Toby Wrecker is a guitarist and songwriter hailing from Melbourne, Australia and one half of Hotel Wrecking City Traders(HWCT) and Daggers Mid Flight — he has recently released his first solo-record, Sounds Of Jura, a collection of instrumentals tunes, cherry-picking various influences and genres to form one fine example of what one man can do with ample free time and the drive to create some intrinsically compelling rock n’ roll. We recently sat down with him here at The Alternative Review to gain a bit more perspective on his artistic process and his ambitions for the future.
Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself; name, occupation, place of birth, interesting aspects to your personality, etc etc.
I’m Toby Wrecker and I was born in Australia but spent a fair portion of my life moving around due to my dad’s job. So I spent most of my school years in Hong Kong. I live in Melbourne Australia now, driving a forklift to pay the bills and playing guitar in Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Daggers Mid Flight to keep myself sane. As far as my personality goes I don’t think I am too complicated, I try and keep things simple and stay chilled and positive. Maybe that depends who you ask though.
Would you say any of these personality traits conclusively lead you to your current form of songwriting? Furthermore, do you have any specific way to go about writing music?
Yeah definitely, when I write music at home it is a pretty relaxed process and I think that’s what I love about it so much. I sure as hell don’t consider it a job or a chore, it’s something I do to take my mind off things and just enjoy myself. I don’t tend to have a particular process when it comes to writing and it probably differs from time to time. In the end it is only me that I am trying to please so if I come up with something I like I will take it from there, whether it be a riff or a beat or whatever. There is something really enjoyable about tackling it all on your own, if you get a kick out of it awesome and if other people do to, well that’s just a bonus.
Do you find yourself taking significantly different avenues in composition when it comes to your solo work?
No not really……I never try to force anything I just take it as it comes. It isn’t something that stands out to me anyway. In both HWCT and DMF there is a very heavy portion of improvisation and I play with my brother Ben in both bands. He is an awesome drummer in my eyes and when I write with him we totally feed off each other. Whereas with this [solo debut] there is no Ben and I think that’s probably the weirdest thing for me. I know when I listen back to stuff I record, I think: “man, Ben would play that so much sweeter.” But what can you do? I enjoy a challenge.
Would you say you prefer working with a group or by your lonesome?
I really enjoy both and wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other. I have my solo stuff, a two piece and a four piece and all of those offer a very welcome unique experience to one another. I am totally open to all kinds of ideas and I think that if you’re working with people other than yourself, its more about the choice of people you decide to share that experience with. And for me I get to hang out with my real bro and my bro’s by choice and make loud music, so that’s pretty special.
Would you say your solo-work differs greatly from your output with your brother in Hotel Wrecking City Traders?
Yeah in my opinion they are very different from each other. HWCT is something that comes from Ben and me setting up and jamming out together. And with my solo stuff it’s much more layered and written one instrument at a time. So even if I play a similar riff, the end result can be very different with the way Ben will interpret it from the way that I do. I think if it sounded like a HWCT album I wouldn’t bother releasing it, would just seem kind of pointless to me. I think the fact it was something different was part of the attraction of releasing it.
What were your intentions while recording ‘Sounds Of Jura?’ Did you enter the process with collections of tracks you had already been developing? Or was it kind of a clean-slate process? Or a combination of both?
It was a little bit of both. After recording a few tracks that I was really happy with, I thought that maybe if I released them in some form other people would enjoy them to. So the thought to release Sounds Of Jura came well before it was entirely finished. And that aspect of it was really fun because as I wrote another song an older one would find its place in the mix of things. Sometimes a song which maybe I thought had no place on it originally. So although it is a pretty varied album in terms of sounds and ideas, as it was done at various different times, I think it all gels together pretty well. It took me quite a while to piece together a running order that worked for me, but in the end I was really happy with the final result.
Would you like to do anything differently come subsequent releases?
I don’t think there is anything majorly different I would like to do with my next releases. I already have songs that I think I would like to include on the next one that either didn’t make it this time or that I have recorded since. One thing that I would like to do is involve my friends. Some of my friends play in awesome bands and are great musicians. If any of them wanted to contribute to my next release I wouldn’t hesitate on taking them on board. I think it would just broaden the spectrum and introduce new thoughts and ideas. So we will see what happens.
‘Sounds Of Jura’ has a pretty wide-display of influences, to my ears I hear a lot of Explosions In The Sky, some solo Frusiante and little dab of Mogwai and Kyuss – any artist or aesthetics in particular you’d say are reflected in your music?
Yeah I listen to a pretty broad range of music, and like any band or musician it’s hard to not let the music you love penetrate into the music that you make. At the end of the day you want to make music that you like listening to. I don’t think I really had any particular influences that made me make one song or another a certain way. That’s cool that you can hear some of that stuff in my tunes though, nice to be in good company. It’s always funny though, because to you there is a lot of Explosions In The Sky who I appreciate as a band but, to be honest, haven’t listened to a great deal of their music — although I have enjoyed the stuff I have heard. The track “Entering The Overlook” is totally influenced by The Shining (1980) though. I love that movie, it has one of the most full on soundtracks and after I watched it again, that’s where that track came from. I wanted to create something which was kind of uncomfortable but beautiful at the same time; which is what that movie is to me. So that’s my little soundtrack to Jack losing his shit.
If not – any artists you’d like to be connected to you sonically?
I am pretty happy with people associating me with whomever they like. Its cool hearing people’s different takes on things. Deryk from DMF commented that one track sounded like something from an early Cure album which I thought was pretty awesome. Certainly wasn’t going for that but can sort of see where he was coming from. That’s great though that people take different things from it, there is nothing worse than hearing an album and thinking: “wow this band love that band.” Its usually just a shittier version, not to mention a touch creepy.
Tell me about that cover art – back story about its creation and the artist responsible. Do you feel like it truly represents the album – or was it kind of a choice based on the attractiveness of the drawing?
The artwork was done by Mauro149 from Truly Design (http://www.truly-design.com/). We went to school together about fifteen years or so ago and I came across his artwork on the internet and thought it was amazing. So I got in touch with him and told him I was thinking of putting together an album from songs I had and others that I was working on. I was pretty excited when he said yes. So I came up with the title and sent through a few tracks to help inspire a theme or idea. I sent him the first couple of tracks from the album “Entering The Overlook” and “Holding Water” and just told him to go for it. And when he sent me back the sketch I was blown away, I loved it. I hope that we can work together more, he is a really talented dude. I’d love to play some shows with projections created from Mauro’s artwork. Create some music around his work. So to answer your question, I do feel that it represents the album nicely and I feel where he is coming from.
Do you connect cover art to an album on a deeper level? As in would you say that cover art should represent the record it is associated with?
I personally love a great album cover. I suppose it’s nice if it has some kind of association but there would be a lot of albums that I love that probably have really shitty artwork. I won’t turn away an awesome tune or album because of bad artwork, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have something cool to look at when you listen to it.
Any big news we can expect from your camp with both ‘Sounds Of Jura’ and HWCT?
My major focus this year is HWCT. We are going to be working on our new full length album which is in very early stages now. I think in the past we have probably rushed ourselves and been limited with time. So this time round we are making it our priority for the year and we are going to release the album which I reckon has been brewing in us for some time. I love what we have put out so far, and I wouldn’t have put my name on it if I didn’t, but I know there is more to HWCT than people have heard and I want to really have some fun with this one. I think we have grown a lot musically since our earlier days and I am just really excited about this next stage. With my own stuff it is constantly being recorded so there is always going to be more, if people enjoy it I would love to keep sharing it.
Do you have any plans to tour for this record?
I think it would be heaps of fun to play this record with friends. In reality though I would probably have to relearn a bunch of stuff and others would have to learn it from scratch. I know I’m busy enough on my own, and I know my friends are to with their own bands, so I don’t think it would be to easy a task. If someone wanted to book a show though I would be more than happy to come up with some fun lineups to help me create what I would hope would be a pretty fun evening. I have always wanted to bring a whole bunch of friends together and see what comes of it when different lineups are thrown together. If anyone would like to support this idea……let me know, I will happily put a night together.
Any desires to move beyond your homeland’s confines? Or is a modicum of acceptance in Australia all you need?
If only touring from Australia was so easy. HWCT recently did an eight date tour of Japan with our good mates from Spider Goat Canyon, who are the other members of DMF. That was a really awesome opportunity and we had such a great time over there. Amazing bands, venues, food and people. It was such a great experience. I can tell you right now I have no real attachment to my job and if I was given the chance to do what I love all the time, I most certainly would. Touring from Australia is not an easy task as we are pretty much a long way from everywhere. We have discussed and would love to tour both Europe and the United States. If the right opportunity presents itself we will jump at it in no time. We are getting close but in the end these things cost money and unfortunately that isn’t something we have at our disposal. So if anyone reading this has any ideas, please feel free to say hello.
Anything else you like to add? Feel free.
A big thanks to The Alternative Review for taking time to support Sounds Of Jura. I really appreciate it. I hope we can do this again sometime soon.
For Fans Of:
Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, Kyuss, Swans, The Cure.
Sounds Of Jura can be bought through Toby’s Bandcamp here.