Midlands based math/post-rockers a-tota-so, who include members of Alright The Captain, are set to release their new album, Lights Out, on 11th March. Normally an instrumental band, they charter new territory on the album with guest vocalists on each of eight new tracks.
In the meantime, Marty Toner, guitarist with a-tota-so, joins us At The Barrier to explain the attraction of Giraffes? Giraffes!
I can’t remember how long ago it was but I remember coming across G?G! , that first time I heard the breakdown in “When the catholic girls go camping the nicotine vampires rule supreme” via last.fm many years ago I just stopped in my tracks and had to listen to the track on repeat for what seemed like hours. I’d only just got into the more math-rock side of things after listening to bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the sky for quite a few years and had never heard something quite this nuts before so my tiny mind was blown. G?G! are just such an absolutely wildcard band and the fact they can throw so many complex ideas between the two of them just gets me really excited, they don’t just write spazzy riffs for the sake of it and everything seems to be really considered and focused on keeping their listeners engaged throughout.
I emailed them a bunch of times over the years trying to convince them to come to play a show in the UK for us but time and finances never seemed to align so they became simply a bucket list band to see someday, many years later we ended up booking another American two-piece called Space Blood who it turned out knew the G?G! guys through gigging together and they gave Will a shirt to give me when they came over to tour the UK which was just lovely of them. I think it was maybe a year or two after that the band was announced to play at ArcTanGent festival in Bristol which absolutely made my year.
They played the main stage at the festival to a packed tent and it was just such a joy to watch them perform live, I had actual tears running down my face, maybe it was the brutal comedown from the previous night of the festival, maybe it was just pure love but it cemented them as one of my favourite bands in the world, made only better that night at the silent disco when my girlfriend Zoe and Will from Space Blood appeared with drummer Ken to introduce us to each other. EEEEK Fanboy mode engage!!!! Never meet your idols they say, but Ken was an absolute hero, they’d had some technical difficulties at the show earlier in the day but I think all my gushing about how great the set had been quickly dissolved those niggles and we had a great chat that night although i was properly smashed and probably just annoying.
They are one of those bands that just constantly push themselves and that inspired me to think about how I approached my writing style, when we started the first version of a-tota-so it used to just be the two of us and we used a lot of loops and took inspiration from the way G?G? would make a song really expand and fill any empty gaps as a duo. We obviously never got to the caliber of chaotic writing they did but we had fun just experimenting and seeing what we could do as a two-piece at the time.
Their artwork is all created by drummer Ken Kennerson and tends to be in quite a collage style of artwork which looks like it takes forever to create, they’re really detailed and completely sum up the visual side of what their music represents. They also made us think a lot more about the artwork side of things for our main project at the time called Alright The Captain as we had Todd Wood playing bass and synths for us and he was notorious for his artwork under the guise ToddJerm, I think pairing the music visually with the artwork became something we thought about a lot more over the following years. Personally, I think my favourite G?G! artwork is from their latest release Memory Lane.
I can’t wait to hear what the band has been up to during the pandemic and eagerly await the chance to see them again or hopefully host a show for them next time they are in the UK. Hopefully someday soon!
Our thanks to Marty for such an interesting insight into the incredible G?G! (as they shall be forever known…).
Here’s a taste of at a-tota-so on a single from last year, I Am, which features vocals from Aisling Whiting (Sang Froid):
You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.