TOVI’s debut single “89 San Francisco” has taken the country by storm, but the solo singer-songwriter isn’t a one-trick pony. We nabbed TOVI for a quick email interview, and asked about her past life as a rock band front woman, her shift to electropop, and what we can expect from her upcoming debut EP.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): TOVI is more of an electropop sound than your last band, Girl Meets Bear. What made you want to explore that sound?
TOVI: It’s been kind of a natural evolution. At the beginning of Girl Meets Bear, it was this purist rock and roll thing. When we got into a professional studio with access to these analog and digital keyboards, I started really falling in love with the synth world.
By the time I was putting together demos for TOVI, it was kind of like, “Okay, this song seems close to being finished, but there’s no guitar. Are these beats going to translate into live drums? Uh, probably not”. Five years ago I definitely would not have imagined my music going in this direction, but I think it’s important to just keep exploring new ideas and let yourself grow and evolve.
RMM: As a solo effort, how did you find writing and recording music on your own?
TOVI: Songwriting on your own can have it’s challenges. I really have to be conscientious making deadlines and scheduling in time to write. I can’t just hand a song off to a bandmate if I’m stuck on something. But I feel like I can write a lot more honestly and freely; I’m just writing for myself, I’m not representing anyone else.
Going into the studio still definitely has more of an element of collaboration. Mike Rocha produced and engineered “89 San Francisco” as well as the EP I have coming out. I brought a bunch of demos into the studio, and we built on that; digging up the right sounds, layering instruments, finding chords that might work better. Mike’s a big part of how each track sounds.
TOVI: Mike has his studio in Toronto. I’ve worked with him a lot on Girl Meets Bear in the past. He’s amazing to work with and I feel we have a similar vision of how things should sound, so I was willing to go out to Toronto to make that happen.
I don’t know how much Toronto impacts my sound, but the city definitely inspires me to keep working hard writing music. Being around creative people, going to shows, going to museums really gives my lots of energy and inspiration. Living in Red Deer can be a lot more quiet, giving lots of space to create and look more inward for song ideas.
RMM: You’re about to release your debut EP. What excites you most about sharing this new album?
TOVI: I feel like I took a lot more organic and visceral approach to creating these tracks, than music I’ve worked on before. Less editing and censoring ideas, I just letting things happen. So I’m interested to see if people react differently to that.
RMM: “89 San Francisco” is insanely catchy, but the lyrics hint at a deeper meaning. What was on your mind while writing it?
TOVI: I feel like it’s important to keep songs open for the listener to find a piece of themselves in the song. I kind of feel like when I’m writing and recording, it is my song, I have to put myself in it. But once the song is released, it belongs to whoever is listening to it.
A little bit about the title, though. I knew I wanted some kind of earthquake metaphor in there. I had a book about natural disasters as a kid. There was this page about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, which I found it super fascinating and disturbing. I can still see the pictures of the destruction in my mind. So that’s where the title of the song comes from.