Liam Frost / Tokolosh: Interview by David Brown
Liam Frost burst onto the music scene with his debut album Show Me How The Spectres Dance in 2006 and followed it with We Ain’t Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain in 2009. He’s been relatively quiet since then, but is now back with two projects – a new band called Tokolosh and plans for his third solo album. David Brown from Louder Than War caught up him for a chat about his plans.
You’ve formed a band Tokolosh, with guys from a number of different other Manchester bands. How did that come about?
The thing that bonds Tokolosh is that the other four members of the band have all been friends since they were about five years old. That’s Nathan who plays bass and Nicky and Christian who are brothers, and I know they’ve been friends with Richard the drummer for years. I don’t like to use the phrase, but I’m a little bit the outsider. Nathan played in The Earlies and now in the Whip and three of them played in my band when I toured the second album.
We spoke briefly at first about doing something, jokingly Richard asked me to join his Chicago covers band. That was the roots of how it started. I felt that the circumstances around the release of my second record, a really drawn-out, long and tiresome process, was a bit arduous, as successful as it was. I thought it would be really nice to do something as a band, so it came about that way. We knew we were a really great sounding live band.
Where did you get the name from?
It’s started as a jamming name when it was a studio thing. Christian, who plays synth and organ, came up with the name and it permeated itself into name of songs. I’d write lyrics and think about the name for the song later. All the songs started off as ideas. The Hollow was one of Nathan’s and it started off at Natokolosh. We also gave them names like Tokolosh 1 and Tokolosh 2. Like all these things, it became the culture calling certain things by that name. We started to put a few tracks out and Marc Riley asked us to do a session. There still wasn’t really a name and we weren’t sure it was that suitable given the story behind the Tokolosh and the urban myth and folklore is quite dark. But anyway, Marc wanted us to do it and by that point it had started to roll off the tongue, so it ended up as Tokolosh.
You’ve released two singles and at your recent London show you did ten songs. Will you be releasing an album?
That’s right. Everything’s recorded. The guys from The Earlies, Nathan and Christian, have a studio near Burnley, so we’ve actually been recording it as we’ve gone along. It’s pretty much mixed so almost ready, good to go. We’re trying to figure out what the basis of the release is going to be, who wants to help putting it out. Should we do another single or just put out the record. It’s in that stage. The initial idea was to release a run of three singles then the album, but we’ve still to decide that.
Are you going to go out and tour it? You’ve not done a lot of gigs so far.
No, that’s right. I think that’s the plan. We’ve done the Manchester and London gigs and with the projects we’ve done before, there’s hopefully a number of people who will come out and see us play from that. Those gigs went down really well.
The London show did. I wasn’t sure what to expect…
Yeah, because it’s such a different proposition from my stuff, I was really concerned that people who were more into my singer-songwriter stuff would not get into it and not come down to the shows. But, especially in Manchester, it went down really well.
What about your solo stuff? You’ve announced two dates in Manchester in May. Is that going to be showcasing new material?
Yes. It got to the point where we’d written most of the Tokolosh stuff and I had songs that very much were like solo offerings.
My two solo records were very confused in some ways. There were songs like The City Is At Standstill and Two Hearts that pretty much sounded like a band, and then songs like Skylark Avenue and Try Try Try that sounded like a singer-songwriter. They felt like two different headspaces.
Tokolosh sort of satisfies that band ideal for me, at least, but at the same time I’ve been writing these songs that have that classic singer-songwriter style. Those bits are coming together and I put up one of them, Lovers Luck, on Soundcloud recently. I released it very surreptitiously on a Sunday afternoon. It was done at home. Sometimes things can lose than initial fire and passion, so I keep two mics set up in my second room in my flat, positioned so I can just record something. It’s a scratchy demo, but it sounds good, so I put it up there to see what people think and it got a really nice reaction.
I’ve put these gigs in to gee myself along a bit and in a way to see if people still remember that I’m knocking about.
The first date sold out quite quickly didn’t it?
Yes, and the second one is pretty close too. It’s a really nice thing.
The last show of the second album was late 2010. It felt like I hadn’t been around a while and I wanted to come back to it. I think it’s important to do as much as possible these days and I don’t think that’s unhealthy. People like Jim James, he does My Morning Jacket, Monsters Of Folk and then his solo stuff. They sort of creatively feed each other and doing two things at once make me happy doing it.
Do you look back at those first two records, which are great records, and think things could have worked out differently?
Yeah, I’ve been talking about it a bit recently. I talked to someone who worked on my first album and we felt we should have done so much more, but it sort of fell by the wayside for whatever reason. All the singer-songwriters now who get big have this interesting tool which is social media, be it Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, where at that point it was myspace, and today people are finding better ways of connecting quickly to a wide audience. I was at the end of that version of the music industry that just threw music at things and hope it stuck. I don’t harbour any regret, but I know there are people who were around those records who wish they’d done better. For me, I haven’t listened to those records for a really long time until recently I had to relearn something, and I think they stand up on their own as pieces of work and I’m extremely proud of them. Hopefully, at some point down the line if the third record or the Tokolosh record do well, then people will come back to them and appreciate them for what they are.
The gigs will be mainly showcasing new stuff?
The gigs may hark back to some of the early stuff, maybe some b-sides from the first record, but it’ll be mainly new stuff. It’s a nice fun way to look back, but to the focus looking forward.
Do you have a timeframe and much written already?
Yeah, most of it is demoed, but not ready for release. I think it’ll be a slow thing over the next year or so, maybe release bits of stuff in demo form and re-engage with people who’ve listened to my stuff before. Also, I want to engage with people who haven’t heard my music before, doing these weird bits of covers, all those little things.
It is quite an interesting way of doing it with covers. It’s worked well for others.
I think it’s fun to me. It’s something I’ve always done and people often reference that cover of The Kooks that I did on the first album, which was something that someone from the record label asked me to do and I kind of regret, because it wasn’t a song I was really into.
Now I’ve covered stuff that I really love listening to it. I’ve done Frank Ocean, I love his songs, and the more recent Sade one was covered by a band called The Deftones who were one of my favourites. It’s a nice thing to do and there’s another three or four that I’ve almost finished that will pop up over the next few months. It’s interesting to reinterpret popular pop songs in a slightly different format. As long as it doesn’t end up sounding like Travis covering that awful Britney song.
He plays two shows at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester on May 11/12 – tickets are available from here
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here