If you live in the Surrey/Hants border area it is impossible to avoid @tomika and increasingly they're becoming more popular elsewhere, due to a well recieved debut single and extensive gigging. This interview took place outside the Student's Union at Surrey University, which is about twenty minutes walk from my house (living in Guildford, it is a luxury to be able to walk to a gig!). All the band were present, even though Steve and Jud didn't say very much...
Who are you, and what instruments do you play?
CHRIS: My name's Chris and I play bass.
GARETH: I'm Gareth and I play guitar and shout a lot.
STEVE: I'm Steve and I play guitar.
JUD: I'm Jud and I play the drums.
I've read loads of reviews of you, and each of them seems to describe your sound differently. How would you describe it?
CHRIS: That's the hardest question you can actually ask us. What we've said recently to quite a few fanzines is we don't actually aim at a particular sound, we write songs and whatever they come out like is the style we are. We don't aim at a particular style, so whatever people say they're probably right and probably wrong as well. We're just us...whatever sound comes out.
GARETH: We play '@tomika'.
What does the name mean?
CHRIS: We wanted a name that was a made up word because we thought that was quite cool. *laughs* And we liked 'Atomic', but we thought no, we'll get labelled as some kind of Blondie tribute band, so then we were working with 'ur'. *laughs* We liked 'Atomic', so we thought we might as well put 'ur' on the end. And then we put in the @ sign to be really clever!
You had a single out earlier this year (Dead Flowers), what's the feedback been like from it?
CHRIS: Bad production, drums are too loud, but...
GARETH: On the whole people liked it really, more good than bad.
CHRIS: Don't listen to the first two things I said there! *laughs*
The fanzine reviews have been good, but what did you make of the NME review?
GARETH: It was a load of arse wasn't it? It didn't really talk about the music.
CHRIS: It was ballbag! It didn't mention the music at all, he just went off on one about the apocolypse.
GARETH: And apparently Steven Wells is renouned for being a wanker anyway, so it didn't really bother us that much. It was like, yeah, tell us about the music please...
How's the single sold?
CHRIS: We've got thirty left out of fifteen hundred, so it's not bad, although I couldn't tell you how many we've sold and how many we've given away.
Did you get any radio play?
CHRIS: It narrowly missed the Xfm playlist apparently. Hopefully the next single we're doing will stand a better chance because we know 'what to do' a little bit more.
GARETH: It made all sorts of soundtracks really. It made 'Sponge Nation' which is a body-boarding video, stuff like that. Apparently, Rebel TV and Sky Sports were using it for extreme sports, although I've never seen it.
CHRIS: And we got a call from Channel 5 today...so it'll be on Channel 5 as well.
You went on tour earlier this year. What were the best and worst dates?
CHRIS: That'll vary between individual band members, but there was probably a definite worse wasn't there?
STEVE: The Alleycat in Reading...no-one was there, it smelt of piss and it was just crap.
CHRIS: It's the best little up and coming venue you'll play as the sound's so proffesional.The sound guys and the sound system are just fantastic.
GARETH: It's just nobody ever goes. No-one ever seems to go to the Alleycat full stop, which is a shame as it's a good little venue.
CHRIS: Hastings was good, but not because of the set we played! As soon as we got offstage we got annihilated and tried to chat up loads of young women.
GARETH: Hull was wicked. To go that far north, and for people to really love it, and buying singles and that was cool, people really appreciating what you're doing.
What's the Aldershot area like for a new band?
CHRIS: The West End Centre is a wicked venue...it's our homeground as we call it.
STEVE: People go there. Every time we play it's packed.
CHRIS: There's people stage-diving there these days.
GARETH: Yeah, moshing, good stuff, good skills...
There are yelps of surprise and pain in the background
CHRIS: (whispering) Someone's just fallen over, we're suddenly distracted. She's smacked herself so hard on the pavement!
What do you think of music at the moment?
CHRIS: Music at the moment? I don't know what's going on with the current music scene, I just like what I like.
GARETH: A couple of years ago there was seemingly loads of really fake music, and although there's still a lot now, more diverse stuff is coming through, which is a good thing.
CHRIS: I've seen a new band around called Dark Star, who are not your run-of-the-mill band, and they're pretty good.
What label would you like to sign to most?
CHRIS: We like the sound of V2, but only because we like the Stereophonics so much. Anyone who's going to pay us a shitload of money and get us famous really!
GARETH: Yeah, I don't believe in keeping it indie or whatever, because basically if you do that you're not going to get much money or necessarily get good production on your records. The whole 'sell out' thing doesn't appeal to me at all, I don't care if people say we've sold out.
How did you get your single out on Mother Stoat- isn't that usually a punk label?
CHRIS: It's just because we know the owner of it, and he offered it to us.
GARETH: It was still all totally financed by us.
CHRIS: We didn't really use Mother Stoat for the label, we really used it for their distribution company, which is Shellshock, which is the biggest in this country.
Have you got a favourite fanzine?
CHRIS: There are some really profesionally done ones and there are some which are just a couple of pieces of paper stapled together. I wouldn't say any were better than the other, it's the consistency that I think makes a good fanzine. The first issue could be blinding and filled with everything, and then maybe the person who's in it can't be arsed any more, but you get some people who maintain a consistent level, and they're the ones who stand out.
GARETH: We're getting one written especially for us by Sarah who lives in Southampton, and that will be our favourite whn it's out. *laughs*
JUD: The Last Resort is a fantastic fanzine, it's almost like a magazine.
I read somewhere that you've got a new single out in the summer. When's it out and what's it going to be?
GARETH: It's going to be out on August 16th. As to what's on it is anyone's guess! We know two tracks that are probably going to be on it, 'Wiser' and 'Uncomfortable Enough', and the third track we're unsure of as yet.
What do you reckon's the best song you've written?
CHRIS: I don't think we've written it yet. From the current set, technically a song called 'Wiser', but as to a song that people like and go on about all the time, there are a couple: one called 'Dead Man Walking', which everyone seems to like even though it's not hard at all to play, and, obviously, 'Dead Flowers'. Whenever we play that and the audience aren't particularly great, we start 'Dead Flowers' and they will all go aw, yeah we know this one!
What have you got planned for the future?
GARETH: We're going on tour to support that single in August.
CHRIS: We're palying the Guildford festival in July, next to the beer tent, 4 o'clock, Saturday.
GARETH: Being next to the beer tent is the most important factor there!
CHRIS: I've got no idea after the tour. We've been told by people we've met in London to keep releasing singles off your own back, support and play them all over the country until you hate everything you play, which we've been trying to do, and then hopefully one day somebody's going to be in the right place. And then, obviously, world domination!
The interview finished at about half past eight and @tomika weren't onstage until half past eleven! So what did I do for three hours? Well, I had a couple of drinks with the band in the Chancellors bar, and then we headed up to the Student's Union, where the gig was taking place. I sold a few fanzines which was cool, and met some nice people too. The support bands were okay. Trayscrape played a sort of rap-metal, padded out with a few chilled, more laid-back tracks. Quite promising for practically their first gig. Wiz's new band Serpico were also on the bill, and their light punk was catchy enough, but didn't really grab me.
Thanks to Pete Cole, the band's manager, the gig at the University was the second time I had seen @tomika within the space of six days! That was fine though, because the band rocked both times! @tomika have really improved since the last time I saw them earlier this year- all those dates in January and February have seen them grow into a much more confident and able band. The tracks from their debut single went down best with a good humoured crowd, particularly 'Dead Flowers', with it's now legendary guitar riff. The band's new set sees @tomika progressing too; 'Wiser', with it's strong melody and crunching rhythms was the most memorable and 'Dead Man Walking' adds a definite pop element to their usual gritty rock sound. Overall, it was a performance that saw @tomika as a cohesive, tuneful and exciting unit.
Issue 4 Contents
Issue 4 Summer '99 © Tim Bragger