You may not know much about Byron Bay band Tora but the rest of the world does. The four-piece band have just released their debut album Take A Rest but they’ve spent much of their career cutting their teeth overseas and then coming back home to recharge.
A German booker took a punt on the band early on in their career prompting them to go overseas prematurely and build an audience there. The result is they’ve gone into their debut with a smattering of fans all across the world, tuned into a sound that’s distinctly Byron Bay but also tinged with international electronica.
We spoke to Jo Loewenthal and Jai Piccone before they head back overseas about their time in a small town in Germany and the transcendent debut album.
The Interns: It must be nice for you guys to have the hectic touring life and then be able to come back to Byron?
Jo Loewenthal: Yeah, it’s such a good homebase and a good place to process what you just went through. Obviously on the road it can get pretty exhausting and you go through so many ups and downs and then when you get back you just chill out and balance yourself out and get healthy.
Was the album written in Byron or all around the world?
A bit of both. It was about a two year period of writing. Some of the ideas were started overseas while we were touring and then when we came back at the end of 2015 from a six and a half month trip we all needed so time apart from each other. So we spent time in our own homes, working on stuff, relatively separated. Over that period, we had a couple of tours but we were mostly at home working on tunes. And then in September last year we got all of our ideas together and went to Jai’s Mum’s house which on a hill overlooking the ocean and we produced all the songs together.
Did you decide then and there that it was album time?
Yeah. We had the idea that whatever we did next would be an album. Everybody stopped working for a month and we decided we were going to focus on it and make it into an LP. We did four weeks up at Jai’s Mum’s house and then we had a month off and did another two weeks in a studio in Byron. Then we sent the files to Andre Eremin to master and then the album was finished in January.
Did you listen to it much in between then and now?
Well, when I finish a body of work, in my mind it’s finished. Definitely once it was done and we signed it off I decided not to listen to it for a month. You stop hearing the things you don’t like and you come back with fresh ears.
Is there a different emotional attachment you have to have when you’re writing and recording as opposed to producing?
I personally think that you have to detach your creative side and your editorial side. The editor tends to destroy the creator’s ego. So when I’m creating I need to spit it out and then a different frame of mind when you’re editing.
And then is it a different side figuring out how you’re going to translate live?
Definitely. We make stuff on the computer and layer it up on the computer so it’s a bit of a time consuming experience working out who is going to play what. It’s another frame of mind again. There’s like three stages to a song. When we play it live, because there are a lot of electronic elements that we can’t recreate live, there are a lot of adaptations.
The new tracks have a sense of Byron to it but they’re also quite international-sounding and you guys have toured a lot international. Were you conscious of making something you could take worldwide?
It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision. It was quite natural. It was a result of us spending time in Germany and Europe. We didn’t consciously say, hey we wanna make a record that’s received globally. We made the tunes we dug and it fits in different parts of the world.
How did the international touring start because it’s not usual for a young Aussie band to take off globally that early?
We had a German guy reach out in 2014 saying he loved our sound and would love to bring us over. It got us thinking maybe it’s time to start thinking about going overseas. Being an independent band, budget was a big factor so we decided the only way it would be worth it would be to go for an extended period of time and play as many shows as we could in different places. We left in April 2015 and went to the US, Canada and Europe. We ended up going to Mexico and back to Europe and then finished up in America.
Did you have a base?
Yeah, Germany was where we spent most our times. We had an apartment a friend let us stay in. It was in a country town called Michelstadt about an hour from Frankfurt which is really central in terms of where it’s located in Europe. That was really helpful to have a middle base. We would do a week of shows and then go back and chill and do another week of shows. The place we were staying was a really old town. We fully didn’t realise that any of the town excited. We thought it was an Aldi and a highway. We were there for a week so bored. Then we found the old part of the town that was so lush. It grew on us.
Are you glad looking back that you took the plunge and toured internationally?
Yeah 100 per cent. It was such an amazing experience and a lot of personal growth came out of it. We went away as boys and came back as men. By the end of the trip, our Spotify streaming stats were at an all time high and they stayed there for the next year and a half. It was a great way to grow strong fans.
There are two ways a band can go about breaking internationally. You can cut your teeth here and then head overseas or you can build yourself here and internationally simultaneously. The problem with the former is you have to go from playing huge venues here to heaps smaller gigs. But you guys have done a great job at building fanbases all over the world…
Yeah when we got back though it was like whoah, there’s less people at our shows here than overseas. But overall it was such a life-changing experience.
To have that many countries plugged in and listening to your music gives the album so much more of a base…
On the album, why is it called ‘Take A Rest’?
We debated the name of the album for at least three of four months. And then ‘Take A Rest’ was suggested because at the end of the trip we took a rest for like a year while we worked on the album. The other reason is because, from the listener’s perspective, the idea is they can sit down and take a rest and plunge into the sonic space of the album.
The tracks are strong on their own but they feel like they belong in a broader context, within the album.
Yeah and that’s the nature of Tora. We’ve always strived to be quite eclectic but quite broad. We were working on so many songs at once and in order to keep it interesting we had to make it different. There’s something in there for everyone but when they’re together they sound cohesive. It was a struggle though. We had more than 15 songs in the pot so we had to cull it down. Even choosing the order of the album was one of the most challenging things. When we finally settled on the tracklist the songs made sense.
Take A Rest is out now.
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