It's hard to be queer and from Florida.
This is something I know firsthand, and something Tomboi has put into words in such an elegant way that I can't begin to fathom it. The band started out with an exuberant indie rock sound, very much in the vein of recently-disgraced queer punks PWR BTTM. They've since adopted a more well-rounded electronic sound, which only further adds to the kinds of atmospheres they can explore. It's important to queer all kinds of spaces in this day and age, and a band with this kind of rage and empathy is tantamount to that particular kind of sonic exploration. To be a queer and Latinx band in the age of Trump is to take a stand, and these ladies are more than ready to take up the mantle left behind by PWR BTTM.
I caught up with the trio via email to talk adopting an electronic sound after being an indie band, being queer folk from Florida, and what's next.
Your name is incredibly punchy and very much goes with your image as queer musicians, not unlike PWR BTTM. How did you come up with the name?
Thank you! Alex had the idea to call the project Tomboi. It made sense for us because it was a way to take ownership of our identity. As queer women, our songs are coming from a particular perspective, one that can be lacking in mainstream music culture, so we think it's important to make that distinction.
How did the trio form?
We had been friends for years through the local music scene in Jacksonville, FL. Then about three years ago Summer threw a house show for Paige's birthday and we all got together the next day and decided we should join forces and make some music that represented our shared experiences.
You just recently wrapped up your North American tour; how did everything go? What was the craziest show you guys played?
It was amazing! It was the longest tour we have been on so far; we went to Georgia, Alabama, Texas (SXSW), Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and Tennessee. We got to see a lot of old friends, met new friends, and overall had really fun and diverse shows. In terms of craziest show, there were too many good ones to count. A personal favorite was definitely our last SXSW show at The Sahara Lounge for this event called Lesbian Wedding. We also played a vampire themed bar in LA, which was cool. Oh, and Paige and Alex saw aliens in Sedona.
Your self-titled EP exudes garage rock vibes; you hear echoes of that on Spectrum, but it's melded with electronic flourishes and Autotune. Why decide to go in that direction sonically?
It was a natural progression as we got more comfortable working in digital music. The EP was way more guitar heavy and featured mainly synth and bass sounds from a Groovebox MC-505 because that's what we were working on. Alex actually spent the past year learning Ableton and as that progressed we started experimenting more with electronic elements and our songs became more layered and complex.
What has amping up the synths and electronic influence allowed you to express in your sound?
It's given us more control and a lot more possibility for improvisation. Not just in terms of sound but also in terms of creating visual accompaniments during our set to really making our shows a fully involved experience. We are always trying to experiment with new sounds and new equipment so by having that level of self-sufficiency through self-recording and producing, it's given us a lot of confidence when it comes to executing what we're hearing or seeing in our minds.
Where do you hope to take this project as it continues to evolve?
We want to continue to tour, continue to be allies and make space for our queer/trans/poc family and friends, continue to make music and share our truth. We are involved with the Girls Rock organization and would love to continue hosting workshops and working as facilitators and educators for youth programs. We want Tomboi to continue to be a vehicle for social justice work as well as music.
As a queer man who grew up in Florida, your music was extremely resonant for me. How would you want people to react to your music?
It's the greatest thing in the world to be able to share some personal truth and have others connect with it too so thank you for that. We've been lucky and had such a variety of responses to our music. That's the real reward, making something so deeply personal and having total strangers relate to you and maybe most importantly, empathize with you.