It takes some brass to make any sort of cold call. And it definitely takes some brass to start a band, make the music that rattles in your head for years and present it to complete strangers as you go on tour outside of your hometown.
The intersection between the two happens more than you might think. Sometimes, though, the art behind the call warrants special attention.
Here’s one story of such an intersection.
Tinmouth, a noise-pop trio from Philadelphia, mailed a package directly to the Triad City Beat offices. Their troubles included $4.13 in postage paid, a quartet of stamps bearing an identical illustration of some unidentified, periwinkle-colored butterfly with red eyespots on the bottom of its wings, “Fragile” scrawled twice in blue permanent marker on the white stickers bearing the addresses, underlined both times.
On opening the black shipping envelope, out dropped two items.
First, a letter from Timothy Tebordo, Tinmouth guitarist.
“Dear TCB,” it read in all caps. “It seems like y’all are the people to know for music in the NC Triad.”
A little flattery goes a long way.
“Philly noise-pop trio is hitting yr area on our December tour and we’d love if you’d consider giving us a shout.”
Secondly, a handcrafted CD case made from a sheet of college-ruled paper — the kind you’d hastily fold during lunch in high school to contain those mixes you’d compile for not-so-secret crushes — containing their two-track single, A Letter from Home.
Now, this unsolicited sursie could have gone a few different ways. The music could have been horrid. It could have been okay, but unworthy of mention, due either to derivative mediocrity or being just too damn weird — “noise pop” could have meant anything from the Jesus and Mary Chain to, say, the clamor of hammers thrown at a concrete floor covered by crash cymbals while a chorus sing doo-wop syllables. Or, maybe on an outside chance, it could be great.
Thankfully, it was the latter.
The first track, “A Letter,” opens with a splatting three-beat thud from drummer Alyssa Shea before Tebordo’s throaty guitar and Aaron Sternick’s chunky bass punctuate the downbeat.
“We’ll treat it like a picture/ A work of art you love/ Interpret it like scripture/ Like it comes from above,” Tebordo pleasantly twists, like REM’s Michael Stipe reaching for notes at the summit of his own range.
The chorus splashes in with twinkling sleighbells, Shea syncopating jazzily against a steady ride cymbal, Tebordo’s atmospheric chords diced up with meaty tremolo and Sternick harmonizing both vocally and with a meandering bass line.
Back into the verse, the band toys with the sonic structure in a breakdown, Sternick fuzzing out his bass and playing legato, Shea smacking at the skins more randomly and Tebordo approaching the vocal melody with a similar stutter and in a lower register, his guitar now accenting the backbeat.
The bridge finds foundation in both structures of the second verse and chorus, but ventures out on a syncopated, crashing coda all its own.
“From Home” nods more towards an experimental bent than its companion track. A velvety riff, doubled on bass, flits with a hint of a trippy reversed effect before Tebordo lets crunchy Neil Young-esque minor chords ring out and Sternick’s bass fills in harmonic cracks, the reverb on Tebordo’s vocals only adding to the spaced-out feel. Shea’s 16th note tom taps keep the mid-tempo track grounded rhythmically at first while she brushes the snare here and there for variety before she complicates the beat towards Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” territory.
Then, after quietly and steadily asking the chorus question: “What did you want when you came back home?” the track throws a temper tantrum.
“All I wanted was somebody to talk to/ All I wanted was somebody to hold,” Tebordo and Sternick sing in tandem, maintaining beautiful harmonies despite the punkish thrash.
The outburst devolves into a Pavement-like freakout before Sternick plucks out a slow line introducing a sludgy, droning bridge soaked in cymbal crashes and overdriven arpeggios.
Yet, even though the band explores the composition’s newfound direction, Tebordo comes back to that old question asked in the chorus before delivering a crushing coup-de-grace of a final, distorted chord.
The question remained unanswered, because the single could only leave you saying, “Wow.”
Tinmouth deserves their shout if only for taking a longshot at what little publicity we could afford them, but also due to the quality of their work.
And while their local tour stop took place at Test Pattern in Winston-Salem last week, hopefully Tinmouth will return to the Triad soon. We’d be happy to hear from them.
Listen to A Letter from Home and the rest of Tinmouth’s discography on their Bandcamp.