Los Angeles is known for its sprawl and its traffic between each part of the city. You could live 10 miles from your destination, but it may take you 45 minutes to get there. And with all this driving, it’s easy to assume that Angelenos are all disconnected. But believe it or not—especially if you are a musician—there is a thriving community here.
Kyle Thomas of King Tuff knew this before he ever moved here due in part to having friends who lived in the city. So when he finally decided to move to L.A. from the small town of Brattleboro, Vermont, he immediately felt the support of the music community in town.
This sense of community is clearly instrumental in his life. Whether performing in Feathers, Witch or Happy Birthday, or supporting his brother’s art, Thomas is constantly surrounding himself with people he believes in. Maybe this is what made his transition to Southern California an easy one. Or maybe it’s because the sound of his music is the perfect soundtrack to a lazy, hot summer day like this one.
King Tuff released his first album, Was Dead, in 2008. This debut provided an honest look into Thomas’ life—a theme that has translated to his newest self-titled album that was released this past May via Sub Pop. King Tuff doesn’t know how to be anything other than himself. And this is what makes his music so appealing to us Californians.
I had the opportunity to speak with Thomas about King Tuff, L.A.’s eccentricities, and how this city is both absurd and welcoming.
Do you think you’re adjusting well to life in California? What do you like most about it? What do you miss about Vermont?
It was very easy to adjust to living here. It’s the good life. Vermont is also the good life. The main thing I miss is my family and the trees. I love L.A. because it always surprises you. Everyone in the world hates on L.A. except for the people that live here. I think that’s cool.
Is there anything in particular in Los Angeles specifically that influences your music?
Probably the tacos. But it’s a bad influence because I eat too many and then I’m too tired to write songs.
What do you think of the music community in L.A.?
I was already good friends with a lot of people in the scene here, so it was easy to feel like I was a part of it when I moved here. There’s lots of great music and I love the people. A lot of them feel like family. There needs to be more heavy and evil bands though.
How was your recent tour? Any fun stories?
We stayed in a house somewhere and a few days later we found out there had been a dead guy in there sleeping next to us. We went swimming a lot. Jake only ate rabbit food and some guy in Cleveland threw a bottle at my head. It was fun.
Are you still feeling satisfied with working with producer Bobby Harlow?
Yes. If we do it again it’ll have to be a totally different situation. I miss the production side of things. But I don’t think I can really achieve the sound I want on my own. We would definitely drive each other crazy, but that’s part of the fun of recording. It’s always pure torture.
When working on an album with a label backing and a producer, it becomes expected that you’ll have to give up some control. Was it easy for you to give up control? How did you maintain a balance?
Not easy at all. But I wanted to challenge myself to give up control. It’s definitely a good thing if you trust who you’re working with. I maintained a balance by forcing Bobby to to buy me barbecue every night.
It seems like including family in the art you create is important to you. Is it? Do you think you’ll continue to collaborate with your brother in the future?
Yes. My brother Luke and I will probably always work on stuff together. I want to get his art out into the world because he’s so good and he’s been working at the food co-op for too long.
Your songs seem to be pretty straightforward. Is this how you like to live your life?
Straightforward with a couple zig zags in the road.
Would you say King Tuff is the truest representation of yourself?
Now, for fun, what’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in L.A. thus far?
Probably seeing Ice-T and Coco drive through a group of punks in the alleyway by The Smell.