For some reason, King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas doesn’t get cellphone reception in his home. So when College Times called to catch up, Thomas had to drive to a nearby parking lot in Los Angles where he stood on a rusty chain and took the call. It’s not exactly his office at home, but it could be worse.
Thomas seems to thrive in odd locations, actually. His last album, King Tuff, was recorded in an abandoned Detroit high school. He’s also originally from Vermont, and you can’t get much weirder than that.
Through sketchy parking lot reception, the talented and quirky singer-songwriter chatted about what grinds his gears and what he’s into these days.
College Times: How’s the tour going?
Kyle Thomas: It’s been really good for the most part. There’s only one town I think that was really lame but I won’t name names.
How does being onstage as King Tuff differ from playing with your other projects (Happy Birthday/Witch/Feathers)?
It’s definitely more high energy, definitely more liquid flow.
From what I understand [producer] Bobby Harlow picked which demos made it on this last album.
So what were the other songs that didn’t make it on the album like?
There’s probably 15 more of them that I wrote in the same time period but I’ll eventually use some of them for something. There’s a lot more kind of like rockin’ songs that he didn’t choose, which I probably would have chosen myself. He chose some of the more sensitive songs on there. I think he just wanted to represent a whole of my songwriting. I wasn’t necessarily intending them for this project.
That’s interesting when you have someone else interpreting your music like that.
Yeah, it was definitely a strange experience to have somebody else in control.
Was it a good thing?
Yeah, definitely. The album is more like a story instead of just rock ‘n’ roll. It definitely has an arc and more depth. If I was going to pick the songs it probably would have been more like my first album, just straight up rock.
You recently moved to Los Angeles, so what’s it like living in LA?
It’s really easy to live here. It’s got chill vibes.
What was it like growing up in Vermont?
It’s a great place to hone your craft. There’s nothing going on so you can concentrate on your art but at the same time there’s nothing going on. One thing I do miss is the seasons. Vermont has the extremes of all seasons. I miss the first couple months of winter, but when you get around to the sixth or seventh month of winter, it’s not so good anymore.
I saw online that you were very nice to an underage fan who couldn’t get into one of your shows.
I really hate the fact that most shows are 21-plus or 18-plus because the majority of a lot of my fans are a lot younger. It sucks that they can’t see me play. I wanna start doing 21-and-under shows only.
Is there a noticeable difference in all-age shows?
Oh for sure. There’s definitely a lot more dancing… I don’t know. I appreciate fans of all ages, but I remember when I was a teenager and I couldn’t get into shows and how much it sucked. It’s like, “I’m not going to drink in there. Just let me see the goddamn show.” Everything’s so stupid. It’s, like, widely accepted that most shows are 21-plus and it sucks. [laughs]
Here in Arizona, they actually divide the audience.
That’s insane. Kids are gonna drink no matter what; they always find a way. I guess I just wish there more venues that weren’t totally based around alcohol. That’s what gets people lubed.
What happens when you’re playing to a drunk audience?
Oh, I mean it definitely helps if they’re drunk. [laughs]
Is it true you like Top 40 radio?
Yeah, I love pop songwriting. I only want to hear hits all the time. I just want every band to concentrate on making every single song a hit.
Is that what you do?
I try, still working on it though.
Would you rather be able to communicate with animals or would you rather be able to speak every single language?
Definitely animals. I’ve already talked to enough people; I don’t need to talk to more people. If you could talk to a goddamn animal that would be the coolest thing ever. I’d love to [talk to] bats and dogs, maybe a lizard, definitely insects would have interesting things to say. Cats, why do they make me sneeze so much?
King Tuff w/Otro Mundo, Meat Market Garment Factory, August 19, 8 p.m., $8