Ann Arbor’s The Original Bothers and Sisters of Love
folklore-ish presence precedes them. Their CD packaging, show
posters and website drip sepia and old maps, Michigan iconography
and turn-of-the-century photographs. You almost expect exclusively
sea chanties or mountain songs when you finally get to the music.
And while those elements actually do show up on their albums,
TOBASOL is essentially a folk-rock outfit with a Mark Twain and
Johnny Horton complex. Americana couldn’t find a better Midwestern
representative.

Zac Peskowitz
Courtesy of TOBASOL<br>
Like a surgeon. Hey! Cutting for the very first time.

TOBASOL is essentially two bands – your standard rock trio
(drums, electric guitar and bass) and a folk band (accordion,
acoustic guitar and violin). They synthesize these two qualities
seamlessly, shifting from placid to raucous in the same
three-minute pop song. They do so subtly, in the way that only
musicians who’ve played together for a while can manage – that is,
they don’t rely on overwrought hyperbole to get their point across.
Rather, their songs are sophisticated, tasteful and sublime.

TOBASOL count three accomplished singer-songwriters among their
ranks, all of whom bring basic melodies to practice, which are
then, as bassist Scott McClintock puts it, run through the “TOBASOL
filter – six people with distinct, passionate tastes.” For a lot of
bands this approach might lead to either a muddled musical mess or
a pissed off drummer stalking out of practice with the P.A. But,
somehow, it works for TOBASOL, a band whose members talk as
excitedly about other bands as their own. According to McClintock,
they often spend large portions of practice “powwowing over chord
changes.”

But TOBASOL aren’t moody musical snobs perpetually holed up in
dark studios. Their live shows draw a boisterous, drinking crowd
that feed off the band’s energetic stage presence, which at times
includes kick-ass accordion rock moves and six-person
harmonies.

Upon hearing TOBASOL’s music, you may think the Zombies and
Olivia Tremor Control. Listen further and you hear XTC and Camper
Van Beethoven. They’ve been saddled with “pirate rock” and
“Northern pop music.” More than anything else, though, TOBASOL is a
Michigan band that wears that fact on their collective sleeve.
Oddly enough, though, they are hardly known within the state,
despite the fact that they are a national act. Their shows in
Chicago, New York and Austin are usually better attended than their
Ann Arbor shows. In those cities, according to McClintock, their
audiences are enamored with the idyllic Michigan they present in
their music.

It’s not difficult to see from where that romanticizing stems.
TOBASOL presents Michigan as a mythical place where exasperated
factory workers and suburban fathers share a common milieu composed
of Tiger Stadium, Lake Superior cottages and dirt roads in
Brighton. All of TOBASOL, except for New Zealander Liz Auchinvole,
hail from the state and clearly their music springs from the
nostalgia Michigan has instilled in them. In fact, their latest
album, H.O.M.E.S (a Michigan reference itself – think the Great
Lakes), finds them twisting fables and folk tales around music that
often sounds like Michigan. For example, one need only listen to
the lazy, meandering harmonies and muted trumpet solo of
H.O.M.E.S’s “Vintage Schwinn Enthusiast” to remember that Michigan
actually does have tranquil summer evenings. The album is peppered
with these references, both lyrically and musically. “We talk about
what you do in a small town, where you drink, etcetera,” McClintock
says.

As Michigan enters its most spastic season and ambles along
toward summer, TOBASOL’s music just might be the perfect
soundtrack. “Climate and weather in general,” says McClintock, “are
a huge influence on our music.” God only knows what weather
Michigan will bring tonight but TOBASOL will surely capture the
mood.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *