MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2020
The Series | FT. TORA
Last but by no means least in our three part ‘The Series’ project, a curated collection of inspirational individuals, we talk to the talented TORA. As seen in Oyster Magazine.
Tora are an impeccably stylish electro-pop outfit from Byron Bay, made up of high school mates Thorne Davis, Shaun Johnston, Jo Loewenthal, and Jai Piccone (who, by the way, has modelled for the likes of Gucci, Prada, Burberry, and more). In recent years, they’ve performed at Glastonbury, Splendour, and more of the world’s biggest festivals — and discovered that their number one fan is Resident Evil and Fifth Element star, Milla Jovovich. Earlier this year, they released a deluxe version of their 2019 record, Can’t Buy The Mood, and subsequently toured through Australia before heading to Europe. COVID-19 hit as they had just arrived in Amsterdam to begin their Euro summer tour plans, but they decided to stay put, working on their new album while turning their attention to yoga and philosophy.
A lot has changed in the months since you released the new deluxe Can’t Buy The Mood. How are you guys doing?
Shaun: We had decided to move to Europe, with the plan to tour during the summer… When we had to change up our plans, we focused on getting back in the studio and creating some new music while touring was on hold.
Thorne: For the most part, it’s actually been okay, though. Time indoors was nice for writing new music, reading, and guilt-free late starts. I’m very much a night owl.
Jo: Yeah, it took a little while to adjust to the new tempo of the world, but we really got into a nice flow with everything. We found a studio to work in and adapted our plan to focus on writing new music and practising our craft in preparation for when the world would open back up again!
Besides music, what else were you doing to keep busy and inspired?
Shaun: Yoga, reading, cooking apple pie, and Skyrim.
Jai: I started painting, and developed an obsession with cleaning and interior design due to excess time inside… Also, some skating, some bike riding, reading, music and video games.
Jo: Reading physics books and philosophical manifestos passed the time on slower days. Also, watching documentaries. I took the opportunity to learn — there’s so much to know and the more you know, the more you have to talk about. It’s important when you’re writing new songs — if you want to have something to say beyond your own emotions, then you need to read a lot to give you new perspectives and new ideas.
“If you want to have something to say beyond your own emotions, then you need to read a lot to give you new perspectives and new ideas.” – Jo Loewenthal
How do you think music can help get us through everything going on in the world right now?
Shaun: Music has always had the power to bring us together and lift our spirits.
Thorne: Music is transporting and can give people respite in trying times. I think we can use it as a vessel to help explore concepts that shouldn’t only exist in dialogue. It’s an enormously powerful tool for change.
Jo: Music is emotive and healing, and it creates powerful memories. At a time like this, people rely on their favourite music to revisit their favourite memories.
Were there any particular songs or albums you found yourself turning to for comfort, or to just get out of your heads?
Shaun: Fever by Balthazar has been one of the albums getting me through each day.
Jai: Against All Logic – Faith.
Thorne: Probably gonna sound like a prick, but Debussy and Bach were on high rotation.
Jo: Asgeir’s ‘Turn Gold To Sand.’
Back to your music, what made you want to release a deluxe version of Can’t Buy The Mood?
Shaun: We wanted to release a couple of tracks that got cut from the original, such as ‘Alight’ and ‘News Report.’ We also really wanted to get some other flavours on the album, reaching out to producers for remixes.
Thorne: Yeah, there was still a bit of juice left in the record, and we had some B-sides we wanted to get out there.
Jai: It was also nice to evolve and expand on the visual aspect of the album which added a bunch of new energy.
What would you say are the best songs on the album to lift current moods?
Shaun: ‘Other Designs’ is a great track for lifting the mood, and it’s a track that might have been missed by some.
Thorne: Bit of ‘Morphine’ would sort things out for sure.
Jo: I tend to be drawn to more melancholic sounds, so for me, ‘Mother Forgot’ puts me in the right place.
Jai: I think ‘Tiger’ or ‘Ice Bucket.’
How are you feeling about the original version, nearly a year later?
Shaun: Super stoked with how it was received and inspired to create something new.
Thorne: We poured a lot of time and energy into making the record. The music is very nostalgic of that time together, but, honestly, there are a few things I’d do differently, knowing what I do now… Nothing major, but I guess I’ve learned a lot since then.
Jo: Time definitely provides perspective — it shines a light on your mistakes, your shortcomings, and reveals the room that was left for improvement. I’m still proud of this album — it’s never perfect, but I’m happy with the imperfections we left in. I’m also confident that we can do better next time.
You guys have such a specific style… on both covers, but especially the deluxe version, you’re in monochrome looks, looking super sharp. What was the idea behind the looks?
Thorne: We felt pretty inspired by Wes Anderson over this period and drew a few palettes from the styling of his movies. Often, we have an undercurrent of humour in our work too, and I think that Wes really champions the same approach.
Jo: We also wanted to show people that we are a four-piece band but present it cohesively and with quirk. We were aiming to create an indistinguishable time period in a parallel universe by combining elements from different eras and using the colours to bring everything together.
Jai: Yeah, we already had an aesthetic that just needed to be built upon. So, we wanted to change up the colours and imagery. But it was a fairly natural progression from the original record into Deluxe.
How important is fashion for you guys in general?
Thorne: The importance definitely varies based on the health of my bank account, but I love me some nice threads.
Jo: I think we all take pride in what we wear, it’s a part of how we express our individual identities.
Shaun: We all really do have such individual style.
Jai: And I work in fashion as well as music, so for me, the two industries intersect pretty heavily.
How do you describe your personal styles?
Shaun: I’d say my style is somewhere between a retired accountant with a leather shoe fetish and Ryan Gosling in Drive.
Thorne: Minimalist, for the most part.
Jo: Expressive and flamboyant.
Jai: Fairly loose-fitting, sometimes excessively bright colours, sometimes all black.
What about Ben Sherman fits so well into your closet?
Thorne: The pants for me, too — they have great cuts.
Jo: Ben Sherman also has some cool patterned shirts.
Which pieces are your faves?
Shaun: The new Harrington Jacket- it’s a great addition to my closet.
Thorne: Well, Shaun stole my thunder, but I’m a fan of the Harrington too.
Jo: Long Sleeve Mod Buttoned Polo.
“Fashion and music [in the 70s and 80s] were braving new territory, and that explosion of creativity is still relevant today, which is what I dig… The creation of timepieces.” — Thorne Davis
Much of their current collection was inspired by the ’70s and ’80s. What do you love about those eras in terms of fashion and music?
Shaun: Sneakers, mullets, and washed out jeans. It was also the pinnacle of live music festivals.
Thorne: The intellectual and sexual revolutions were a pretty big deal, and I feel that really reflects in the way people were expressing themselves. Fashion and music were braving new territory, and that explosion of creativity is still relevant today, which is what I dig… The creation of timepieces.
Jai: They were certainly periods of bold change which inevitably brings inspiration, so I feel that filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers continue to pay homage to that time, which seems unmatched in its cultural power.
Speaking of music from past eras… Who are your biggest influences?
Shaun: From a young age, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Arctic Monkeys got me into the music world, even though our musical style is quite different.
Thorne: People like Nicolas Jaar and James Blake really push the envelope, and I respect that in artists, but honestly, I take inspiration from so many places it’s hard to put anyone at the top.
Jo: My influences are broad, but the most significant artists that come to mind are John Mayer, James Blake, Bonobo, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, and The Beatles.
Jai: I’m quite inspired and excited by the house/techno scene that’s constantly evolving and breaking new ground.
What are some of the first songs or albums you remember hearing and loving?
Shaun: Whatever People Say I Am and That’s What I’m Not by the Arctic Monkeys, and Japanese Whispers by The Cure
Thorne: Some rock music by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Tool, but also artists like St. Germain and Norah Jones. My parents always had a pretty eclectic mix, and I actually still listen to a lot of those artists today.
Jo: The Beatles Number One Hits — I remember my parents used to play this a lot when I was young, and I always would sing along.
Jai: Probably The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, haha.
Did you have any other memorable music moments growing up?
Shaun: Going to one of my first open-air festivals on a mountain in Switzerland, watching Cypress Hill bring the vibe with the crowd singing and dancing in the rain.
Thorne: Bush Doofs were for better or worse kinda the only live music moments I experienced growing up, and they were dirty but pretty fun… I’m probably the last guy you’d find there now, but some great moments were had then.
Jo: When I was seven years old, my parents took my family to Brazil for six months, where we experienced a very different lifestyle to the London life we were living at the time. We went to the two-million-person street Carnival in Salvador, Bahia where I was exposed to a very rich music culture, with hundreds of floats passing by, each packed with drummers, percussionists, guitarists, and singers. Without realising it at the time, this had a big impact on me and my future interest in music.
Jai: Seeing live bands was always inspiring for me as well as finding some new music I was obsessed with.
What about as TORA? What have been your most exciting moments so far?
Shaun: Personally, the first time we decided to make the leap and tour Europe, we had no idea what we were doing, and it was an adventure. Touring all over Europe, crammed in the van with our instruments, playing shows from Switzerland to Latvia and everything between. Then, playing festivals such as Glastonbury, Best Kept Secret, Fusion Festival, and many more amazing shows.
Thorne: Touring Europe is so amazing — the people, the festivals, and the opportunity to share our passion is such a privilege.
Jo: I should also add the time we went to Mexico… After one of our shows, we ended up driving overnight on one of the most dangerous mountain passes in the country. We were advised not to do this by the locals, but we had to make it back to Mexico City for our flight. So, we risked it for the biscuit, and we didn’t get kidnapped by any cartels… plus, we made it in time for our second show on the other side of the country.
Jai: Completing a second album was super exciting, too — it definitely felt like a milestone for me personally.
Music is such a support for all of us, but how can we support musicians throughout all this craziness?
Shaun: By buying and streaming their music.
Jo: If you love an artist, take it upon yourself to support them in their craft. If you cannot live without their work, buy their albums, stream their songs, or better still, donate directly to them… Artists need help right now more than ever, and people need music now more than ever, as well.
Thorne: Services like Patreon are great in times like these. History has shown that difficult times can really set a stage for great art, though. So, I imagine a lot of creatives will be coming out with amazing work when the dust settles. Necessity is the mother of invention.
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