By Laura Kebby
Sometimes you meet someone and you just click. Although sometimes you’re also just that little bit too shy to say anything so you wait until your friendship circles merge again so you can magically bump into them, hang out and discuss the cool things they’re doing and all that life has to offer. For me, Antonia Susan or Tones is one of those people, whom after many beers and insightful chats I am lucky enough to call my mate. With their inclusion to the Sad Grrrls Fest line up in Sydney, I packed up my rucksack and mixtapes, and headed to the Blue Mountains. Upon my arrival I was greeted by a super friendly dog alongside Tones sporting a Weezer t-shirt and carrying a fresh supply of almond milk, and took the time to chat about the song writing process, intrinsic therapy and life as a musical.
“I’ve been playing guitar since I can remember” Tones answers me through sips of coffee surrounded by the tranquility of mountain air. “There are these videos circulating of me when I was about five or six, strumming along on the guitar… ever since I can remember I’ve just always wanted to learn an instrument”. Continuing with the childhood anecdotes mixed with their love for music, Tones recalls; “When I was little, I used to just think my life was a musical. Everything was a song to me which seemed to annoy my sister to no end”. As a big fan of their work I am incredibly thankful for this early persistence. So who would play the wonderful Antonia Susan in a musical? “Gina Linetti (from Brooklyn 99). She’s eccentric and pretty blunt sometimes, I think I can definitely relate”. After taking the time to watch a collage of Gina’s best moments and ending up in a fit of giggles I couldn’t think of a better match.
Although through our conversations, it seemed like music for Tones was really a matter of necessity and creative progression, their first live gig ever only happened this year. “I really didn’t know how to get or organise a gig at all really, it was only through meeting the people I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with this year, that I realised I could start playing live. I really just spent most of the time writing songs and playing the alone in my bedroom, or sometimes for friends. But down the track I started to realise that maybe people could actually relate to some of the content in my songs, which I found really cool”.
I like to think there are two types of people who listen to music. Some, particularly those who are incredibly musically inclined, like to surround themselves in sound, noticeably enjoying every intricacy and punchy note sequence. But for someone who only this year discovered just what the term “base line” actually means (this guy) and is also a lover of words, I tend to get caught up in the lyrical meaning and imagery behind a tune. My chat with Tones proved I was not alone in this endeavour. A true singer/songwriter, their focus is on the lyrics surfacing as the crux of any particular tune and their album “When It Demands To Be Felt” is really a testament to this fact. “For me, songwriting is all about expressing my emotions and what’s going on in my life”. I quizzed further using buzzwords like cathartic and introspective; “For me it’s always subconsciously about being present in the moment. It’s a strange process. Sometimes when I’m writing a song, it’s not until after I finish that I realise what the song was about, and I have this moment of ‘oh… so that’s what’s going on in my life right now’. This is where the process of introspective therapy is fascinating, and hearing Tones relay this in an incredibly candid way, was refreshing and so completely enlightening.
I always admire singer/songwriters for their courage to get up and lay out their deepest and darkest on stage to a crowd full of people. Most of my deepest and darkest are tucked away in leather-bound books never ever intended for anyone else to read. Is there a thought process artists go through before they jump up on stage? “I just try not to think about it too much, I try and imagine that I’m back in my room just doing what I do. I need to remain in that moment… A lot of the time when I finish playing a show I think ‘oh man what just happened?!’ For me, when I’m playing live, I just try and remind myself that I’m just doing what I’ve always done and try not to get too wrapped up in anything else”.
Now let’s talk music. I delved more into content with Tones as they comment, “my songs just aren't about the whole ‘we’re gunna paaaarrtyy tonight” whilst mimicking the moves shown by every backup dancer in the top 40 video clips of today. (Moves I wish the readers of this article could also be privy to, Sad Grrrls perhaps Tones?). All jokes aside, “I’m really exposing myself in my songs” adds Tones through sips of coffee as we both hang out in the backyard. “Some people want to experience that deeper side of music and eventually the right people will come and hang out at shows. Tones’ album has recently been re-released digitally through Sad Grrrls Club and is packed full of songs that really hit home and attest to the Sad Grrrls ethos. Each track is personal, heartfelt and man oh man is guaranteed to hit you right in the feels.
To wrap it up, there are some moments that occur when interviewing someone that really blindside you, or at least stay with you for a really really long time. Mid conversation Tones’ tells me, “what you put out into the universe, the universe gives back”. It was a pretty simple sentence words and phonetics wise, but the concept at least to this writer, threw my mind completely left of field. It’s actually, as well as being philosophically empowering, a perfect way to describe Tones as an individual. A happy go lucky, ball of outwards positivity with some complex and passionate pieces which make up an incredibly talented artist. Lucky for you, you can catch Tones amongst a host of talented artists at the Factory Floor in Marrickville with Sad Grrrls Fest hits Sydney (aka South Newy) on the 8th of October.