We were lucky enough to have a chat with Manchester-based electro-pop new boys, TONICA, on their city, their music and their songwriting.
First of all, where does the name TONICA come from?
A few places. Firstly, the definition of tonic – a substance that invigorates and strengthens – sums up how we feel about music, no matter what’s going on around us.
I’d dreamt we were in a band called Tonica a while before we started the project, I couldn’t tell you what inspired the dream but I told Sam and we both loved the sound of it.
We’d completed work on ’Save Yourself’ before we’d decided on a name for the band, Tonica was brought to our attention again when we were with a few friends in Madrid. We were toasting to the new project whilst drinking ’gin y tónica’ – it felt right.
Manchester is a thriving musical hub and has been for years, what’s it like living and creating music in a place like this? Does it make it easier to be creative or is it harder to compete with everything that’s going on?
Manchester definitely has a rich, musical history – I think it’s what drew us to the city in the first place. Many of the bands that emerged from MCR in the late 80’s and early 90’s (Smiths, New Order etc) informed our musical taste growing up.
Though it’s a large city, I find that the music/arts community is fairly condensed within the centre, particularly around the Northern Quarter where I live. It is very inspiring to live in this environment – there’s live music every night and you quickly become familiar with venues and people involved in the local scene. It’s busy & bustling, but I think it inspires a kind of healthy competition between bands.
We’ve seen acts like Hurts, 1975 & Blossoms have a lot of success (both locally and internationally) over the last few years, and that definitely gives us more belief in what we do.
Also, Manchester is best known for its brit-pop explosion in the 90s with the likes of Oasis and The Stone Roses – did you consciously want to avoid this stereotype? Does it have any influence on you?
As I mentioned before – growing up, we were inspired by many Mancunian musicians. Though I wouldn’t class us as ‘fans’ of Oasis & Stone Roses, I think as 90’s kids, it would be wrong to say they haven’t had some kind of subconscious effect on us. However, Brit-pop hasn’t been a conscious influence on TONICA.
I think there’s been a bit of a hangover from the glory days of Oasis & co – understandably as they were a colossal success – but it has tainted a lot of the music coming from the city ever since. Almost as though Manchester-musicians felt the bar had been set and were fated to create a certain kind of sound. The mid 2000’s were a haven for copycat guitar acts (mentioning no names) reeling in fans of 90’s music. Though I understand why people would gravitate towards bands like that, we have no interest in being a part of that scene.
You like to label your style as ‘neon-noir’- could you tell us a little bit more about this and what it means? How does it tie in with your alt-electro-pop style?
I suppose in film, neon-noir is just an updated version of film-noir. A stylish crime drama, but using contemporary themes and a certain rich aesthetic. I think ‘Drive’ kick-started the trend a few years ago; it’s kind of a silly plot but it’s visually stunning. It also infuses this 80’s Miami Vice-style influence, which is reflected in the music (by French electronic artist Kavinsky).
I think you can draw a few parallels between the film genre and our music. Our songwriting has a classic-pop influence, within the arrangements and structure. But the production is contemporary-focussed, it has a modern electronic feel. When I listened to the final mix of ’Save Yourself’ I thought it had this stylish, cinematic feel to it that should be reflected in the band’s artwork. That led us to collaborating with João Oliveira on the neon-inspired band shots.
Your debut single ‘Save Yourself’ is out 11/08/17- what’s this track about? What inspired you?
I’m not a huge fan of deconstructing songs and their meanings, I think if people like it they should spend time figuring out what it means to them. What I will say though, is that it was inspired by many people, it’s not just a song about my life. It’s for anyone that’s seen the slow (or fast) decline of a friend due to addiction – addiction of any kind.
Who would you guys consider your main influences and what other acts are there around like you at the moment?
Like many bands before us, I think our influences and eventual output sound quite different from one another. I feel with songwriting, we’re just a product of everything we’ve listened to our entire lives, but in terms of production ’Save Yourself’ was inspired by contemporary alt/future-pop acts like The Weeknd, Banks & Honne.
Because of the scene we’ve emerged from (and despite the specific production influences), I think our music has more of an indie/alternative feel to it. I could see fans of CHVRCHES, M83, 1975 and The XX liking what we do.
Listen to ‘Save Yourself’ below:
Find out more on TONICA here: