Asheville, NC’s The Toothe, fresh from a name change (formerly John Wilkes Boothe and The Black Toothe) — debuted its new Talons EP recently. Talons EP marks the band’s first release since co-producing a collaborative album with The Tills (who also recently ditched their old name, The Critters). Keeping in line with the band’s previous work, the new album blends modern Appalachian Americana with a reverence for the past, all with a heavy lean on southern Gothicism and theatrical highs and lows.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the band to discuss thier collection of songs. This is what they told us.
When did you begin writing the material for Talons?
We didn’t write the material for Talons, it was bestowed upon us. On a moonless night, a luminous Walruschrist appeared before us and offered to write a hit record for us in exchange for our pledge to serve him eternally in the afterlife. We’ll see how the record does.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
“Slab” was probably the biggest thorn in our side. It’s a fun song to play, but it’s got some pretty busy guitar work and tricky harmonies. We really slaved over that one while recording. Early takes were a jumbled mess. We eventually squeezed the kind of tight and propulsive performance we wanted out of ourselves, but not before we wanted to shoot ourselves and each other in the heads.
Which of the songs on the EP is most different from your original concept for the song?
Most of our songs go through a lot of iterations before they find their way onto a record or even into our live set. As they are passed between the three of us, they usually mutate into something more than whatever it was they were initially supposed to be. The song Husk, especially, has taken on many forms. It started out as a much faster number, an upbeat kind of ode to octagons and loneliness. By the time we recorded it for this EP, “Husk” was a delicate and more slowly-paced ballad. And it was just about loneliness. It’s typical for our songs to wander pretty far afield from their place of birth.
Did you perform these songs under your old moniker? Or are these all new compositions?
These songs have been around for a long time in one form or another. Some of them are years and years old and have been a part of our live set for ages. But we reworked them extensively for the Talons EP and I think they have found their fullest expression so far in these recordings.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
We played just about everything on this record ourselves. Although we like to think that Dylan, Lennon, and R. Kelly were there with us in spirit throughout the process.
Who produced Talons? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
We spent a lot of time on preproduction – deciding on arrangements, instrumentation, harmonies, etc – in advance so we could relax and be confident in recording the parts. We’ve recorded our own music for years in our home studio, so again we took care of all the recording and producing ourselves. Danny Kadar mixed the record and really pulled out some depth and luster. Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering locked the low end in place and made everything shimmer. Talons wouldn’t have been the same without the contributions of those talented fellows.
Is there an overarching concept behind the music that ties the songs together?
There is no explicit narrative arc linking the songs on this EP. But the songs are connected thematically to a certain degree. And there is a certain half malevolent, half tongue in cheek undercurrent that runs through the record as a whole.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Most of these songs have been a part of our live set for quite a while. People seem to respond most enthusiastically to our upbeat and energetic songs. “Mustard” seems to get toes tapping. Bouncy and percussive songs are fun to bang out live. The quieter and more contemplative songs don’t always translate well in a live setting, but they do work well on our record.
(Visit The Toothe here: https://www.facebook.com/thetoothe.)