Problem solving with Heroes of Toolik
Two full-length albums in, Heroes of Toolik’s Arad Evans has simple expectations for his band.
“Where I want to be, and where I think we’re getting to is that you can get booked some place fairly decent, you can draw a crowd of people that are not your college roommates or your blood relatives, and have some kind of audience that you can communicate with and you know that there are some ears out there,” he said. “That’s really the height of my ambition for it.”
That doesn’t mean he’s selling the band short. But as a voice of experience in the music business wilderness, he knows that staying true to yourself and your music is a lot more important than a million Instagram hits. So when HofT’s latest album, Like Night, hit the streets on August 26, Evans didn’t have an army of butterflies in his stomach.
“I’m really doing it much for myself, so I think if I were doing this 20 years ago, where my ego was more wrapped up in what people thought, I might be more nervous than I am,” he said. “I’m really happy with it. For now, it’s all over but the shouting.”
Well, at least until the band (Evans, Ernie Brooks, Billy Ficca, John Speck, Robert Poss, Jennifer Coates) hits the road to promote the new record. Then it’s full speed ahead, even if describing what the band does can be a challenge at times.
“Genre is a real problem,” Evans admits. “People want to put things in a box. It’s hard even to approach a club, and the perfectly natural question is, ‘Okay, what kind of music is it?’ Our first song sounds like this, our second song sounds like that. (Laughs) But that’s part of the letting the chips fall where they may thing.”
It’s also where band camaraderie comes in, as it’s always to deal with such issues when you’ve got a gang of buddies with you. And that’s the case with Evans and company, most of whom have known each other far longer than they were in HofT together.
“The luckiest people in music are the people who, when they’re 18, fall in with a group of people with a similar level of talent and a similar level of taste, and those are the people who make the run,” he said. “(With Heroes of Toolik) It’s been synergistic, but it’s a synergy built up over many years. When I was putting this together, there was a short list of people that I knew to call, and it happened to be those guys and they happened to like my music.”
And these days, it’s all about the music for Evans, who picked up some valuable tips for his project from an old colleague.
“I worked for many years with composer Glenn Branca,” he said. “It’s probably one of my largest artistic associations and he taught me a really smart thing once. He said, ‘If you want to compose, the first thing you need is a problem to solve. You need to have someplace you’re trying to get with your music, something you’re trying to say with your music, and then, the whole blank page problem goes away and you have something to work towards.’ And that’s really smart. But you can’t keep solving the same problem over and over again. You have to have new ones, and I think that’s where our music ends up and one of the reasons I like it. It’s going in a different place and solving a different problem with each tune.”
Evans loves being a problem solver, but if pressed, his reason for doing this is a lot more visceral.
“I really like looking out while we’re playing and seeing people engaged with our music in the sense that this is something I might have thought up or have been planning out in the composition months or even years ago, and to see people get it, I get a big kick out of that.”
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