Kyle Thomas of King Tuff recalls the weird paranormal experiences he's had in the studio
See also: King Tuff at Moe's Original BBQ, 8/28/12
King Tuff is the latest project of Kyle Thomas, who has been seen in the psych-folk band Feathers, the garage-punk outfit Happy Birthday, and the doom band Witch, with J. Mascis. With King Tuff, Thomas has written a pretty diverse array of music, but his latest, self-titled album reveals a real penchant for writing catchy power-pop hooks that sound like what might happen if a band like Cheap Trick or the Sweet existed today but got a little weirder and more organic.
Performed live, those songs are transformed into exuberant rock and roll hooliganism, performed by a band that plays like it has little if anything to lose. We spoke with the humorous and friendly Thomas about his time in his hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont, loitering and his encounters with the supernatural.
Westword: You're from Brattleboro, Vermont. Do you know about the Happy Jawbone Family Band? Francis Carr used to be in a garage-punk band in Colorado called Thee Goochi Boiz.
Kyle Thomas: Yeah, I'm friends with all those guys. And I know the Lust-Cats from Denver. I love all those guys.
Did you play shows with that band in Vermont?
I'm not sure if we've ever played a show together. I played with the Lust-Cats once in Denver. I've seen Happy Jawbone a bunch of times, but I can't remember if I played those shows or not.
What got you involved in playing music live and what kind of musical community or opportunities did you have in Brattleboro?
Just being a teenager and starting punk bands with my friends, doing little trips. We would go on, not tour, but drive quite a ways to play a show, when I was in high school. Brattleboro is a very small town, but it's pretty liberal. My friends always had bands, and we would play together. There aren't very many musical opportunities, but it's a great place to work on your music and perfect it.
In an interview you did with Girl About Town, you said that Vermont inspired you as a songwriter. What is it about being there that is conducive to your creativity?
Being close to nature is really good. Just being able to kind of seclude yourself and go into the zone -- not have many distractions. It's easy to do that there. You're not worried about going out every night.
Why do you feel that being close to nature is helpful in freeing up your creativity?
You just feel more connected to the world and you feel that your mind isn't as flooded with all this shit -- you know, information -- coming at you from every angle. It's just more peaceful. There's something special about being close to that. It's hard to talk about it without sounding like a hippie. But trees are really inspiring to me. They're like the masters of the earth.
You've talked, perhaps in the same interview, about living in Laurel Canyon and how the trees there helped you in that regard as well.
Yeah. Because that's one thing I miss in L.A. is trees. I mean, they've got palm trees, which are really cool and inspiring in a different way. They're like a twig with an afro, a green afro. But I'm also inspired by the city, too. It's just a different vibe. It's the opposite of everything I said before -- just observing people and all the different, crazy things going down like this guy walking down the street screaming at me [just a minute ago] for no reason.
Was there any specific incident that inspired your move to L.A. from Vermont instead of, say, New York?
For some reason I never felt inspired to move to New York. I love New York City. I love going there and it's exciting and I feel like it's just a classic city. It's what I think about when I think of a city. But I never felt the urge to live there. I don't know if it's too compact -- you feel kind of trapped when you're there, whereas L.A. is much more spread out. It has a much more wide-open feeling. It's not like Vermont; it's not like living in the country, but you don't feel as trapped. "Into the great wide open..." I feel like Tom Petty when I'm here. It feels great.
How did you come to join Witch with J. Mascis? Obviously he was more communicative with you than his public persona would suggest.
No, not really. That came together because of the bass player, Dave Sweetapple, who's one of those people that, if you know Dave Sweetapple, everyone's like, "Oh...Sweetapple?" He's one of those guys who is mischievous, but you can't hate him. I can't be mad at him, even though I want to kill him all the time. He's just a troublemaker, you know? But he's friends with J and J wanted to play drums in a band. At the time, I was maybe in my early twenties -- 21 or 22. I was just working in town, and I knew Dave.
At first it was pretty crazy because I grew up listening to Dinosaur Jr., but it didn't feel as weird as I thought it would feel -- except for maybe the first practice where we were like playing in my parents' basement. He does talk a lot. But I've definitely seen people try to talk to him, like fans and stuff, and he doesn't give much back.
I'm the same way, sometimes. I really want to talk to people but sometimes you just don't know what to say. What do you say when somebody comes up to you and tells you that they conceived their child while listening to your music. Somebody came up to him one time and said that, and he just didn't say anything.