When Kyle Thomas, the creative force behind the rock band King Tuff, moved from his small hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont, to Los Angeles a year ago, he noticed one major difference. People in L.A. don't loiter as much as they do in Brattleboro, a Gilmore Girlsish town of 15,000.
“Brattleboro's a really easy place to just loiter,” he says. “Nobody really loiters in L.A., and that's the one thing I miss the most. But I'm really trying to bring that loitering vibe here. I'm actually loitering right now in front of some, um... hippie store or something. If people in L.A. do loiter, I guess they do it in their cars. Don't get me wrong, I also love driving, I just don't have a car right now. I'm between Mustangs at the moment.”
Over the past few years, Thomas has been a member of several very different sounding bands: the free-folk outfit Feathers, the stoner-rock band Witch (with Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis) and the glam-pop trio Happy Birthday (with Ruth Garbus, the sister of tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus). But King Tuff is Thomas's longest running music project, and it's the one he's now focusing his musical energy on.
“I've written all kinds of different songs my whole life,” he says. “So it made sense to have different projects because the songs were all so different. But it's also a pain in the ass to have so many bands, so I'm just trying to focus on one, and let the songs be themselves and play them under one name, King Tuff.”
King Tuff's debut album, “Was Dead,” was released in 2008 on Tee Pee Records. It was a fuzzy slacker-rock affair; the stand-out track, “Sun Medallion,” was about sleeping in graveyards, smoking pipes, chugging black coffee, cruising in a badass car and rocking a mythical medallion that shined so bright it cut through clouds and cleared a path up the mountain. The music was tough and grimy, as if played by a greasy-fingered auto mechanic who knocked off work early to shred a Stratocaster at some dingy backwoods rock 'n' roll dive and slam cheap lawnmower beer.
“The album encompasses my whole personality,” says Thomas about “King Tuff,” which was recorded in an abandoned high school in Detroit with The Go's Bobby Harlow. The garage-rock scuzz thrives on tracks like “Anthem” and “Bad Thing” (video above), but the guitar riffs are far more savage, and the entire album is heavily sun soaked like a blazed-out and dazed psychedelic afternoon.
Thomas wrote all the of the songs for “King Tuff” while still living and loitering in Brattleboro, but he says his next album will certainly be influenced by his recent experiences in Los Angeles.
“It was like jumping into the void,” he says about the move. “I just put my faith in the universe and jumped. Once you get beyond the outer surface of the city, it's a really magical place. There are so many secrets to discover, and it's like living in the jungle, because there are these jungle plants everywhere. It has this haunted, really cool and weird feeling. There's a lot of mystery to it.”
Elliott Sharp wants you to follow him on Twitter @ElliottSharp.