With a rising profile, King Tuff still prefers music that sounds like it came out of a trashcan

Pub date August 6, 2013
WriterErin Dage

Garage rock troubadour King Tuff is no stranger to playing outdoor venues like Golden Gate Park for Outside Lands.

“One time I played in my parents backyard — another time I played in a shed in Massachusetts, called the Shed, that could literally fit only three people,” says Kyle Thomas, the man, the figurehead behind King Tuff.

But this will be a little different than his parents backyard or a shed in Massachusetts. Outside Lands is a decidedly bigger event  — already sold out for 2013, and attracting 65,000 people alone in 2012.

King Tuff — who claims he represents rock n’ roll, freedom, sex, and magic — will bring an entirely different flavor to the festival, whose major headliners include folks like a legendary former Beatle, NIN, and Daryl Hall and John Oates.

“I feel great about it,” Thomas says, punctuated with a giggle. “I’m just excited to play with Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Every answer from him ends in a giggle.

Though one may glean that the King Tuff sound gets its influences from classic glam and garage rock, Thomas says he’s influenced by genres across the board.

“Pretty much everything, there’s not just one band I really want to sound like,” Thomas said. “There’s so much music going into my head that it’s hard to decipher everything.”

Suffice to say, King Tuff is most known for his release, Was Dead, which reached #8 on Billboard’s Heatseekers in June upon its late May reissue. Also in his arsenal is his self-titled album, released May 2012 by Sub Pop and a seven-inch dubbed Screaming Skull, released October 2012.

But one thing Thomas has had to deal with upon the success of Was Dead rising to popularity in 2008, is talking about it. Constantly.

“Oh god, I just hate to talk in general,” Thomas says. “I don’t mind talking about it, it just gets tiring coming up with answers to the same questions that I get asked over and over again.”

Many things have changed since Southern California garage rock label, Burger Records, put out its cassette issue of Was Dead five years ago. As the sixteenth cassette released, the record label has gone on to add dozens of bands to its roster and put out hundreds more cassettes.

“It’s been quite a few years since that  was released and it’s definitely blossomed a lot into what it is now,” Thomas says. “There’s a lot of good bands on Burger Records now, but I just want to hear something that sounds like it actually came from a garage.”

Thomas would like to a see a grittier approach to garage rock, in terms of presentation and recording quality.

“Like, with some dudes with some missing teeth that are playing in a garage and sing about yard sales,” Thomas says. “A lot of music is produced on a laptop, and I want to hear something that sounds like it came out of a trashcan.”

Known for having gold teeth, Thomas may just want to have validation of some sort. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

King Tuff, gold teeth and all,  will be taking his own personal brand of music and flair to a town near you later this year.  Starting in late September, King Tuff will hit the road with Wavves and Jacuzzi Boys, touring the US for a few weeks.

Other than ample tour dates, can we expect anything new from King Tuff? Maybe.

“I got a lot of stuff in the works,” Thomas says, noncommittally.  “It’s just all sort of invisible, in my head.”

In the end, if Kyle Thomas wasn’t King Tuff, a guy venturing throughout the country spreading garage rock gospel, he would take on a more lax occupation. As some sort of mutant “frog man.”

“If I wasn’t King Tuff I would be a frog man, that’s how I feel, I feel like a frog man,” Thomas said. “I just like chilling out on a lily pad, sticking my tongue out and watching the fruit flies.”

Though Outside Lands may be sold out, you can see King Tuff, or just the frog man, here:
King Tuff
With the Men, Twin Peaks
Sat/10, 10pm, $20
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF