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Interview: The Tontons talk new album, playing televised New Year's Eve show

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The Tontons are looking to branch out from their local Houston, Texas scene. With a very unique sound, blending soul vocals with rock guitar, the band has been playing huge shows and festivals. The band has had the opportunity to play with such bands as Dawes, Kurt Vile & the Violators, State Radio, The Walkmen, and Diddy.

Most recently, the band played and hour-long set during the Big D New Year’s Eve 2014 broadcast, the most syndicated New Year’s Eve broadcast in the Central Time Zone.

The Tontons are singer Asli Omar, bassist Tom Nguyen, guitarist Adam Martinez, and drummer Justin Martinez.

The band will be releasing their sophomore full-length, ‘Make Out King and Other Stories of Love,’ on February 18. First single, “Veida,” is available on iTunes now. On January 2, the band released the album’s second single, “Magic Hour,” for free on ‘Rolling Stone.’

I had the opportunity to correspond via email with The Tontons to discuss the band’s origins, their sound, the new album, playing with Diddy, and New Year’s Eve 2014.

How did the band start?

The band started around 2007 right before our singer (Asli Omar) was leaving to go to college out of state. Two of us (the guitarist [Adam Martinez] and the bass player [Tom Nguyen]) were already in a band together. The drummer (Justin Martinez) and the guitarist are brothers and the singer's high school band had just fallen apart. Everything just kind of fell together at the right time.

What do you think makes your sound so unique?

I think it’s mainly the fact that we have no idea what we are striving for as a sound. We never set out to sound one way or another. Leaving it so up in the air allows us to create whatever song we want without feeling creatively stifled.

What do people need to know about you guys as a band?

We're really hard working and a lot of fun!

You will be releasing a full-length album in February. Could you tell me a little about the album?

The album is called ‘Make Out King and Other Stories of Love’. It was recorded in Austin (TX) at Church House Studios. Dave Boyle (Black Joe Lewis, Okkervill River, Iron & Wine) produced and mixed it. Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys) mastered it. It's our second full length album and the first one we wrote all together in the same city. And we're really proud of it.

What was the songwriting/recording process like for the album?

We recorded the album during the summer in between tours and in Austin. We actually lived in the studio for about two months while recording the album which was a very unique experience. We wrote most of the songs while on the road and the time in between tours. It’s definitely our most cohesive album and writing while on the road gave us a much more unique perspective.

It says in a press release that you’ve gotten to share the stage with many top artists, including Diddy. How did that opportunity come about?

The Diddy show was an opportunity that happened through SXSW. We got to play with Diddy, Warren G and a few others. It was definitely an interesting experience to say the least. SXSW 2013 was kinda nuts all together.

You just played a huge, televised New Year’s Eve show. What was that like?

It was amazing! The whole experience was completely unique. Being in a band means a lot of ups and downs. One second you’re playing for 4 people and the next for 45,000. It can be breathtaking at times. New Year’s Eve was definitely one of those times.

Do you have any goals/resolutions for 2014 as a band?

Just to keep doing what we're doing. We are headed to Europe for the first time in April, so that's exciting. Keep touring, keep writing, keep playing. Release this album and hope that people get as much out of it as we got making it.

‘Make Out King and Other Stories of Love’ will be out on February 18. “Veida” is available on iTunes now. “Magic Hour” can be downloaded for free on ‘Rolling Stone.’ Check out the video for “Veida” above, or on the band’s YouTube page. For more information about The Tontons, visit their website.

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