Words by David C. Obenour
Tosser aren’t the sort of group that puts a lot of thought into writing a band bio or album press release. Without asking the right questions, there’s probably a dismissive or vastly oversimplified answer to describe the whats and hows behind their raw take on angular guitar rock. But one listen to debut album, Total Restraint is all it takes to tear down the modest facade of simplicity.
Influenced by the heavy and aggressive guitar sounds of the last handful of decades, the music hits immediately – with just enough touching points to sound familiar, but enough originality and attitude to set it apart.
Off Shelf: I’m opening up all interviews with this these days, but how are you holding up amidst all of this?
Eric Zidar: I’ve been holding up pretty well all things considered. Some of us lost our jobs so we’ve been working on finding different sources of income while trying to stay home and social distance. It’s been tough, but we are figuring it out. The whole thing feels very surreal.
OS: How did you all connect with Dischord for Total Restraint?
EZ: I met Aaron from Dischord in 2019 at a show we played with his band TK Echo. While they’re not so much an “active” label anymore they do distribution for bands online through their website. He liked the record so they’ve been distributing our cassettes for us. Growing up right outside DC we’ve always been huge fans of everything Dischord, so it’s cool to be connected in some capacity.
OS: We just spoke to Light Beams, Justin Moyer’s latest band, who also had their debut come out as a cassette on Dischord. Do you know if cassette releases of more indie releases is a thing they’re doing intentionally?
EZ: Nice! They are an amazing band. I think their goal these days is to continue supporting bands they like, especially local DC artists whether its newer bands like us or folks like Justin who have been putting out music with Dischord for years. They do a shit ton of vinyl and also some cassettes but I think the tapes are more of a fad in DIY music in general because they are so cheap to make, and are fun to listen to and collect. We made the tapes ourselves and they’ve been kind enough to sell them for us which I believe is the case with the majority of newer stuff that they have available. If you go to their site, there is endless great music to dive into.
OS: As your full length debut, what sort of sound or spirit did you hope to capture on Total Restraint?
EZ: Going into the recording process I think we just wanted to create guitar music that sounds unique. We definitely wanted the record to sound like we sound live so we tried to keep it pretty raw and not get too carried away with layering in the studio. We’d been listening to a lot of heavy music throughout the writing process so we definitely wanted it to be abrasive and punchy but in our own language so to speak.
OS: How do you think it differs from what you did on your earlier EPs?
EZ: I think that the last EPs were more in the realm of pop music which we wanted to stray away from on Total Restraint. All the older songs are fairly simple, and I feel like we put a little more thought into each track and constantly tried to improve them throughout the writing process. We made an effort to warp the harmonies and song structures a little more so that we wouldn’t feel bored. Also, the first two EPs I wrote pretty much on my own whereas the new album was very much a group effort. Now that we are an actual “band” we write everything together, and everyone brought something unique to the table.
OS: Total Restraint is just an incredible album that I feel like shows me a difference influence on each listen. Can you talk a little about what was inspiring you during writing it?
EZ: Thank you! I’d say we were mainly inspired by a lot of the bands we saw at shows that would rock the fuck out and make you want to go home and write riffs. Some that immediately come to mind are Spirit of Beehive, Deerhoof, and BIB. Also a lot of the 90’s guitar bands like HUM and Unwound were big. A lot of the times we would get stuck writing something and say to ourselves, what would HUM do?
OS: “Bent Out” has this cool kinda bouncy weird guitar sound going on in it. Can you talk about that?
EZ: That whole song is pretty much just one big arpeggio. We experimented with a lot of different guitar tones and we use this awesome Ibanez delay pedal a lot which is probably that bounciness that you’re hearing. It’s one of our favorite pedals, Victor and I both use one.
OS: “Fever Dream” also kind of ventures on shoe gaze sounds, is that something you all see as an influence?
EZ: For sure. We love feedback and noise and incorporating those textures into our music as much as we can. We like to play around with tunnings a fair bit as well.
OS: Are there any other sounds or tricks that stuck out to you from the songs or how you recorded the album?
EZ: One of my favorites is this little guitar solo towards the end of the song ‘What’s Awake’. When we were recording guitar tracks, we would mess around and record like 15 minutes of guitar feedback after a lot of the takes. We ended up pulling out this little snippet that ended up being the solo you hear at the end of the bridge. It sounds intentional when you hear it, but its literally just random noise that happened to line up perfectly, which is kind of cool.
OS: You come from a pretty DIY tradition and I saw you just had to cancel your tour for the spring. Are those shows you booked personally? How has it been like dealing with clubs on this?
EZ: Yeah we booked the entire tour by ourselves which we’ve done with all of our past tours as well, so it was pretty discouraging to have to cancel the whole thing. The clubs have been super cool so far and most of them have postponed the shows indefinitely rather than cancelling. They’ve probably been hit harder by this by anyone else in the music industry but they all have a positive and communal attitude which is reassuring on some level. We are hoping to reschedule for the fall but for now we are just trying to take care of ourselves and waiting to see how the crisis continues to evolve.