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SXSW Band of the Day: The Tontons

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 10, 2014

UPDATE: The excellent new album from the Tontons is streaming on

From: Houston, Texas

Could share a bill with: Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, Vintage Trouble

About the band: When we last caught up with Houston indie rockers the Tontons during Fun Fun Fun Fest, the band was coming off a hot streak of road gigs. They were also super psyched about going into the studio together. For the better part of the past 5 years the band members have been separated by distance as they finished school in different cities. This meant their albums were piecemeal projects, consisting of grooves, solos and vocals passed back and forth across the Internet.

The difference is evident. Their second full-length, scheduled to drop on Tuesday Feb. 18, is gorgeously detailed with the band indulgently exploring a myriad of tones and textures. We checked in with the band via email to chat about the new record and their plans for SXSW 2014.

Austin360: Can you talk about the title for the new album ‘Make Out King and Other Stories of Love’? Who’s the ‘Make Out King’?Tom Nguyen (bassist): The ‘Make Out King’ is a person who shall remain nameless. It originally started as an inside joke with the band. An incident took place with Asli and we all kind of latched onto it and started calling the person “make out king”. The ‘Other Stories of Love’ part was just a natural addition because so much of the album stems around relationships and all the forms they take.

Your songs always cover so much musical ground. Were there any new sonic avenues you deliberately tried to explore with this album? For Asli, adding so many harmonies was definitely a first. She is usually very sparse on the vocals. We really tried to make an album that unfolds and is lush. Longing, loneliness and desire are really prevalent themes in the album so we focused on arrangements that lent themselves to that. A lot of space around a lot of the songs and big crescendos.

You were all over SXSW last year. What’s your plan of attack for this year’s festival? So far we have a couple of shows and our showcase in the works. But nothing too taxing. We had a pretty intense SXSW last year and I’m not sure if that was particularly ideal for us. It got the point that Asli started losing her voice after the 8th or 9th performance in a row. We will be around but, not playing as many shows. We are excited to play a lot of these new songs. We are also excited about really getting to enjoy the festival this year and hopeful that it will bring some great things our way.

Sneak a preview: Before they return for SXSW, The Tontons open for Bright Light Social Hour at Stubb’s BBQ on Friday. Tickets are $17.50-$20. More info.