Thu, Oct 18, 2012.
It's been a long time since we've heard from Tom Fun Orchestra, at least on a new recording. It's been four years since the group's debut disc, You Will Land With A Thud, but in that time, there's been a ton of touring. That alone hampers the recording opportunities, but the big band has also had to deal with another situation, a revolving cast. It's made it tough to get something new together.
"It was a combination of things," confirms leader and songwriter Ian MacDougall. "We did some pretty extensive touring, in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, across Canada several times. At the same time, we had extensive lineup changes, There's so many of us, and time spent when we could have been working on new material was actually spent teaching the old material to the new members."
The group is now solidified at seven members, but at least twelve others have passed through the ranks over the band's existance. The main reason for this is the rotating horn players. While other groups hire horns to record and tour, and don't make them official members, the Tom Fun Orchestra is different in that its based around the concept of always having horns, not just adding them to certain songs. "It's who and what we are," explains MacDougall. "I don't think we'd be the same band without them being a full part. Also, our trumpet player is our manager/mechanic, so he's VERY important."
MacDougall is really pumped about the new album, now that it's finally here, about to be released in November. Earthworm Heart picks up on the energetic live sound the group is known for, and blasts off into new territories for the band. MacDougall says fans will notice some differences, especially in the quality of the arrangements, where the horns are such an integral part of the arrangements. "The first album, it was kind of slapped together in that the horns would just be added to the breaks, when the words stopped, you know? This time, they were written with the horns in mind right from the start."
There's a blast of the disc out right now, the first single, Animal Heart. It's possibly the most driving, punk-like tune the group has done. "We've bottled little tornadoes and turned them into songs," says MacDougall, when asked to describe the new album. "It's a different experience than last time around. People won't be overly surprised, but they'll be mildly confused. We've got one or two that are much more mellow than anything before, but there's one or two that are faster."
And of course, the group is back on the road. New Brunswick is the lucky first stop on the new, country-wide tour, starting tonight (Thursday, Oct. 18) in Fredericton. MacDougall says they're ready to get at it again. "It's daunting. I always look forward to going on tour, and this is a long one. A lot of 12-hour drives. I always find myself thinking, what am I doing? But then once I'm out there I love it."
Tom Fun Orchestra play Fredericton tonight at The Capital, Sackville on Friday the 19th at The Roadhouse, and Saint John on Satuday, October 20th at Pepper's.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).