Thursday, November 25, 2021

An Interview with Tomi Tomaski – From Swim Deep To Solo Artist

Tomi Tomaski may be relatively unknown to fans of British indie music, yet anyone who’s listened to the genre over the past decade will almost certainly have heard his output. A valued member of Swim Deep for the last 3 years, with time in cult favourites Childhood and Fake Laugh under his belt, the French-born Tomi has certainly paid his dues on the indie circuit.

Now, after nearly a decade on English shores, the artist has taken the plunge into solo artistry with brilliant new single ‘Pure Air’. 

Music is to Blame sat down with the musician turned singer to discuss his life in the capital, and why now was the right time for him to go it alone. 


Tell us a bit about your early years in music, and what it was like as a Frenchman trying to break into the UK indie scene?

I come from a very small town full of musicians and I can’t remember not being in multiple bands since I was 14. From 70s’ punk to stoner rock, noise or post-rock etc...
The only moment I was not in a band was when I moved to London. And it only lasted a month! 

I came across an ad on Gumtree looking for a drummer and I got lucky. Whilst the band in question rejected me, they referred me to Jamie T’s guitarist’s band, which is now Attawalpa. I was only playing his guitar parts in my French bedroom a month before! 

I remember being impressed and uncertain as everybody had crazy connections and I had come from such a tiny place. I had nothing to do in London. People at home were having bets on my return, but a friend of mine once told me “You have to stay. Back home, you were the biggest fish in the smallest pond. In London, you’re the smallest in the biggest pond. The only way is up”.

You’ve been over in the UK for roughly a decade at this point, what made you choose now to go solo?

When I first moved here, I wanted to start from the back, establish myself within the scene, and meet people. Now is the right time. I’ve been jumping from band to band here. I've been missing the freshness of a new project where I could fully know everybody that’s ever going to be involved.

Your debut track ‘Pure Air’ came out on the 19th November, what inspired it, both musically and lyrically?

Musically, 50% of the song has been played with that 90s trans keyboard I love, a Yamaha cs1x. It’s got mad drums, crazy arpeggiators, and very emotional sounds. I’ve got quite a rhythmical brain when it comes to writing music, but I also wanted to create something soft and flowy. It’s a great balance. That keyboard probably encapsulated what I was listening to at the time I wrote it. 

Lyrically, there’s no particular influence, I just burst in 5 minutes about all the kinds of love I experienced. The best, the bad, the toxic, the long distance, the passionate etc…

You’ve been an official member of Swim Deep for over three years now and continue to be so, how do you plan on juggling both commitments?

I don’t think it’ll ever be an issue. We’re a very connected group and everybody does their own thing on the side. Swim Deep is obviously a much bigger operation, so I’ll make it work around that!

The band released new single ‘On The Floor’ on the 5th November and have a fresh EP imminent, were they supportive of you releasing your own music at what seems to be a hectic time for Swim Deep?

Yeah definitely! I cannot stress enough how much Swim Deep is the healthiest band environment I’ve ever been in! For us, as long as it's good for the band, then go for it. Hopefully I’m not releasing something terrible!

Have the band, or any other musical friends you’ve picked up along the way in other projects such as Childhood, helped in creating your music and identity as a solo artist?

I feel like people who’ve been following me musically for quite some time will be able to hear a mix of every band I’ve been involved with, in the next songs. It’s been feeding me the same way I’ve been feeding the bands. But also, Kam from Fake Laugh has been taking some press shots, a co-written song with Ben from Childhood is in the pipeline. Swim Deep’s James helped me with my bio, and my bassist used to play in Oscar’s band with me.

After spending so many successful years as a musician in the background of some successful bands, how do you think your life as a solo artist will differ and do you find the pressure to be more extreme now that you’re working for yourself?

I never had to do any of the self-booking / management / PR thing by myself before so it’s definitely a new challenge to me. But extreme isn’t the word. It's a lot of work, but I’d say the whole solo project thing is quite therapeutic.

Can we look forward to more music from Tomi the solo artist after ‘Pure Air’, and if so, what would it sound like?

Yes you can! As I always say, I released a second album with Childhood, a third with Swim Deep. My ambition is to release at least a first one myself, but in the shorter terms as well, a second single and I’ve got an EP ready to go later down the line. Expect My Bloody Valentine meets Blood OrangeJulian Cope meets DMAsJames meets Cocteau Twins. All just very post-indie really!

With no tours on the horizon for Swim Deep, can fans of your debut single expect a solo tour?

I could give you a Swim Deep scoop here, but I won’t! However, I’m working on a Tomi Tomaski series of Franco-British gigs for January/February at the moment. 

James Ogden 

Image: Kamran Khan


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