Wild Desire

24 April 2013 | 9:48 am | Brendan Telford

“It started when I was 17, 18 years old; it was my outlet to make rock and roll. My actual name doesn’t sound very rock and roll, so I needed something more exciting."

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As a musician, Kyle Thomas has been a constant presence for the past decade, yet it has been under the moniker of King Tuff that Thomas has garnered his most critical and commercial acclaim. The sudden fanfare has led to the reissuing of his first lo-fi album …Was Dead and the success of its follow-up King Tuff in 2012, which came out on the inimitable Sub Pop label. Yet Thomas doesn't use the name as a smokescreen that separates him from his music, to inhabit the garage pop world that he has created. Whilst it may not be his birth name, King Tuff and Kyle Thomas are very much the same man, which lent itself to eventually becoming his full-time domain.

“I don't think it's a persona that I put on as it is just me,” Thomas states. “It started when I was 17, 18 years old; it was my outlet to make rock and roll. My actual name doesn't sound very rock and roll, so I needed something more exciting. It was my original project back when I was a teenager just playing around, and over the years it kept coming back, popping up again. I was playing in these other bands and I definitely got sick of working with other people and decided it would be best to do my own thing. I definitely like working with other people, and will do that again in the future, in little projects or whatever they will be called, but King Tuff is something that I've worked out on my own, and I know it works, and will always be available to me.”

There is no need to worry, as the brilliance of King Tuff lay in the effortless straddling of the more flamboyant of 1970s rock movements (T-Rex's Marc Bolan is an immediate reference that comes to mind) with more modern garage rock stylings. It is this simplicity combined with the universality of Thomas' lyrics that have really struck a chord. Thomas maintains that the recording process was helped along from the input of Bobby Harlow (The Go), yet its strengths are hard to fathom.

“I mean, with every record you are hoping for a good response, you never know how people will react, so I only want to spend my time writing songs and enjoying playing them,” Thomas states succinctly. “When it came time to record I had about thirty songs, and I wanted to have all of them on there. Bobby basically chose what songs would make the album, and in what order. He brought a focus on the gentler songs that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen too. Those songs are a little scarier (to me) because they aren't just full on rock. I wrote these songs years ago, I knew that there were good songs and I put everything into it. It's hard to work out how well you really are going. Some crowds really dig it, some don't. I finally bought my dream amp the other day, so I think I'm getting somewhere.”

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That said, Thomas is finding it hard to write since moving from his hometown in Vermont to the bustling climes of Los Angeles. Nevertheless he feels at home on the road playing shows and exploring new environments also.

“I've never been able to write songs on the road; I wish I could,” Thomas admits. “I need to go into my own head and form a relationship with my landscape. So I'm finding it hard to do any writing in California right now, I'm still battling with it. I haven't found my creative flow here yet. There is too much nice food and beautiful things that distract me. I'm not worried – whenever there are good vibes, good things come from that. Like Australia, I don't have very much time in between shows, it's a very quick tour, but I'm keen to see as much of it as I can. And to eat some Australian food, whatever that is – except for a kangaroo, I could never eat a kangaroo.”

King Tuff will be playing the following dates:

Wednesday 24 April – I OH YOU @ GoodGod Small Club, Sydney NSW
Thursday 25 April – Bermuda Float, Melbourne VIC
Friday 26 April – The Primitive Room, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 27 April – Tuxedo Cat, Adelaide SA