Houston Music

Artist of the Week: The Tontons

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to [email protected].

Each week when we write the Artist of the Week column, we try to work in some way to subtly talk about ourselves. We've gotten pretty good at doing it, too. But if you don't mind, we're gonna go ahead and skip right over that and jump straight into the interview. We mean, it's the Tontons. They're rock stars right now.

After the jump, read about their new album, the answer to the "Who's the better vocalist, Asli or Kam?" question that everybody's thinking but nobody's talking about and a Lil' Keke cover band.

Rocks Off: So, let's get right to it. Everyone went all crazy for the EP. What's the word on the new album? Will we love it just as much? Is there anything just as off-the-wall-insane as "Sea and Stars"?

Asli Omar: Well, the major difference between the EP and the album is that we wrote the EP in a matter of weeks and recorded it in one night, whereas the album took us to years to write and record. So hopefully when people listen to the album they hear a much more mature sound.

Tom Nguyen: I think you'll love it more. It's better written and an actual full album. Five songs can get old when you don't release anything for a while.



RO: Asli, be serious. Better vocalist - you or Kam? If it helps, we can tell you that Kam said she was better. We mean, she didn't really say that, but if it helps...

Asli: The real vocal talent in this band is Tom. Just kidding. I'm gonna chicken out on this one and give the PC answer because I'm fairly certain that Kam could beat me to a pulp. I think that Kam is a phenomenal singer and certainly a force to be reckoned with. But I don't think you can compare us. We both have a different vibe. We're apples and oranges, day and night, black and... black [laughs].

RO: If we remember correctly, a while back John Lomax wrote something along the lines about how Asli's voice might've been too big for the band in its current formation. So what's the word? You instrumentalists still crappy or what?

TN: I remember reading that. He said that we were 2-D and Asli was 3-D, which I could see if you were listening to the EP. We actually did a show and invited Lomax to come shortly after that - I dont think he had ever seen us live at the time. We handed everyone in the audience 3-D glasses and [had] some light show in the background.

The whole thing was setup for Lomax to see the whole band in 3-D, but I don't think he ever showed up. I don't think he can say the same thing about the new album. I'd like to think we have gotten a little better.



RO: Seems like we remember reading something about Asli being away at school for a good portion of the year. Is that still the case now? If so, how does that affect the workings of the band? Any of you all involved in other projects? We're starting a Lil' Keke cover band is why we ask.

AO: Yeah, I was attending art school in Savannah, Georgia, for two years. I moved back in November to do the band thing and to handle some family business. And now I'm going away again to New York to attend Pratt... and start a new band [laughs]. Just kidding. This city's not getting rid of us so easily.

RO: Anything you all want to make sure gets mentioned? Now's the time to do it.

AO: If any Houston bands are rolling through New York in the next two years let me know so I can come out and support you. And if you haven't bought the album, you better do it before me and Shea's Lil' Keke cover band blows up bigger than Beyonce and they jack up the prices of Tontons albums as a result.

The Tontons play a free in-store at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, August 1, at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth, 713-526-9272. Get links to their Myspace, Twitter, VIRB, flickr and Youtube pages right here.

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Shea Serrano