Tom Krell, or How to Dress Well on stage and record, makes the kind of r’n’b-influenced tunes that’d get music critics to immediately label it something else other than just r’n’b. In fact, enough of them did it that Red Bull’s H∆SHTAG$ series covered it as one of the theoretically nonexistent internet genres out there. But Tom himself has stated in interviews that he’s not just ‘r’n’b’ (or alt-r’n’b, whatever that is). Emotionally-draining sophomore Total Loss is as outré as the genre gets, and Tom sees himself as an experimental musician more than anything else. Before his performance on Friday 1 March (tomorrow) at The Bee for the Upfront gig series, JUICE spoke to him on making music happy vis-à-vis depressed, the perennial topic of genre-labelling, and how one dresses well.
Hi Tom, what are you currently up to now? Busy with the next album?
Definitely writing new material, but currently on tour in Australia and headed to Asia soon.
We’re sure you’ve been asked this multiple times, but how did you come up with your stage name?
It was the name of a book my friend just purchased from a vintage bookstore titled How To Photograph Women Beautifully. I was putting demos into my iTunes when it requested an artist name. I just picked one.
With Love Remains, you had anonymity. Come Total Loss, that quality is lost. Is there a change in the process of creating your art with the loss of anonymity?
It’s definitely a more open album, both of which are indicative of those phases of my life. The change is present in the melodies and the production. Still serious, but less scarred.
Your sophomore was cathartic in a way. Do you fear that being happy might affect your work? They say it’s harder to write a happy tune than a sad one…
The most natural steps are always the best. My music is a natural expression of my emotions and that’s all I’ll ever make. So, no I don’t fear the effect of being happy. I’ll embrace it.
Also, you’ve said in an interview that with misery, sometimes you get pleasure out of it. If melancholy is self-perpetuating, wouldn’t there be a drop in honesty then?
No, I don’t think so. There’s a much deeper sentiment and experience there if you think about it further.
We read that Total Loss could have ended up being a darker album called Wound Sentiment, how would that turn out had it been released?
There were some much darker tracks I worked on for the album, but in the midst of putting the album together, and the cathartic experience it was, I scrapped some of those. It would just sound darker, I suppose.
‘Ethereal’ seems to be a favourite word when describing your sound. How would that translate come your next release, which we read is going to be more acoustic?
At the moment, I’m thinking more acoustic but things might change. Not sure how ethereal could be used to describe it. I’d have to finish the album to give a more accurate answer.
While you are associated with the r’n’b label, in some interviews you seem to desire to distance yourself from that. Is there a stigma to being pigeonholed as just one sort of artiste?
Not really… I mean, I will just make the music I make and pour my heart into it and that’s that, you know? So the genre labels and the fads come and go, but the music stays strong….
We saw Red Bull’s H∆SHTAG$ and found it interesting that critics and fans who formerly didn’t listen to the genre attempted to give the r’n’b that they do like a different name…
R’n’b has always been given attention. In some circles it’s the predominant genre, in others it’s not a part of their listening canon. And then you have trends where certain genres rise in certain circles. Look, I’m just inspired by the soulfulness of r’n’b. I think it deserves every bit of critical respect but to each his or her own.
You have an active presence on social media. Do you think that that quality has affected the myth of the artiste in some way? They are all so accessible.
My persona on social media is quite different from my actual personality. They’re just outlets for certain parts of me that I want to express in my day to day life.
This so called alternative r’n’b phase, does it ever feel like nu soul all over again?
Categorisation can take away from the listening experience.
What would have happened had you not downloaded that music software 12 years ago?
I hope that I would have found some other way of recording music because really do love it. Can’t imagine my life without this form of therapy.
Admittedly, we don’t know what to expect from a How to Dress Well gig. Give us something to work around.
I’m on vocals and Aaron plays violin and synths. Nicky is doing live visuals. It’s a very intimate experience.
Last question Tom, how does one dress well?
They dress in a way that makes them comfortable, physically and emotionally.
How to Dress Well is set to perform at The Bee, Publika on Friday 1 March ’13. More on How to Dress Well at howtodresswell.com.
Find out what’s next for The Bee’s Upfront at www.facebook.com/TheBeeMY.