The Tontons
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The Tontons

Houston, Texas, United States | INDIE

Houston, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Pieces falling into place for the Tontons - The Houston Chronicle"

An accidental misspelling might have saved the Tontons from being frozen by Star Wars creator George Lucas. The Houston band had an EP recorded, complete with cover art. What it didn't have was a name.
“We tried out the Prowlers for a bit,” bassist Tom Nguyen says and laughs. “We worried people would think it was a car or something.”
While watching The Empire Strikes Back, Nguyen and guitarist Adam Martinez thought the tauntauns — described as “omnivorous reptomammals” on Wikipedia — might provide a good name.
Lucas is protective of his world, which is why the Tyler band Eisley is no longer Mos Eisley. So one of this city's brightest bands might have saved its name by accidentally spelling its name the Tontons.
Things seem to have a way of working out for the band.
Take its genesis … Singer Asli Omar was working with another band that was booked by Nguyen to play a show. “I tended to overbook things,” Nguyen says. According to Omar, overbooking meant her band went on at 3 a.m., “which really (ticked) off the guys in my band. We were close to breaking up anyway. That might have finished the job. We didn't last long after that.”
Martinez; his drummer brother Justin and Nguyen recruited Omar. The styles sounded incompatible on paper. She sings with a sinuous torchy voice. They play a loud bluesy type of art rock.
“When we first started playing music we made jokes about the way we wanted to sound,” she says. “We joked that our main goal was to make ‘sexy music.' ”
Finding the formula for sexy music was bumpy at first. Nguyen says there were moments early on when the two styles didn't twist together as naturally as they do now. But a collaborative approach to writing songs put the band on common ground for its first recording, The Sea and Stars EP.
Where that recording showed promise, the band sounds more assured and aggressive on the new The Tontons, which was released last week. The band will do a CD release show at Cactus Music today and it also plays Aug. 8 at the Free Press Summer Fest.
“We work a lot different from other bands that I know,” Nguyen says. “It's a weird dynamic. Everyone writes something on their own, and we bring it all together. Sometimes we'll practice for a week and not get anywhere. Then another day we'll drive three songs.
“We used to joke that we're a one-take band.”
Omar says for the album the band “wanted to stay away from the obvious influences. We wanted to try something different. With a few songs we tried to get out of the comfort zone. Try some things you can dance to. But we always come back to who we are.”
The band takes the same approach with the occasional cover. Nguyen says they're kicking around some Pavement and David Bowie songs as possibilities. They previously struggled with Baby by Os Mutantes. “We can't play bossa nova at all,” he says. “Asli can sing it, but that's it.”
So, true to Mutantes' name and spirit, they tweaked it. “We made it more Tontonsesque,” he says. “It sounds weird, but people seem to like it.”
The band's immediate plans aren't entirely clear. Omar leaves for school in New York later this month. There is some talk about trying to play some shows there; the band played in Georgia when she was in school there.
“We'll keep at it while she's gone,” Nguyen says. “As long as we don't get complacent, we can get some songs set up and ready to go.”
They plan to release a 7-inch in December and another EP early next year.
“There'll be a little break,” Omar says, but “you'll see us again in the springtime.” - The Houston Chronicle - Andrew Dansby

"Rap legend Bun B calls The Tontons "Best Band In Houston""

@bunbtrillog Best band in Houston. RT @themodular: Yeah! They are the best. RT @heatherpray: Congrats to @thetontons, … @mtvbuzzworthy - Twitter

"[] Sonicbids Spotlight: Tontons (Houston, TX) Bun B approved pastiche rock from H-town"

When you have Texas rap legend Bun B as one of you biggest fans, you know you’re doing something right. So spotting Bun at one of Houston indie-rock band the Tontons’ shows—a not so uncommon occurrence—should be the first signal that you are about to experience something very special. “Its always a pleasant surprise to see Bun at our shows,” says Tontons bassist Tom Nguyen. “He’s told us that he’s a fan our new EP Golden, which is pretty awesome to hear from such a legend in the business.”

Since 2008, the Tontons have been garnering a reputation in Texas for their genre-mixing sound. Comprised of members who vary in musical taste “from jazz to doom metal to psychedelic rock to top-40 pop,” the band has perfected a recipe of strong vocal wails and raw jazz and blues-driven indie rock. It’s almost become laughable how much people struggle to categorize the band’s sound, leaving the members curious to hear what fans and critics think. “It’s a favorite past time to read reviews and see how real music critics classify our sound,” Nguyen says. “We sorta just let people tell us what they think we sound like.”

But even the band itself can’t come up with a good comparison. “We get asked this a lot and still haven’t come up with a good answer,” Nguyen says. “Otherwise, our answers consist of, ‘It’s like this, but not like that, but sort of like this.’”

Golden by Tontons

The band formed in 2008 when Nguyen and guitarist Adam Martinez were playing in another local act and became interested in singer Asli Omar’s vocal style. They got in contact with her right as she was leaving for college, meaning that much of the band’s early history was spent spread across the map. “We were a long distance band for a long time while Asli attended Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah and the Pratt Institute in New York,” Nguyen says. “We just made it work.”

Starting out as the Prowlers before moving on to its current Star Wars-inspired name name, the group released the grungy and bluesy EP Sea and Stars in 2008, followed by its self-title full release in 2009. However, it’s the band’s latest release, the pop-friendly 2011 EP Golden, that’s been turning heads, especially at home—the EP was recognized on several top-10 of 2011 lists from Houston media publications.

So Young by Tontons

For now the band is staying busy with frequent shows, mostly around Texas, but sometimes straying away for festivals and short tours. The group has often been told that it would flourish in a better scene like Brooklyn’s, but it resists with the belief that Houston is developing into a great scene in its own right. “There is definitely something happening in our music scene and we have a lot people here supporting that,” Nguyen says. “We’ve made a lot of progress as a band in the last year and it seems possible to ‘make it’ without moving now.” With that being said, it makes you wonder if maybe one day the Tontons will serve as a Bun B-like figure to someone else: a successful hometown band supporting the growth of another up-and-coming artist. -

"[] New Song: The Tontons, 'Golden'"

"I've given up on all of your golden days," Asli Omar sings on the Tontons' "Golden," but the song itself sounds anything but defeated. The rhythmic, guitar-driven track sounds like a younger, college-aged Metric, and much like Emily Haines (Metric's lead singer), Omar carries an empowering, emotional lead vocal. "You were never strong enough to break me down," she sings on the CAT-CHY hook. Yeeeah, we don't know about you, but we're getting this on the ol' iPod stat (or insert musical device of choice here). This ish is perfect for LES romps (while probably pretending to be Santigold).

Listen to "Golden" by The Tontons after the jump.

The Tontons -- who are (awesomely) named after the "Star Wars" Hoth sorta-horse -- hail from Houston, and the indie rockers have not only become local favorites, but they're getting national praise from The New York Times! The hard-touring act has played more than 100 shows in the last year or so, completing at an Ironman-level at Austin's SXSW festival with nine sets under their guitar straps. Seriously, we're going to have to sleep for a week just thinking about it. Next up, the band is due to appear at Pop Montreal and New York City's CMJ Music Marathon, so get familiar with "Golden" before the Tontons catch any more shine. -

"[NY Times] Locals Try to Make Themselves Heard at SXSW"

"This hard-touring quartet trades in smart, hooky pop songs built around the glimmering blues growl of the band’s leader, Asli Omar. “Golden,” the band’s latest EP, features its most pointedly alternative rock and radio-ready set of songs yet" - The New York Times

"[] New Video: The Tontons, 'Golden'"

The Tontons may hail from Houston, but in their new video for "Golden," Asli Omar looks like she just caught the first flight home from New York Fashion Week. In fact, the indie frontwoman's "Drive"-worthy tiger-print shirt and a patterned skirt could make even Ryan (Hey, girl) Gosling blush! Rawr! No pressure, boys.

Watch The Tontons' "Golden" video after the jump.

The video finds Omar singing and dancing like everyone's watching as her bandmates set up behind her, which gives the group plenty of time to get all their knob-twists juuuust right. While the band doesn’t move much, the backdrop matches Omar’s motion, heading from the forest to an underground lair thanks to a green screen and some old-school special effects -- wait...we think we recognize those rocks from a "Star Trek" episode.

While we've compared the indie act to Metric, the group's energetic rock has a home in plenty of other genres, including hip-hop -- Southern rap O.G. Bun B recently proclaimed over Twitter that the Tontons were "the best band in Houston." Hey, maybe the band can borrow Bun for a guest verse on their next jam, or at least film a video at his crib -- in the meantime, the Tontons will be hitting the road, touring through Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and more. Hope they remember to pack their sizzurp. And further Ryan Gosling-inspired attire. -

"The Tontons Sea and Stars EP - Freepress Houston"

"This shit is Awesome. However, I have to be honest. The Ep sat on my desk for a few weeks with the myriad others that usually end-up in the graveyard of emo and singer songwriter crapola that we receive so much of. I was frankly surprised by the five impassioned and haunting songs that The Tontons served up on their debut E.P. Sea and Stars. I hate to say nice things about local bands. Dammit. The band combines a tasteful mix of Asli Omar's Hypersoulful vocals, and the bands, Hendrix ala Garage aesthetic. Imagine a diffuse amalgamation of the Sugarcubes, Hendrix, Nina Simone , and a touch of punk rock sensibility. Pardon the shitty, half-priced pun, but the sticky=sweet song Syrup is an irresistible track laden with violins and call and response back vocals..." - Free Press Houston - Omar Afra

"The Best Local Music of 2011"

Asli Omar has one of the city’s most alluring female voices, and she anchors every one of this effort’s five songs. She’s at her swirling, hypnotic best on So Young and the title track. That’s not to take anything away from the wall of fuzzy sound behind her, particularly Adam Martinez’s expert guitar work. - Joey Guerra,

"HOUSTUNES: Favorite Albums of 2011 (#3 The Tontons "Golden")"

The Tontons managed to put together just 5 songs, and they were good enough to land near the top of my list. That’s how talented and mesmerizing this band really is.
I was introduced to Houston’s own The Tontons in fall of 2011, and already my love affair with them has catapulted into what I hope is a long enduring relationship. With Golden, the band repays my affection with some of their cleanest, most soulful work to date, and it’s work that really brings to light how versatile this band really is. Ever so slightly stepping away from their psychedelic sounds of previous efforts, Golden manages to produce a much more intro-friendly sound to the uninitiated.
This is a love affair I won’t mind sharing, and I can’t wait for whatever full release The Tontons have planned for us next. - Jose Rojas - My Houston Life

"The Sounds - The Queso"

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about them until now. Because they’ve been playing non-stop in our house for a while now. Especially since their new album Golden came out about a month ago. The Tontons (Asli Omar, Tom Nguyen, Adam Martinez, Justin Marinez) are a severely talented group of people, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for them. They’re going to be huge. - Laura Mayes - The Queso

"Vietnam - The Tontons - The Not-Pop Jukebox"

The Tontons have been around for a while, appearing at SXSW as far back as 2008 when they released their first EP. (Hey, that's four years, now!) But their 5-song release in October, 2011, "Golden", marks a much more polished and--dare I say--pretty sound.

The title track is great but Vietnam is the song to which I keep going back for more. Thus I'm sharing it with you today. You can pick up the whole set for $5 from their BandCamp profile, and it's well worth the investment. They offer enough horns, strings, and lyrical interest to stand out as up-and-coming in the indie world. Take a few minutes to check them out and do let me know what you think. - The Not-Pop Jukebox

"Favorite Houston Releases of 2011 - Houston Calling"

10. The Tontons, Golden EP (Self-released)
There’s no denying the talent of the musicians behind the voice, and these five songs showcase both elements well. It will be interesting to see how The Tontons progress in 2012. - David A Cobb

"Top Ten Local Albums of 2011 - Houston Press"

0. The Tontons, Golden

"Golden," the title track from the Tontons' latest EP, wowed almost everyone in Houston — including rapper Bun B, a frequent face at the band's gigs — with its pulsating hookiness and lead singer Asli Omar's fist-shaking, Debbie Harry-biting sensuality. That could be because it's been the most non-Tontons-sounding Tontons song, a strong departure from the usual kaleidoscopic vampiness we've gotten used to since their debut recordings. Houston scene vet/secret weapon Derek Dunivan handled the bulk of the production and engineering, adding his audible fairy dust to the tracks. - Houston Press - Craig Hlavaty

"The Tontons "So Young""

Listening to the amazing fusion of rock, soul, pop, jazz and blues of Houston four-piece The Tontons‘ new 5-track EP Golden (as well as their 2009 self-titled release and 2008 debut Sea and Stars), the one thought that will continuously echo around your brain is why this act hasn’t already been on the tip of everyone’s tongue as a Band You Must Hear (and Subsequently Fall In Love With).

Indulge in their catalog and you’ll quickly discover that the incredibly talented group (consisting of singer Asli Omar, bassist Tom Nguyen, guitarist Adam Martinez, and drummer Justin Marinez) is just incapable of creating anything close to filler, every song they’ve put to tape so far (highlighted by ace, genre-meshing arrangements that dictate no two cuts sound alike; fantastic songwriting; and the downright blissful, never un-interesting vocal stamps of Omar) having the potential to be included on some future ‘greatest hits’ compilation.

Below, treat your eardrums with the sun-kissed felicity of Golden-opener “So Young”, an amalgamation of summery guitar goodness, keyboard twinkle, a splash of horns and the jazzy euphoria of Asli all brought together to effectively capture the care-free giddiness of youth (when staying up “past the moon” meant everything), then check out fellow Texan Dave Wrangler‘s killer icy-dub spin on the band’s EP title cut. - Mixtape Maestro

"The Tontons Are Doing Houston Proud"

By Cary Darling
Posted 11:15pm on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
Tom Nguyen is the first to admit it: Houston may not be the best place for his band, the Tontons. For a lot of listeners, the quartet's savvy blend of singer Asli Omar's R&B/jazz-spiced vocals ladled over a tasty indie-pop-jazz-blues mix brings to mind Brooklyn more than Bayou City.

"Everyone always tells us, 'If you guys move, you'll probably be further along,'" the bassist concedes in a phone interview.

But, as of now at least, Omar, bassist Nguyen and the rest of the Tontons -- brothers Adam Martinez on guitar and Justin Martinez on drums -- are staying put.

"There's a handful of bands doing what we're doing, and everyone wants to stay loyal to Houston," Nguyen says. "Houston gets a bad rap in general. No one expects anything out of Houston. A lot of bands want to change that."

Lucky us, then, that the Tontons, who are making their Dallas debut at the Double Wide on Saturday, are remaining Texans; maybe that means we'll get to see them even more. The band's just-released, five-track EP, Golden, is a delicious little musical amuse-bouche, with hints of everyone from Adele, Estelle and Macy Gray to St. Vincent, Silversun Pickups and Blondie.

The Tontons, whose name was inspired by creature from the movie The Empire Strikes Back called a "tauntaun," came together in 2007, when Nguyen and Adam Martinez asked Omar - whom they already knew from the Houston scene -- if she wanted to work together.

"[Asli and I] both come from failed high-school bands so we wanted to do something different," Nguyen, 24, recalls. "It was weird at first to adapt her vocal style to how we play, but now it seems natural."

Certainly, it wouldn't seem to be a perfect fit, as can be gleaned from their influences. "Asli is more like old-school jazz stuff. Our drummer is a Zeppelin fan and myself, I'm all over the place. I'll be listening to doom metal, and then I'm listening to shoegaze and a lot of pop stuff, lots of '70s pop stuff," he says.

Houston audiences at first didn't know what to make of them. "We didn't fit in with what other people were doing at the time," Nguyen recalls. "I have a hard time describing our music to people. It's not enough of one genre."

But, slowly, word started to get out. Local critics love them; blogger Jose Rojas, at, recently proclaimed, "I did NOT expect to come out a newly converted member to the rapidly growing cult of a local band that not only doesn't sound quite like anything else from our area, they barely sound like anything else from our time."

Nguyen says the local buzz came as a bit of a surprise. "We did a record-release [show], and 300 people came," he says. "All of these people came out to the show and created a false buzz about it by accident. It's been crazy how much people actually like us."

The Tontons' first recording, Sea and Stars (2008), and the follow-up full-length album, The Tontons (2009), with tracks like the Portishead-meets-Pixies intense Leon, have a grungier, bluesier guitar feel than the sleek, pop-leaning Golden. Nguyen says it is just a result of what they have been listening to.

"Our musical tastes change over the years," he says. "We've been listening to more current things and being more aware of what people are doing. We're the type of band that we can't rip anyone off -- we're not that good -- so everything we do is a weird blend....We've been more into pop songs lately."

They're writing new material for an album to come in the next few months, and it may be a change-up from Golden.

"Some of the songs are more pop, some are the opposite, way slower," Nguyen says. "It's going to be different." - (Cary Darling)

"The Tontons (Self Titled) - Houston Modern Luxury Magazine"

In a surprisingly rich mini-era of local indieband awesomeness, the quartet tops the heap. Vocalist Asli Omar magnanimously chirps each verse, as on tracks like "Leon." This first full length album packs saucy vocals, wreck-less guitar noodling and sing-alongable songs. - Shea Serrano

"The Tontons (Star Wars-Loving Psychedelic Soul Rebels?) - 002 Houston"

"Sometimes it can be hard to fit a band into an easy box. for music writers, labels are gold-shorthand they can use to describe something with one word they'd need ten to talk about otherwise. There are bands however, that stubbornly defy those kinds of attempts of categorization..." - Jeremy Hart

"The Tontons - Houston Press"

It's only a matter of time before everyone in Houston will have an "I knew them when" story about the Tontons. Now that the local indie-rock quartet is releasing its first full-length CD, The Tontons, the clock is ticking. The term "breakout potential" gets thrown around all too easily — especially around here, where the scene sometimes seems downright desperate for validation from beyond the Loop — but the Tontons absolutely have the talent and charisma to be somebody's Next Big Thing. Singer Asli Omar is a big, big voice in a tiny package and a dynamic front woman who seizes her audience's attention (and affection) and doesn't let up. The three guys behind her, meanwhile, etch out carefully wrought musical canvases of everything from hard-edged psychedelic blues-rock to carnivalesque waltzes to simmering ballads — which, if you close your eyes, you'd swear it was Billie Holliday singing. Saturday's CD release at Caroline Collective is the Tontons' first step in a journey that will take them who knows where, destined to be one of those "I was there" moments for the band's growing circle of fans. - Chris Gray

"The Tontons The Tontons Self-Released; 2009 - Dryvetyme Onlyne Album Review"

As a dude who listens to a lot of pop music, I listen to a lot of dudes who make pop music. The burden is lighter, I think, for male vocalists, just like it is for male comic book heroes. A male singer can moan (Thom Yorke), whisper (Jeff Tweedy), sing off-key (Bob Dylan in the sixties), and/or talk rhythmically off-key (Bob Dylan in 2009), and it’s still an acceptable way to perform good music. Females rock stars have a harder time fitting the “rock and role” of rock and roll, through no fault of their own. That’s just how it is. And I’ve searched decently hard for a female voice that wants to rock but doesn’t try too hard, is smooth without being too soulful, and can be pleasant and clean without sounding like just another country star. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond comes close, but she’s sometimes too New York theatrical for me. Zooey Deschanel, for a short while, has such a sweet voice for such a sweet collection of songs, but she didn’t have quite enough grit. Then, thankfully, I was handed the new album by the Houston four-piece The Tontons. Suffice to say that the sky opened, the sun shone, and the clearness of female-rock day come bursting fourth through the vocals of Asli Omar.Omar’s style fits the small variations of a workable, rockable, guitar sound that The Tontons have created over the past few years cruising the Houston, TX scene. The opening track, “1816”, a smooth dirt-ball of pop, is a perfect introduction to once-bouncing, then-grinding guitar work and a voice that slithers around like a purple Barracuda. And it doesn’t let go till the final breath of music escapes from this debut album.

Although at the core, the feel of this album does not change. It is clear that no wacky instruments are added to give the album any sort of manufactured “uniqueness” or “modern rock variety,” and each song has a particular guiding influence. For the sultry “Little Wooden Horses,” the source is clearly urban blues. “Cock-eyed Cowboys,” an instrument jam, takes its root from a western dance-hall country and southern Cali rock, and is as memorable a ditty as “Walk Don’t Run” (aka the opening tune of Pulp Fiction).

And then, there is “Dancing” – a sort of ’90s pop jam taken from the disco garden of ’77 and played through Texas guitar—a song that has barely left my mind. This, more than any other track, is the reason I like this band, as it moves effortlessly between genres, measure by measure, and creates a song full of grit and sweat, inspired by the action that is this song’s namesake. Omar’s voice never falters in the transition from disco love to tough love when she sings with pain and longing, “I’ll fix you if you let me. Won’t you let me help you?”

This is the kind of straight-forward pop music that makes you angry, sad, tense, tired, relaxed, and energetic, and do so all at once. The music of The Tontons is made to be played loud, made to be listened to carefully, and made to be placed at the corner of the wooden dance floor among the brown-bottled beers and plain white undershirts. My Seattle-self would almost hate to admit it, but The Tontons almost make me wish I were from Texas. - Michael Dallas Miller

"SXSW Last Night"

Even coming away with one legitimate discovery at SXSW makes the whole enterprise worthwhile, so it was both ironic and appropriate that my discovery this year comes from Houston. This wasn’t so much discovery as confirmation: I knew about the Tontons before, from several testimonials and their MySpace page, but after watching them Thursday. Starting with a pair of slow psych-blues jams underneath 19-year-old singer Asli Omar’s Billie Holliday-like vocals (which, again, were pretty hard to discern, but she’s got some pipes), they picked up the tempo for some weatherbeaten, enigmatic modern rock not far at all from PJ Harvey. They closed with a hoppy go-go R&B number that slowly mutated into a funky Hendrix-like freakout from guitarist Adam Martinez, who didn’t let the fact that he somehow forgot his gear back in Houston stop him from singing the speakers. I can’t recommend their gig next Friday at Warehouse Live highly enough, especially since Omar is currently studying art history at the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia and only makes it back to Houston every three months or so." - Houston Press


Sea and Stars EP 2008
The Tontons LP 2009
"Golden" Single 2011
Golden EP 2011
Bones 7" 2012



It's funny. The Tontons don't have a readily available mainstream band to make an off-the-cuff comparison, so in this space we won't tell you they sound like Indie Flavor Of The Week or Noted And Weighty Classic Rock Name. The Tontons simply sound like the Tontons. That sounds like false bluster, but anyone who has been tracking them since 2008 will tell you the same thing. Up front is Asli Omar, that vocal vixen who can make men and rock nerds alike quake in their boots. Bassist Tom Nguyen, whose rumble forms the dermis of the band and then them boys Adam and Justin Martinez come in with titanic guitars and drums to make sure you are still moving your feet. This is a band that has been fully embraced by their native Houston, and the Tontons have hugged the city back with relentless gigging around town, and now it's time for the world to get some love from The Tontons.

2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 SXSW Official Showcases
2012 Pop Montreal Music Festival Performer
2012 Houston Press Music Awards Nominee Local Musician of The Year/Best Female Vocalist - Asli Omar
2011 Best Local Albums - Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Houston Calling and My Houston Life
2011 Houston Press Music Awards Fest Headliner
2011 Best Fest Headliner (local)
2012 35 Denton Music Festival Showcase
2009, 2011 Free Press SummerFest Performer
2009 Houston Press "Best Of" Best Local Album
2008 Houston Press Music Awards "Best New Act"
2010 Houston Chronicle "Favorite Local Albums of The Decade"

"This hard-touring quartet trades in smart, hooky pop songs built around the glimmering blues growl of the band’s leader, Asli Omar. “Golden,” the band’s latest EP, features its most pointedly alternative rock and radio-ready set of songs yet." - Andy Langer, New York Times

"Best band in Houston" - rap legend Bun B

"...the band has perfected a recipe of strong vocal wails and raw jazz and blues-driven indie rock. It's almost become laughable how much people struggle to categorize the band's sound..." - Billy Mitchell,

"Buzzworthy" -

"(Rap legend) Bun B showed up right before the Tontons went on to introduce them, as he has lately been a very vocal fan of the group." - Craig Hlavaty, Houston Press

"Houston foursome the Tontons sound like they're set for bigger (if not necessarily better) things...the Tontons could fit well on a Rolling Stone "next" list." - Bryan C. Reed, Indy Weekly