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Premiere: tomatoband – “Eastside Bagel”

With the music industry coming back, we are in store plenty of new music coming out of quarantine. Charleston’s tomatoband share in that groove with the release of the new single “Eastside Bagel”, premiering this morning on Extra Chill. This is the first single released from the upcoming LP, Bocadillo

Tomatoband is quality over quantity when it comes to studio work. They have spent the past 10 years with these tracks in their live rotation waiting for the right time to lay them down. This past January they made the time, and with the addition of godsend bassist, Paul Joliet, as Alex Irwin (keys) put it, it was short work. Over the 2 days of recording and 1 day of overdubs, tomatoband recorded Bocadillo.

The single’s namesake is from the late great bagel shop on the Eastside of downtown. A rarity in Charleston, this particular bagel shop was home to many of Irwin’s breakfasts. Irwin recalls the conception of the single “I walked out of there one day singing to myself, ‘I’m chewing on this bagel from the Eastside…’”  I wanted to make a song for them.” At its compositional roots, it’s akin to a walk home from Eastside Bagel. Happy and satisfied, strolling through the Eastside on a warm day, chewing the gooey bagel and wiping last night off. 

In its first section, Irwin takes the first bite through delicately soulful piano licks before Charlie Mitchell (guitar) whips the main section of the single into groove. The ladder sound is a seemingly reggae as the main section takes shape. This body builds a canvas for the ska infused lyrics that come to follow, “I’m chewing on this bagel from the east side, let the steam rise, i’ll break you off a piece of mine.” 

Right around the 2:40 mark things change. For lack of a better comparison, it reminded me of the break into Phish’s “Everything’s Right” in Sigma Oasis. Call us crazy…we know. From the jam’s mouth we go from a lighthearted halftime chewy rhythm, into what can only be identified as a sandwich of synthesized piano underneath thick and meaty riffs from Mitchell. Layer after layer, Charlie, Alex, Paul, and Jake Acheson (drums) develop synthetic soundscapes, meaty guitar, and satisfyingly thick bottom section that keeps a strong integrity. 

Through this jam sequence, I personally felt like I was wrapped in a warm womb of gently steamed bagel. In the center was only my head poking out the center to see the earth swirling around. With the first crescendo, the band breaks into a creamy and smooth instrumental jam. As Irwin put it the middle of the song was like “A cheesy, gooey bagel from the east side when you bite into the center.” With vocals over top, the songs final minute busts back into the original groove and lyrics to bring us full circle.

“Eastside Bagel” is easy listening with streaming guitar solos on top, effects on keys, and a bottom that pushes the pace to leave room for live improvisation. Overall an incredible single that proves the bands potential leading into the release of their full LP Bocadillo. You’ll be able to see tomatoband at LoFi Brewing this Friday, March 26th with visuals from the optically innovative DJ Moldybrain.

Check out the single and full interview below. 

A lot of downtown folks loved Eastside Bagel, what was your relation to it?

ALEX: Eastside Bagel was my breakfast fam.  From the first time I inhaled one of their steamed bagels, I was hooked, and I probably ate there at least twice a week until they closed shop.  When you go somewhere that much, you get to know the people, and the people at that shop were so kind and open-minded.  There was an energy to that place, and I walked out of there one day singing to myself, “I’m chewing on this bagel from the Eastside…”  I wanted to make a song for them.

Did you take a lot of inspiration from Charleston for the album?

ALEX: One cool thing for us about this record is that these songs have all been played in our live rotation. Some were written 10 years ago, some were written five years ago, and some are fresh and new, but we played all of them live. We tried to create a live environment at coast records, and most of the instruments were tracked live, with a little over-dubbing. Eastside Bagel was obviously inspired by the bagel shop, but takes inspiration from the Eastside of Charleston in general, with themes of psychedelia and also inclusiveness and open mindedness. I wanted the song to taste like a cheesy, gooey bagel from the Eastside when you bite into the center.

What is it about the Holy City’s culture that makes it so relatable to artist?

ALEX: We are very fortunate in Charleston to have venues like the Pour House, Tobin‘s Market, LoFi Brewing, and others that will book original music. We really owe a lot to the Purple Buffalo and the Pour House for giving us a chance to grow. We wouldn’t be recording this record today if those venues hadn’t taken a chance on us and giving us a stage to aspire to be worthy of.

Where have you been playing throughout quarantine?

ALEX: We’ve been playing the Pour House and Tobin’s Market locally during quarantine. We are very fortunate to have two outdoor venues that have been resilient in these times. On Friday, we are going to play LoFi Brewery for our first indoors show in over a year. It’ll be fun to have DJ Moldybrain running a visualizer on the inside of the walls of that place, and with the doors rolled up, and with vaccines having success, it seems like the perfect time to play under a roof in a funky room.

What do you think about the potential for Tobin’s Market? You guys seem to like it. 

ALEX: Tobin’s Market opened at kind of the right time for having outdoor music every day. They’ve been a great solution for local musicians and music lovers alike to get their fix. Our bass player Paul is heavily involved in the place, and they’ve all done a great job. I find myself at Tobins very often, and the food is amazing too.

Back to the album, if you could define the album, what would that definition look like in a dictionary?

ALEX: Bocadillo is a patchwork of songs from various eras of tomatoband, melded together as a complete and seamless hour-long play. There is a little bit of improv in the appropriate sections, but we really wanted to get our songs, our compositions, right. Matt Zutell at Coast Records does an amazing job of understanding us and making us sound our best. He lets us do our thing, but he pops in at the perfect times with suggestions. This is our second studio record with him, and he’s mixed a few of our live shows for Spotify releases, so the recording process was extremely comfortable and familiar. Bocadillo means sandwich in parts of southern Spain, so we wanted to evoke feelings of luxury, happiness, and overindulgent!