Interview by Amanda Sigman and Matt Davis // Article by Amanda Sigman
Photos by Bre Cura
From a Catholic grade school dance to the Philly DIY band scene, Tom of Thantophobe has truly seen it all. This life-inspired artist began his music career as just a pre-teen interested in guitar and the love only grew from there. With 2 EPs and 2 singles out, Thantophobe has no shortage of genuine content. Ranging from the driving rhythms of “Gone” and “Tie Me Down” to the softer sounds of “Night Falls” and “Kensington,” Thantophobe’s music speaks to a wide range of audiences. We had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Tom in their studio hearing more about his heart behind the band and passion for creating. Read more below!
How did you first get involved in music?
“I remember when I was little my dad would play classic rock albums. I just remember loving sitting down and listening to that stuff. Then in grade school I remember with the advent of grunge I really wanted to play guitar. They said I had to take a few piano lessons first, then I could get a guitar. I did that, got through that little trial, and got a guitar. I started taking lessons for a year and then I figured out how to play by ear and I stopped taking lessons.”
How did you get involved in the band scene?
“I worked at this music shop and I put up a band flyer looking for a bass player for my first band. I was about 11 or 12. The name of the band was called Ritalin and our first show was a Catholic grade school dance, chaperoned by priests and nuns. Some of the songs we played were “Sex Pistols,” “Black Flag,” and “Nirvana.”
How did Thantophobe begin?
“I was dealing with a lot of stuff from my past and I had kinda lost interest in music. I ran into my friend Eric and he suggested trying writing. I started doing it and showed it to a few people. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there because you’re thinking what are people going to think and you start comparing yourself to other people. But I decided, what was there to lose? I showed it to some people and they thought it was good. I actually ended up asking Eric’s brother Chris to help me record some demo stuff, so yeah that was the inception of Thantophobe.”
How would you describe your sound?
“Current day, I’m still trying to figure that out. I like rock n roll. I also love ambient type music and I like listening to pop. I love era music (how each era has a sound). Some people say we have a punk, Springsteen vibe. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done it before and I’m kinda learning as I go. You know, it’s just like each time we go to do it I try to work with people who I can learn stuff from and help me get it to where it’s gonna be. I mean the most valuable people are the engineers I work with.”
Tell me about your songwriting process?
“At first it was born from dealing with stuff internally. I was being moved from a place of pain and feeling this need to express it in some way. Now it’s more along the lines of trying to say, what I’m trying to say, better. I want it to resonate with people and have them feel something.”
Tell me a little bit about the DIY experience. Any advice?
“I think, myself included, a lot of times you’re kinda looking for someone to make you, when nobody is really going to make you an artist or songwriter or an engineer. You have to put it upon yourself to do the work and to get to that place. So, the DIY ethic is a term used back in the day for putting on your own shows (or putting out your own magazine) and not waiting for the powers that be – the gatekeepers – to let you into this thing that is deemed worthy. With the advent of technology. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Anyone can start a band, put up some social media stuff, and put music out.”
If someone could only listen to one of your songs, what song would you recommend and why?
I would say “Kensington” off of the last EP. I would say that because it’s probably one of the more personal but also more accessible songs I’ve written in terms of lyrics and just stuff behind it.”
Where do you feel like you fit into the Philly band scene?
“I think we’re still trying to figure that out. I feel like a lot of the bands in Philly are playing right now and we’re starting to get to know them more. Also, we’re starting to navigate that territory of booking shows in Philadelphia, which can be tricky.”
What’s your favorite part of doing music?
“I love all of it. I love creating something from an existential crisis and see it through to some song or video that’s on the internet that people are talking about. I love learning about recording and that type of thing, but it’s definitely the connecting with people.”
Where does the name “Thantophobe” come from/ what’s the meaning behind it?
“The name. I wish I had picked something easier to tell people. I actually had an abnormal fascination and fear regarding mortality since I was a child. One day around the time of Thantophobe’s inception, I had been reading the Encyclopedia of Diderot which has some very poetic and philosophic passages regarding mortality. Add in a few near-death experiences, the loss of some close friends, and the end of an 8-year-relationship and it made sense.”
We absolutely loved getting to know Tom better and hearing more about Thantophobe and we cannot wait to see what’s next for them. Check out their latest EP “Life So True” on Spotify and follow their Instagram to see when you can catch them live (we’ll probably see you there).