For those who are familiar with the local music scene in Las Vegas, you have probably already heard of Tin Toy Cars. For the rest of us, let me introduce you to the next big thing in folk/blue grass music. If you are the type of person who likes to claim you knew about a band before they blew up, then you better hurry up and get acquainted with Tin Toy Cars. This band is going to be huge. Before the album was even released, their album, Falling, Rust, and Bones, has been breaking records and garnering fantastic acclaim. Tin Toy Cars brought together some of the most talented musicians in the business to create a unique and insanely catchy record that will satisfy music lovers both lyrically and compositionally.
I was able to sit down with the creator, lead singer, and mandolin player for Tin Toy Cars, Peter Fand, and he is such a fascinating and cool guy! He loves music so much that you could get lost talking with him about the subject for days. Don’t worry, though, I was able to contain the musical nerd within me and kept the questions to the ones you need to know.
Peter Fand is currently starring in the hit Las Vegas Cirque Du Soleil show, “Zarkana”, but between performing and promoting his new album, I was able to catch up with Peter on the day of his albums release.
After learning a little more about you and your background, you are truly the embodiment of your song “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead”.
(laughs) Ya, I’m trying! I’m trying hard to do it all.
Well you have done enough for about three lifetimes, so you are doing good. Are you still working with “Zarkana” or Cirque Du Soliel?
I am with “Zarkana” now, but that show is actually going to close at the end of April. I have been with it for about five and a half years. So that was a pretty big change but it is coming at a very interesting time with this record launching right when it is. So, it actually opens up the opportunity for me to start focusing on this project in a different type of way to do some touring and support the record as much as we can. Hopefully that will pave the way for some new avenues.
For another lifetime to start, that’s awesome.
So what is it that drove you to start Tin Toy Cars when you did?
Well, I had been talking with the drummer of the band, his name is Aaron Guidry. He and I had kind of wanted to collaborate on some creative music for a while. He is the percussionist in “Zarkana”. So in that context we work together all the time, but it’s not really a highly creative musical experience for us. I mean it is on a certain level, but it’s not original creative music every day. And he is a wonderful musician and a great friend. We had wanted to collaborate on new music together in a different context, and one day as a lark, we were having a drink at this local Las Vegas place. We decided to just book a gig, just for fun. And we did! We put together an ensemble and the band was so great and the combination of players was so fantastic that we just decided to push it forward. It was kind of the inspiration for this project.
Can you tell me about the writing process? You have a lot of individually talented musicians in the band, was the writing process and group effort or was it more of a solo process?
Well, I am really the writer, composer, songwriter in this project. I am always writing and crafting new lyrical adventures and working on music for myself. Once this group started playing together, it started really quick. I had this inspiration to write. It’s a very particular bunch of people so I started to write this music specifically to set on these players. The idea of trying to use something reminiscent of a blue grass ensemble, like on an instrumentation level, is really cool and it was kind of this organic, acoustic thing that had its own internal hybrid because you had the drums and the more electric elements to it. It became this other creature.
For me compositionally it was… it happened pretty naturally and quickly with this group. I just started writing. About a year ago I signed an artist deal with Weber mandolin. Bruce Weber is one of the great luthiers of our time and one of the great mandolin builders in the world right now, and they signed me on as an artist, a Weber artist. I got from them an octave mandolin that was kind of a profound source of wellspring inspiration when it arrived. It seemed to me to have come packaged with new ideas and sounds. I opened up this case and I took the spectacular beautiful instrument out of it. Within the first couple of weeks I had cranked out three of the songs that are on this album that all really feature this instrument. One is the song “Desert Dogs”, and then “Time To Get Away”, and “Rapture and Hell”. They all feature the octave mandolin, and they all really came one after the next. But they are fairly complex songs. “Rapture and Hell” is probably the most complex song on the record. It has all these intricate, interwoven melodies between mandolin and octave mandolin and violin, and so forth. It plays on odd time signature throughout. Yet I think it feels like a cohesive song, but it has lots of internal complexities in the song.
You are absolutely right, I love that song, “Rapture and Hell”. There is a line in there that stuck with me, “You are never really happy until you make the choice”. That would make a good poster.
Ya there were a lot of little gems in that songs.
I was listening to this album last night and this is very non-traditional bluegrass music. You can tell it has a blue grass feel because of the instrumentation, but it is very much world blue grass music because of all the complexity in the music. It’s fantastic.
It has a lot of different things going on. I think really that is the signature of a bunch of different people, a lot of accomplished people bringing their lives to the music. When you are musicians, at a certain level, people play their instruments just like they are as people. You can recognize someone’s personality in their playing. Like if you hear someone, I don’t know, as an example, if someone is very arrogant, they may play their instrument very loud and really busy all the time. In this situation there are five guys who have a lifetime of really widely varying experiences of bringing their personality to this music, and in a way that really is evident. You can read it right in their music. But ya, there is a lot of interesting stuff happening, and even compositionally. I like blue grass and it is one of many sources of inspiration, but there are a lot of other things that play there. Just like my career jumping back and for the between here and Africa and learning all these really decidedly African sensibilities and styles.
You and whole band have a long career in music, is there anything that surprised you about the album making experience?
Well, the process was pretty linear. I wrote a lot of this music and a lot for the guys to play, I even wrote out notations, really specific details. Once we got in and started going through the rehearsals process, it was really infused with life. The key was playing it, just playing it before we sat down to record. Although a lot of the compositional elements really crystallized in the recording process. You have an idea of what something is going to sound like or what your intention is, but once you actually get in there and you start putting parts down and recording things you say, you know I think that is conflict with this changes whatever. It grew and changed and morphed until it had a very distinct voice.
Well your album is doing very well, I saw it broke an AMA chart record! You were number 168 for your first week which is the highest ever for a new artist.
Even breaking into the top 200 is a pretty big accomplishment, but for the first week it was, like our radio promoter who has been doing this for decades, he is the very experienced guy who’s constantly working albums year after year after year, said this was the best performance he has ever seen and in the first week that this is a pretty remarkable way to start. Which is awesome to take this music we all care about and put a lot of time and effort into and put it out into the world. And we didn’t know what was going to happen. Once you put it out it is no longer yours, it belongs to everyone else and everyone has their own opinion.
It’s really, really great to get such a positive response so quickly, and we got some really great press, and hopefully the radios support us enough to be able to get out there.
We even had an interview on NPR and played a couple of songs. It was really nice.
So what does all this success mean for you next? I know you are going to be very busy promoting the album and you are looking at touring, have you started setting dates, have you signed up for any festivals?
This is really the beginning for us, so we really have just begun that process. Part of it is seeing where the record is getting the most traction because we want to get to those places where people are liking it. We are also in the process of trying to figure out who is going to help us do that. We are trying to connect with booking agencies to see where we can get the most support. So we will see, hopefully within the next few weeks things will become more clear and we will start getting some things on the calendar, but everything that we book will be very publicized on our website.
In addition to your website do you have any other ways for fans to follow you? Any social media the fans can look you up?
The Facebook page is a really strong one, we are constantly putting updates there. We do have a sound cloud and sonic bids. Sonic bids is really more like an electronic press kit, but the main social media things are website, Facebook and by the end of the next week or so we are going to get our Instagram working. But for the best information dissemination, the website is the best way to go.
Tin Toy Cars album, Falling, Rust & Bones, is out now. Check out their website and Facebook to stay current on news and details on shows.