If the details seem scarce, it’s because that’s how Tobacco likes to keep them. Hailing from an unspecified burg in rural Pennsylvania, somewhere north of Pittsburgh, he has successfully made a name for himself even as he’s avoided acknowledging that name’s legal counterpart. As both the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow and the sole creative engine behind Tobacco, he’s earned the eager ears and prying eyes of doggedly loyal fans and smitten critics alike, a kindness he’s repaid by granting few interviews, obscuring his face in photos, and seeming wholly uninterested in the subject of his own identity. Such things just get in the way of the music after all, so if it’s easier, you might think of Tobacco as music’s one-man genre made of equal parts analog crunch, earthy psychedelia, fuzzed-up hip-hop, and outside pop.
We chatted with Tobacco (aka Tom Fec) so check out what he had to say!
Where did you come up with the name Tobacco?
There was a movie that came out and there was this guy, The Tobacco Man, that always freaked me out. He had a sack or something on his head and he had a really deep voice and he always freaked me out and that stuck with me. I was looking for a name and that was the first thing to come to me.
You’ve done this solo thing and you’ve also been the frontman of a band. What’s it like having done both? Is there one you prefer over the other?
I guess I prefer the solo thing because it’s almost weirdly freeing in a way because you don’t have other people relying on you. You’re only relying on yourself and I think there’s a lot more room to play around and go off script.
What was the process like writing Maniac Meat compared to how it was writing with a band?
No matter what I do, I never make music for anyone; it’s only for myself, at the end of the day. Every year I’ll have a pile of songs and the one that seems to me what people might be ok with, those will come out as Black Moth [Super Rainbow] and the ones that are really just me totally having fun that no one should ever like, that comes out as Tobacco.
Was it hard for you to go from being in a band to being solo or was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
It wasn’t something I ever really wanted to do. With Black Moth, I’m still making everything on my own. I just didn’t want to put everything out as Black Moth. I kind of had an idea on what I wanted it to be but it came out as a new idea that was a little more fun.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Honestly, no. The few people I’ve wanted to collaborate with, I have and now I’m done. The guy I always wanted to work with was Beck and that’s kind of the pinnacle for me. I’d rather just work alone now and figure out how to make what I’m doing better.
What’s been your most memorable show?
One really memorable show we played a few weeks ago, we did a mini book with Flaming Lips. Nobody warned us. It was a Flaming Lips show so we expected an open-minded crowd and I have some visuals that are kind of sketchy. I spend a lot of time with the visuals making sure I don’t show anything. I like to make it feel like you’re seeing something really dirty even though you’re actually not. I work really hard at that. So if you actually sat down and tried to look for real nudity or whatever you’re not going to find it. So, this Lips show was a pretty family-heavy crowd so security took us off and we were banned by the venue.
That’s a bummer.
No. It wasn’t a bummer. It sort of what we’re going for- offending people without actually doing anything. Making people think they’re seeing porn even though they’re not.
What can we expect from your upcoming tour?
You can expect what I just described. I hope it’s fun. I don’t know where I’m playing yet – if it’s indoor or outdoor. I always have a hard time talking about what I do. Hopefully people have a good time.
How do you go about connecting with the crowd during a live show?
I almost like to distract the crowd so I can just focus on what we’re doing up there, because it’s just the two of us. I like to have the visuals be a big distraction. I have this huge screen we’re going to call the Tobaccotron – it’s a giant Tobacco band logo that shows videos too. We have two sets of videos happening and we like to keep it really dark. You can’t really see us. You can just fade out and look at all the other things happening.
Are the visuals you create just a hobby or did you go to school for it?
That’s what I went to school for but once I got out of school I never wanted to work in video again. It was one of those things that I knew I needed to add more to our show and I knew I could do the videos so I begrudgingly started doing it. It’s fun now.
Is there anything you’d like your fans to know that they might be surprised to learn about you?
I think, still to this day, that we’re trying to have a drug show and vibe and everything is about drugs but it’s just not. It couldn’t be further from that. I’d rather people use their imagination than just rely on drugs to have a good time. I mean, it’s fine, if that’s what they want to do but it’s not what it’s about and I think that’s what most people think it’s about.
9pm / $3-$10 / 21+