Even though the name of their current band is Russian slang for a nasty kind of prison toilet, it’s the name of their ninth-grade band that makes two of the members of Tolchock Trio blush: Government Cheese. Sure, the name is funny, but nothing to be embarrassed about (Tommy Womack’s poppy cowpunk band of the late ’80s and early ’90s did the moniker proud). But then, most creative types are a little ashamed of their early work.
Fortunately, we’re gathered in this booth at Stoneground, eating pizza and swilling King’s Peak, not to discuss embarrassments of yore, but Hello Bird, the band’s just-released debut CD. They’ll release it on the official tip days after this conversation takes place.
The Tolchock Trio just sorta happened when Dan Thomas, Oliver Lewis and Ryan Fedor moved into the same house.
The explanation of their name, usually a banal interview topic, provided one such entertaining tangent.
Perhaps it was Fedor who dropped the original Kubrickian (to be sure, it’s his story as much as it is Burgess’) inspiration: “It’s from A Clockwork Orange,” he probably said. “In the film, it means ‘to hit.’” It’s Russian, continued Lewis, relating the story of a hefty, jolly Russian man called Vladim who came to see the Tolchock Trio at the Urban Lounge, under the impression (from a poster) they were Russian. Despite the misconception, he thoroughly enjoyed the show, and a few drinks, later razzing the band: “Your name means toilet!” It’s also slang for a flea market.
Funny how the laughing Russian’s definitions come together to describe the Tolchock Trio (the swirling sonic vortex, the impact, the smorgasbord) and how it all makes sense in retrospect. In an hour, the band brought up the Cure, Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode and Radiohead. Thomas noted the latter playing overhead as we took our seats; they came up three more times. But then, the adrenaline from the surprise is like that extra bong hit that sends you over the proverbial line (sweet Jesus). Not knowing what to expect, then discovering the extent of your ignorance, is quite a rush.
At least one song on the new CD, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio,” is familiar thanks to an MP3 on TheRockSalt.com. But as a result, when the other eight tracks come up different, it’s outta left field, much like a sparrow slamming into a bay window (hello, bird!). Where “Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” is fully rooted in frantic, fundamental garage rock, the comparatively mellow remainder of Hello Bird checks Radiohead (creativity and atmosphere); Pink Floyd (atmosphere and creativity); and Sonic Youth (adventure, spontaneity, energy) ... a veritable captain’s platter of sounds. Each unobtrusively colors the Hello Bird save Floyd, which rears its ethereal essence on “Gold Flax,” “Waltz” and “KART.” Someone, either Lewis or Fedor, bears a startling vocal similitude to David Gilmour.
Yet, as before when we mentioned embryonic creative endeavors and the related embarrassment, the Tolchock Trio is already over Hello Bird. Like the band, the album just sorta happened (over “a slim 14 months,” Thomas cracks). They wrote on the fly; the songs materialized from jams, extemporaneous guitar tunings, spontaneous appropriation of a Frank O’Hara poem. Accordingly, they were captured on first takes (mostly) that took place when and where possible (bedrooms, living rooms, basements). Instrumentally, they took a few liberties, employing a toaster as a percussion instrument.
Now, it’s out, dressed in a purdy paper sleeve (art courtesy of Lewis, brother Charlie and Red Bennies bassist Paul Butterfield), bearing the stamp of co-producer Jeremy Smith’s Red Triangle Records.
And though they’re late promoting this barely birthed record, it seems that as they offer it to the public, they also leave it behind. They’re not embarrassed, just ready to move on.
“The songs are distant to us,” said Lewis, “almost to the point they’re irrelevant. But hopefully, others will like them.”