Bonus Rocks Off 100: Asli Omar, The Tontons' Indie-Rock Siren

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Who? It's hard to argue that any local band is more on the way up than the Tontons, and a lot of that can be credited to the incredible sounds that come out of singer Asli Omar's mouth. Smooth as silk sheets, but with a pop-princess kind of power that enables her to stand firmly with one foot in indie-rock and another in jazz. Houston doesn't have anyone else quite like her.

Omar and the band have been all over America lately, on tour and for here-and-there gigs, as well as having their video for "Golden" declared buzzworthy by MTV. Recently they just returned from the CMJ Music Marathon, and Omar tells us that the time has come to slow down and try to put together another gem like their EP Golden, one of 2011's brightest local releases.

Home Base: The Tontons practice their trade in bassist Tom Nguyen's living room for the sake of convenience. Omar prefers home recording anyway, finding most studios to be a claustrophobic affair. When it comes to hitting the boards, though, she opts for Walters for the quality of the sound and the friendliness of owner Pam Robinson.

Good War Story: "By war story, I'm going to assume you mean 'our worst show experience,' which would have to be a show we played on tour in Denver one time," offers Omar.

I think it was a Tuesday, and we were only playing to handful of people. Right in the middle of the set, the door guy, the sound guy and the bartender all got into a huge argument over some choice words someone used.

The manager shows up and fires everyone. By that point, what little crowd we had had left because of the tension, so were playing to an empty bar. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and ate enough Church's chicken for ten people.

Even though it was a bad show, it's really those shows that build character and show you just how bad you want it.

Why Do You Stay in Houston: "I think the better question is 'Why wouldn't you stay in Houston?' Omar replies. "Who wants to be a small fish in a huge pond when you can be part of a movement like what's happening in Houston right now?!"

Music Scene Pet Peeve: Omar laments the sometimes-small size of the music scene. It does enable a friendly atmosphere, and five minutes on any local musician's Facebook will prove that everyone in the scene peripherally knows almost everyone else. It does lack the necessary mass for true cultural movement fission, though.

"It always seems like there is only so much to go around," she says.

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Luiz Bonfa, Solo in Rio 1959
  • Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
  • Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
  • Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto
  • Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Best Show Ever: "My favorite show was playing the Girl+Guy Party at SXSW Interactive this year," she says. "It was my 23rd birthday at midnight and 2,000 people sang me 'Happy Birthday.'"

First Song You Fell in Love With: "The first song I ever fell in love with was probably 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' or something like that," says Omar. "The first one I can remember falling in love with was 'Michelle' by The Beatles. I was in first grade and I begged my mom for the CD after I heard it. It was the first CD I ever owned.

"The first song I ever fell in love with somebody to was Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On.' It just happened to be playing in the background," she swears. "No funny stuff was going on at the time."

The Tontons play the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's monthly Mixed Media party tonight at 8 p.m. with Austin's BOAN and Houston DJs Jessica Lozano and Ceeplus Bad Knives.

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