What Kind Of Creature Am I?That’s the question posed by Melbourne’s Toehider on their brand new LP. The title of the group’s second album alludes to numerous topics of intrigue, including human biology and our relationship to other living beings, as well as individual choices and subcultural allegiances. However, for the band, the inquiry pertains to stylistic identity.
“I guess it’s something of an analogy of ‘What kind of band is this?’,” says guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Mike Mills. “What I’ve done over the last couple of years is to try to keep the music quite diverse, ranging from songs that are quite heavy to more commercial-sounding things or acoustic-type songs. Often I’m asked what I’m doing and why aren’t I going for a more streamlined sound. I suppose the album is exploring that theme a little bit.”
Toehider’s music can loosely be classed as progressive rock. Of course, that’s a rather ambiguous term, but the new record features plenty of flashy instrumentation and non-linear song structures. While there’s no doubting the group’s technical ability, the record also reveals Mills’ love for contagious vocal melodies.
“It’s less of the heavy guitars and more concentrating on little pop melodies,” he says. “And there’s a lot of acoustic songs towards the end of it. [Lead single] ‘Whatever Makes You Feel Superior’ is a good example of all those elements combined.”
Rather than taking it too far in either direction, Mills was conscious of maintaining a stable balance between intellectual dexterity and his noted melodic persuasion. Even so, he doesn’t strictly regulate the songwriting process.
“I just tend to let the song evolve and take its own path,” he explains. “Usually songs start with a melody or a song title and they just evolve from there. I’m certainly not purposely trying to make things sound tricky and I’m not trying to make them sound too simple either.”
The logistics of the record’s releaseindicate that Mills’ songwriting method has already managed to lure in a legion of Toehider adherents. The stresses associated with independently financing a record were greatly assuaged by a profitable crowdfunding campaign. Seeing this level of generosity is obviously reassuring for one’s self-esteem, but Mills says it also set the bar high for a quality release.
“There was a bit of nerves because people had taken the time and their hard-earned cash to buy the album before they’d even heard any of it. That’s a great honour but it’s also a little bit nerve-wracking.”
One of the incentives offered for donating money was a pre-release download of the record. Thankfully, initial feedback suggests all the care and patience Toehider put into the LP was worth it.
“I’ve spent the last two years working on the record and it feels really good to have it out finally,” Mills says. “The response has been really good, so it takes the pressure off a little bit.”
And while there are still naysayers who deem crowdfunding an overly cocksure or beseeching move, generally the process seems like a promising way to sustain artistic exploration.
“I think it’s a really cool and fun way to engage with the people who get behind your band and your artistry,” says Mills. “It re-links the artist to the supporter. There’s no people getting in the way trying to make a buck out of it. It’s the way it should be and it’s probably the way it always should have been, when you think about it.”