebration.” Slated for February 22nd to coincide with the album release date, all proceeds from the Half Moon gig will go to one of Tom’s favorite charities, Help Musicians UK.

The Tomicks, album launch
Tom Cridland and Deborah Marx of The Tomicks play live in England

The Tomicks began playing live in November 2017, with gigs around London, including The Fiddler’s Elbow and Bedford as well as the legendary Troubadour. Reception has been positive, with streaming numbers steadily increasing in advance of the album’s release (a three song single was released in October).  As Cridland explained to me in November, as the band prepared for months of live performances, “We’re really going to play our absolute best. I’m really confident in kind of cutting through the noise and getting some exposure.”

Cridland’s PR firm Tom Cridland Public Relations’ activities include legwork around London which found Cridland hand delivering CDs to prominent media outlets like the BBC and The Times of London.  “Everybody’s pitching, and it’s a difficult business,”  he explained.  Given his promotional talents along with the excellence of the album, one believes Cridland can bring his band to prominence, using the same set of skills that he used to build his online fashion company. “It’s like starting my brand again. This band is like starting my brand again from the ground up,” he explains. A point in the band’s favor: The Tomicks are receiving advice “on an informal basis,” from Elton John’s management company, Rocket Music.

Tumbleweed Connections
There are numerous reasons for Cridland and his crew to have full confidence in their new self-titled release, which is steeped in classic rock influences, and features badass rockers, breathtakingly beautiful ballads, and up-tempo pop tunes. The musicianship and production are first rate. Cridland’s voice – honed by years of karaoke and choir membership as young boy – has soul, blues and rock inflections, while his drums are expertly played. The drum sound — carefully engineered at The Village Recorders in Los Angeles using the same techniques used to produce Nigel Olsson on Elton John’s “Wonderful Crazy Night,”  — is suitably punchy and crisp (The Village was purposefully selected by the band because of its fabled history, including three Elton John albums recorded there. Cridland has called his time at the studio “a wonderful experience”).

The Tomicks, Break Up Anthem, Tom Cridland, NIck Whitehead, Deborah Marks
NIck Whitehead of The Tomicks at a Yamaha synthesizer, Dec 2017 at The Bedford.

Whitehead’s contributions on the studio’s Yamaha nine-foot grand piano and on organ are deft and articulate, and feature his first experiences on a genuine Hammond, which he found thrilling, according to Cridland. Deborah Marx’s charming soprano vocals are in the style of Brit-pop, and feature on the poppier tunes “Hit or Miss” and “You’re My Man.” Industry veteran Kenji Suzuki does double duty on bass and guitar, with all of the polish and professionalism that a seasoned pro is capable of.

“This album, it’s very, most of the songs are about, just life in London, in my ‘20s, (it’s a) very personal album.”  Tom Cridland

The three core members of The Tomicks met by pure happenstance while Cridland and Marx were having a cup of tea backstage at an Elton John concert with John’s drummer Nigel Olsson, whom  they became friends with after selling him clothing. Whitehead, seasoned by several years playing keyboards in cover bands, is a friend of Elton’s keyboardist Kim Bullard.

Fronting a band is a dream come true for Cridland, a self-taught drummer who like so many of us became enchanted by music from very early on. Cridland’s foray into music as a business was inspired by his friendship with Olsson. “I wasn’t originally going to be the singer in this band,” Cridland says. “So I was just going to be a songwriter and a drummer. And actually I’m trying to improve and get better at drums, and I’ve got a good feel. And I haven’t had lessons or anything like that – I’m trying to do it the sort of Nigel Olsson way. I’m ambitious to get better. It’s a crucial part of what I want to be, and now I’m realizing that I want to be a singer/songwriter and a drummer. I’m not going to be like a Taylor Hawkins of Dave Grohl or really doing all this mental kind of stuff around the kit. It’s really more about being singer/songwriter, and I just love being able to play music as well.”

Tom Cridland of The Tomicks
Tom Cridland of The Tomicks, on drums and vocals

Cridland’s online, sustainable fashion brand, which he started with Marx in 2014 with a £6,000 loan only to realize £3 million in revenue by 2017 (by Cridland’s own account), is known for the quality of its trousers, shirts, sweatshirts and blazers (which are manufactured in Portugal) – including the innovation of a “30 Year” line of products guaranteed to maintain their quality for three decades. Cridland’s fashions have been worn by a growing list of A-list stars, the names of which are too numerous to list here, all attracted by the quality and workmanship of the clothing. This same concern to create something lasting and excellent is found on the album, as the band presents well-crafted songs and melodies with durable, compelling performances that will stand the test of time.

(From “Break Up Anthem”)

“Break up anthem, I feel on top of the world
I’ll find myself a lady, don’t need another girl
I hope you find another man, someone who’ll treat you right
Don’t care if you don’t though, I’ll be up feeling alright tonight.”

All songs on the album were written by Cridland and Whitehead, with Cridland presenting lyrics to Whitehead and the two of them working out chords and melodies. “This album, it’s very, most of the songs are about, just life in London, in my ‘20s, (it’s a) very personal album.” Cridland explains that when he writes lyrics, having a song structure with verse, chorus and bridge is very important to him. “And in terms of the way the words come,” he says, “it’s fairly quick, not too quick I hope, but just I think off the top of my head. The first idea I’ll just go with it. Like ‘Closing Time,” I thought I’ll just write a song about drinking, and about not having company, so you continue drinking and having a difficult relationship with alcohol.”

(from “Closing Time”)

“Oh, how my heart breaks at closing time,
Where can we move on
Is there some place we can find
I just can’t face it if this night
Should ever end
But at closing time
I’ll need a friend.”

Harmony And Me
Like Elton’s tunes, The Tomick’s songs tell stories – stories about love, heartache, overcoming – about life itself. The pages of the lyrics booklet in their debut CD are filled with well-wrought tales, along with accompanying illustrations by HappyGraffiti, inspired by those accompanying “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  Cridland explains: “In terms of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ inspiring our record, I just thought when we were designing the artwork, we had a really keen interest in putting together something that we thought looked really cool visually. And I thought the sketches idea, having a little sketch for each song, and making it relevant to what the song’s about to us personally, is kind of like if you hear something first, you have an idea about what it could be, what the lyrics could be talking about. But if you see a sketch it could be wildly different from what you were thinking.”

Even the background vocals have the flavor of classic Elton songs. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do because I’ve always enjoyed finding harmonies in songs,” says Cridland, “where you’re singing along in a bar, or something’s playing in the car, I’ve always sort of enjoyed harmonizing and coming up with background vocal parts – and I’ve always loved listening to bands like The Eagles and The Beach Boys, and all that stuff. I’d rather have had even more backgrounds on the album, but sometimes it’s good to leave a little bit of space.”

(From “Hair Clip”)

“Brown haired lady, with a hair clip
You’ll never know how you make my heart skip
You could do so much better than me
But we both know that it’s meant to be
Beautiful, for all to see
But what’s inside means more to me.”

When Cridland started out as a freshman at Bristol University, he was a rather typical young man negotiating the insecurities and uncertainties of young adulthood. That all changed when he met Deborah Marx — there’s no overstating the positive effect she had on his life, he says. “It was critical. I don’t think I’d be in a band if I hadn’t met Debs. You keep dealing with the insecurities I’d probably still have that I had when I was 18. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t met somebody who’d help manage to turn my life around to the extent that I have. Really when I was 18 I was in a stage where I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the degree that I was going to do (French and Portuguese). And though I got a good degree, I didn’t end up doing anything with it — I ended up going down an entrepreneurial path.” From first meeting in college to creating their fashion brand, Cridland and Marx now handle virtually all of the administrative duties related to their business. But it’s not just as a business partner that Cridland values Marx.

The Tomicks, Making Rock n Roll Great Again
The Tomicks — Whitehead, Cridland, and Marx — ham it up for the camera

“I’ve got a great personal life,” he explains. “I’ve had a great personal life for 8 years, and my family have always been really important to me, but when I was 17 or 18 I probably didn’t appreciate them as much as I could have. And even on that perspective, the minute I started going out with Debs I really reconnected with my family again. Maybe there was one or two years when I’d been away at boarding school, not calling home enough. Nothing major, nothing that you’d make a kind of Netflix drama to or anything.”

It was really the extracurricular activities at Bristol University that left an impact on Cridland. “Academically, it wasn’t that inspiring,” he says. “I wasn’t there the whole time. It was growing up and meeting friends and meeting Debs. I really had a chance to get into music beyond just a few bands. Like I had phases up to the point of being 18, like The Beatles were huge, obviously, from age 5 or whatever. But then there were other things, like you know, bizarrely, Nine Inch Nails, or Metallica, at one stage Michael Jackson…and Rap, and I had an indie phase. But in terms of what you hear now on the record, it was at Uni that I really got into Elton, Eagles, ‘70s stuff. Kind of what I consider to be my favorite type of music I started listening to in more depth and I kind of got into more soul stuff as well.”

“Really when I was 18 I was in a stage where I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the degree that I was going to do (French and Portuguese). And though I got a good degree, I didn’t end up doing anything with it — I ended up going down an entrepreneurial path.”

And though Cridland’s college years were formative in terms of exposure to music, it may have been his earlier years at Eton Secondary School – an all-male boarding school where he performed in the choir and in theatrical productions including “Death of A Salesman,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” (Cridland also directed these two) and “Julius Caesar”– that explain some of the stories of frustration and heartache found in his lyrics. “Hah, probably,” he says. “You don’t have much opportunity to practice relationships and practice chatting to girls much, do you? I mean I don’t understand the single sex thing, at schools. When you’re between the age of 13 and 18 you should be able to talk to girls.” The school itself is rather well known, with numerous famous former students. “It’s like Hogwarts kind of thing,” he says. “Really ridiculous uniform and – I’m insanely privileged that my parents saved up the money to send me there.” For the record, Cridland’s parents are both successful business people.

So with live gigs scheduled through the end of 2018 and beyond, Cridland and his band are focused on increasing the visibility of The Tomicks in the media and on digital outlets, including radio airplay. Ever ambitious, this hard working band is already creating another set of songs for their second album, with Cridland and Whitehead busily writing together.  The Tomicks are slated to record at Abbey Road in April. “We’ve written half the new record, already, we’re just cracking on and going to continue songwriting this month in February, in March we’re going to make the demos and in April we’re going to record there.”

Whitehead has turned Cridland on to the music of Pink Floyd, including Dave Gilmour solo albums, and Cridland says he has recently been impressed by the drum sounds on classic Phil Collins’ albums. “I want to do some interesting things sonically” he says. “I do find something quite interesting with the drums, and I would also quite like to get some more of those horns and strings. I don’t want to turn into sounding ‘80s, I but I do like that drum sound.” It remains to be heard what sonic directions the Abbey Road sessions will take The Tomicks. One thing seems certain: Tom Cridland has his sights set on a long career in rock music. “Yeah, I think we want to make quite a lot of albums, not churn them out, I want to make sure I’m taking my time, but I think the more you write, especially at the beginning the better. You look at a lot of great artists, a lot of their early stuff is what has really caught on.”

www.thetomicks.com
www.tomcridland.com

finis

www.walsheditorial.com

 

 

 

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/

finis

www.walsheditorial.com