TOMGIRL Talks Creation, Music And Films

(All Photos by Cherlynn Lian)

When TOMGIRL first announced their debut music video earlier in the year, we knew right away that we wanted them on the first print issue of SAND. The night after their successful debut show at Esplanade, which showcased the rock and roll side of Cherie Ko and where Ted Takeshi Doré was finally introduced to the audience, we met the team behind the dark noir pop duo at a down to earth restaurant for a chat.

That was also when Lennat Mak, the manager of the band, introduced us to Cherie, Ted and Keyan (who manages Conkrete Music with Ted in Australia). It should also come as no surprise that the new record label, Deer Island Records, was started by Cherie herself and houses TOMGIRL as the latest and only name on its line up as of now. 

Darker Now portrayed a rebellious, devil-may-care duo and one would expect a conversation with TOMGIRL to be intense. As it turns out, Cherie, Ted and their managers were not only welcoming but extremely open to sharing their story. The conversation, from starting a record label to push their own music, to creation, offered a fresh perspective on their do-it-yourself attitude and how they pieced everything together to form a balanced but at the same time, visually perfect brand. 

By the end of almost an hour, we learnt how the team managed to put the show together, the process of writing music while being away from each other (Cherie is based in Singapore while Ted is based in Melbourne), the significance of TOMGIRL for each of them and finally, how cult films are a major part of building their persona as a duo. 

Despite being a new brand, TOMGIRL is certainly not new to marketing their craft and navigating their way through the industry. Towards the end of the chat, the duo offered their perspectives on building perceptions, how emerging musicians may approach their situation and let us in on an open secret when it comes to writing music.

Of course, 2016 has been a fantastic year from TOMGIRL. The duo has progressed significantly since we last spoke in September. Their self-titled debut album recently scored Apple Music Best of 2016 (Singapore) and they are working to release their second single from the album in January. We also hear that a secret show is in the works. What can we say, our generation certainly needed a band like TOMGIRL—one that seamlessly fuses contemporary, cult and classic energies—and fortunately for us, it looks like they are here to stay.

What spoke to you while deciding on the identity of TOMGIRL?
For me it would be a place from the past. My first point of reference as an artist would be 50s to early 60s America, rockabilly bands, diners, reaching for the leather jacket, that sort of element. It was a good balance with Cherie’s influences because at the same time, we did not want it to be a strictly throwback or 50s revival album.

[Cherie] I especially love the Yé-yé girls of 60s French pop. I’m not as much of a classic rock music listener like Ted. Before I met him, I was mostly into modern stuff like dream pop. You would probably know from projects like Pastelpower (now defunct) and Obedient Wives Club.

Mixing the authenticity of older sounds with contemporary style was fun. Some people see it as rehashing the past but I feel that we were also creating a future by adding those modern elements to Ted’s rock and roll style.

Do you agree [the debut show] was an experience that could only come through with the creative power from various art forms? 
[Ted] For me as a graphic illustrator, the first point of reference would be that. Wild and reckless expressions do it for me. For a start, we wanted to put all those emotions across and if we had to go to great lengths to achieve that, so be it. We agreed that we could work on production later. In that sense, we placed a huge focus on the outburst of feelings.

Cherie was the first person I’ve collaborated with who had an immense visual perspective. Look, what are the chances of finding someone who shares the same creation style and beliefs? It was like meeting a soulmate.

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