Toothsome cuts teeth
BY: Katei Cranford
*Editor’s note: The date was incorrect in the print version of this article. The benefit concert will be on April 13, not April 14. This article has been updated online.
Cutting teeth from their origins as a Cure cover act to a full-blown “dark pop” band, Toothsome, a new group from seasoned dudes, will play on April 13 as part of the Ethan Archer benefit at Lucky’s in Greensboro.
“We all share the intense feeling that life without playing music would be a damn shame,“ said Tom Sowders the “Robert Smith” of the group
He’s joined by former Alli with an I bandmate, bassist Rylan Eshelman, Basement Life guitarist Eric Mann (who’s still reeling from the Kudzu Wish reunion,) drummer Lyle Collins from Amish Jihad, and A/V enthusiast Melvyn Brown. The lineup should sound familiar to Ace’s Basement heads or old tavern rats.
“I’m a reptilian calculator-brain who’s been waiting years and years to play music with these gentlemen,” Sowders said of the quintet, “they are far more talented than I am.”
Their beginning was modest. “We were listening to the Cure for inspiration,” he explained, “then we figured—let’s not just listen to them, let’s become them.”
And so they did. For one-night during Raleigh’s annual “Great Cover-Up” series.
“I was Robert, and I giggled a lot—that’s how I do my Robert Smith impression,” Sowders admitted, “I giggle like a child.”
Whether that giggle is actually Sowders doing Smith, or being himself, remains unclear.
For fellas formed from a goth band, Toothsome is a bunch of jokers. Or perhaps, it’s just Sowders, or that jokes are likely territory in a band that’s 80% dad. “Four of the five of us are dads. It gives us power,” Sowders professed.
“But see, I got that streak of eccentric creativity that I hope is of some value,” he added with some seriousness. “That’s what I bring to the table, and it’s hopefully only like 45% annoying.”
Dads or not, with members splintered between Greensboro, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, a power source is necessary to uphold in their long-distance relationship.
“It’s a challenge that demonstrates how much we value this amazing gift of being able to create together,” Sowders said straight-up. “It forces us to make the most of practice.”
“We also share a lot of files,” Sowders explained of how technology bridges the distance.
“Like last week I found myself laying down vocals in my kitchen [in Raleigh] to a new song from Eric with my mobile recording set up,” he continued. “Now the band has the recording, and we’ll practice, and hopefully get it together enough to play it in Greensboro.”
It’s a true Triangle-to-Triad connection—complete with self-deprecation and a Greensboro show in an unexpected venue.
The upcoming show will be at a skate shop; it’s fitting. Toothsome’s first round of non-Cure performances took place at a record store and a circus arts studio. Their first Greensboro experience was at a bike shop.
“Most of us grew up as lil’ punk rockers bopping around basement spaces,” Sowders explained of their affinity to off-the-wall spaces.
“There was a time when I actively hated stages. I still prefer floors,” he admitted. “A musical performance should be a transaction, not just a delivery. And since it’s a transaction of energy, we should be on equal footing.”
That energy is matched by the flavor in their songs, which range from “poppy and simple and in major keys,” to “rhythmically dynamic,” and mid-tempo.
“We sound like a soup made from the Cure, Protomartyr, and The National,” Sowders mused. “Plus, a pinch of Bear vs. Shark,” Sowders added, alluding to his constant hunger for “soup metaphors.”
Jokes aside, Sowders is serious when it comes to their future. “Frankly, we want to make a great record,” he said.
Though now on the menu, a fresh EP wasn’t always the intention. Initially, the band was merely taking advantage of practicing at the On Pop of the World Collective recording studio. But now, they’re self-releasing a 7-inch record, with a string of spring shows booked from Greensboro to the coast—including a special release party in May with the Dinwiddies.
“As the blossoms blossom accordingly,” so does Toothsome.
They’re not alone. “A lot of excellent bands are scattered across the road from Winston to Raleigh,” Sowders said regarding the North Carolina bands with whom they’re excited to play in the coming weeks.
“This is the golden age, I tell you,” he added, reverent in his band being apart.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands playing NC, 5-7pm on WUAG 103.1fm.
Soak it all up with Toothsome as they join Night Sweats, Knuckle Buster, Essex Muro, Harrison Ford Mustang, and No Goals at Ethan Archer’s benefit show—a big pool of friends pulling together for a big-hearted man—on April 13 at Lucky’s (2216 Patterson St.) in Greensboro.