The Toothe
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The Toothe

| Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

| SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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Self-described as Apocalyptic Americana music, Asheville, NC folk band, The Toothe, released a strange but great 25-minute EP, Talons, on June 10. Great because this EP is made up of six really interesting folk songs, ranging from folky sing-alongs to slow ballads. Strange because lyrically, there’s stuff like “now you’re passing through me like a kidney stone” in the song “Husk”. I guess I’d describe these guys a bit like The Avett Brothers, with Ween lyrics. Talons is definitely a really fun listen because of that. It’s a psychedelic look at Americana, it’s so refreshing in a time with so many artists that seem to have fallen into a “genericana” pitfall and have some fun with the genre. - The Revue


The Toothe are one of those bands you simply can’t deny. Love them or hate them, you have to acknowledge them, and perhaps that’s where some of their power comes from. Their self-described “apocalyptic Americana” sound is simultaneously charming and witty in a way that could be described as ironic folk. Their debut EP Talons is a snapshot of this sound condensed into six tracks that packs a punch of punch-drunkenness.

With the wit of a satire blogger and the laziness of a Sunday afternoon banjo, the Toothe make one hell of a band. This sort of absurdism might not be clear from the opening plucks and organ of “Earthworm”––it sounds like a perfectly reasonable folk tune with hints of Good Old War and even some Simon & Garfunkel––but when the memorable lyric “love is the answer to a question ugly people shouldn’t ask” arrives unexpectedly, you start to get a feel for the true colors of the Toothe. StGA’s previous comparison of the band to the Avett Brothers is both on-point and much too serious; that being said, there’s some saccharine Americana in Talons.

The band bounce back and forth between lighthearted jaunts through the countryside (“Slab”) that sound like a chorus of Bob Dylan‘s harmonizing lines penned by the Cracked crew. Not to exclude the musicianship of the Toothe––”Slab” features some transfixing strings in its midst and ends with a calm, jazzy bass line that ranks among the best. And with songs like “Husk,” which opens with placid acoustic lines and a heartbreaking couplet of broken love, the Toothe seem to be completely sincere. In fact, “Husk” nearly makes the entire EP worth a listen. However, it’s almost immediately countered by the line “you’re passing through me like a kidney stone, torturously slow” followed by some Owl City-esque synth. It’s this tug of war between authenticity and wit that makes the Toothe tiptoe the line between genius and gimmick, and that’s for the listener to decide. Talons has some great moments, but it also has a song that begins with “I’m so sorry I splattered mustard on your leotard.” Even so, the EP is a noveau-folk outing that can certainly be stomached, unlike that unfortunate kidney stone. - Surviving The Golden Age


John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe have remamed themselves "The Toothe." This is a trio from Asheville, North Carolina consisting of Ben Melton: vocals, guitar, mandolin; Myles Holt: vocals, guitar; and Paul Blackwell: banjo, organ, bass. Their second album is memorable for accomplished, confident musicianship and unexpected, sometimes enlightened, often dark lyrics. The Toothe deserve to be listened to carefully.
Six songs, 28 minutes, but a lot to consider: This is metaphaphysical mountain music. Take the title track. Quiet finger picking guitar intro. "Purple talons in the moonlight what did you kill? For the briefest of moments the silence is broken and then the forest stood still." Appreciate the virtuoso playing, again, preparing the listener for the development: "Early in the morning, love feeds its wings and flies away like a dewdrop, eviscerated by the heat of the day." Then, more remarkable guitar work and the denouement: "Early in the evening, love sheds its skin and slithers away."

This track is typical of its bedfellows. For instance, on track 1, "Earthworms" with reference to a failing relationship, we hear the words: "All the earthworms, baking on the pavement know exactly how I'll feel." This time the integral music is banjo and organ, and the build up is matched by the words: "Well, well, well, well...." and "Love is the answer to the question ugly people shouldn't ask. Outside my window in the afternoon, I'll watch the reptile bask. Some day I'll muster up the courage to shed this wretched skin and begin again."

The careful listener thus begins to establish themes and links. What works here, as with all the tracks, is the mixing that folds the words with the music. And the mixing is overseen by Danny Kadar (My Morning Jacket; The Avett Brothers)

So it is with all six tracks. Listen to the words, the references, the terrible fiction, "the slab of love", "the shrunken head bubbling in the bath tub", "I've got you like a disease." "Way back when God was just an infant abandoned on the doorstep of the Universe....."

Listen to the playing which teases out the hint of morbidity without over playing it. Some people have compared The Toothe to The Avett Brothers, but they are more gritty, and the better for it. - Americana UK


Asheville, North Carolina’s charmingly interesting folk trio The Toothe once again bring to the table another delightful album. Their latest effort, Talons, is a heartwarming EP that will instantly put a smile on your face.

Identifying themselves as an “Apocalyptic Americana” band, it is quite puzzling to determine whether or not The Toothe ironically want to classify themselves with an obscure sound, or in actuality, a unique, specific genre. Considering the satirical incorporation of whimsical prose to add to their lighthearted style, there is nothing really apocalyptic that truly stands out from this release. Regardless, Talons continues to grace listeners with The Toothe’s eccentric persona, as depicted on previous materials like John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe, as well as their split EP with The Critters.

The second that “Earthworms” starts off this EP with a bluesy banjo lick in unison with the eerie piano tone to add a grotesque appeal to the song, we are introduced with a bizarrely existential line, “Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had no skin,” right before the trio breaks out into a traditionally upbeat acoustic rhythm. This peculiar lyrical imagery can be easily heard through the first half of Talons, especially within other songs like “Mustard” and “Husk.”

In comparison to their influences, The Toothe definitely introduce an innovative twist to their sound that may stand alone within the realm of contemporary folk rock. The innovative obscurity behind their personality overall creates a defining attribute that musically shines throughout. By blending together the atmospheric and blissful symmetry of classic alternative groups like Wilco with the introspective vernacular of The Mountain Goats, Talons provides a jubilant variety of musical bliss that complements its daring and imaginative lyrical approach. This record is truly a unique breed of its kind. - The Aquarian


When I first turned on the EP, I expected another Mumford & Sons, folk wanna-be band. But as they continued playing, I heard subtle tones from the Beatles, Panic! at the Disco, (clearly) the Avett Brothers and Fleet Foxes. As I listened farther into the album, I found great beauty in the descriptions and comparisons that The Toothe would use. Although quite graphic, “you are passing through me like a kidney stone.” the lyrics were very well done and never felt out-of-place with the style of music The Toothe plays. - Crooked Line Reviews


Asheville, NC’s The Toothe, fresh from a name change (formerly John Wilkes Boothe and The Black Toothe) — debuted its new Talons EP recently. Talons EP marks the band’s first release since co-producing a collaborative album with The Tills (who also recently ditched their old name, The Critters). Keeping in line with the band’s previous work, the new album blends modern Appalachian Americana with a reverence for the past, all with a heavy lean on southern Gothicism and theatrical highs and lows.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the band to discuss thier collection of songs. This is what they told us.

When did you begin writing the material for Talons?

We didn’t write the material for Talons, it was bestowed upon us. On a moonless night, a luminous Walruschrist appeared before us and offered to write a hit record for us in exchange for our pledge to serve him eternally in the afterlife. We’ll see how the record does.

What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?

“Slab” was probably the biggest thorn in our side. It’s a fun song to play, but it’s got some pretty busy guitar work and tricky harmonies. We really slaved over that one while recording. Early takes were a jumbled mess. We eventually squeezed the kind of tight and propulsive performance we wanted out of ourselves, but not before we wanted to shoot ourselves and each other in the heads.

Which of the songs on the EP is most different from your original concept for the song?

Most of our songs go through a lot of iterations before they find their way onto a record or even into our live set. As they are passed between the three of us, they usually mutate into something more than whatever it was they were initially supposed to be. The song Husk, especially, has taken on many forms. It started out as a much faster number, an upbeat kind of ode to octagons and loneliness. By the time we recorded it for this EP, “Husk” was a delicate and more slowly-paced ballad. And it was just about loneliness. It’s typical for our songs to wander pretty far afield from their place of birth.

Did you perform these songs under your old moniker? Or are these all new compositions?

These songs have been around for a long time in one form or another. Some of them are years and years old and have been a part of our live set for ages. But we reworked them extensively for the Talons EP and I think they have found their fullest expression so far in these recordings.

Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?

We played just about everything on this record ourselves. Although we like to think that Dylan, Lennon, and R. Kelly were there with us in spirit throughout the process.

Who produced Talons? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?

We spent a lot of time on preproduction – deciding on arrangements, instrumentation, harmonies, etc – in advance so we could relax and be confident in recording the parts. We’ve recorded our own music for years in our home studio, so again we took care of all the recording and producing ourselves. Danny Kadar mixed the record and really pulled out some depth and luster. Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering locked the low end in place and made everything shimmer. Talons wouldn’t have been the same without the contributions of those talented fellows.

Is there an overarching concept behind the music that ties the songs together?

There is no explicit narrative arc linking the songs on this EP. But the songs are connected thematically to a certain degree. And there is a certain half malevolent, half tongue in cheek undercurrent that runs through the record as a whole.

Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?

Most of these songs have been a part of our live set for quite a while. People seem to respond most enthusiastically to our upbeat and energetic songs. “Mustard” seems to get toes tapping. Bouncy and percussive songs are fun to bang out live. The quieter and more contemplative songs don’t always translate well in a live setting, but they do work well on our record. - Ghettoblaster Magazine


Party time with the freek folk. Sprung from the same back porch Holy Modal Rounders must have sprung from 50 years ago, the student housing ghetto is still producing off beat creative types that might not get the girl they want but they do ok for themselves. They might be dooming themselves to a life on the back 40, but it will be a fun ride along the way. - Midwest Record


‘Tis the season for name changes and new albums. The Toothe, fresh off the heels of a much-needed name change from its former tangle — John Wilkes Boothe and The Black Toothe — debuts its new album, Talons EP, with a record release show on Friday, May 2, 9 p.m., at The Odditorium. Blot and Barn Cat also perform; $5.

Talons EP marks the band’s first release since co-producing a collaborative album with The Tills (who also recently ditched their old name, The Critters). Keeping in line with the band’s previous work, the new album blends modern Appalachian Americana with a reverence for the past, all with a heavy lean on southern Gothicism and theatrical highs and lows.

The chord progressions are empathetic and spiritually-tinged, as if simulating some pseudo-religious, postbellum revival. Others have the cheer of a high-Victorian sideshow. The band builds a foundation beneath layers of winding and increasingly intricate guitar melodies and trailing group harmonies. These rise and fall in unison, scarcely breaking. Singular vocals happen infrequently, making those appearances all the more savory.

In less than a half-hour, these six tracks manage to create a well of deep contradiction. They are, more or less, a clever, superficial veil for an ultimately contemptuous collection of songs.

Hardship, if not scorn, runs rampant through their lyrics. In “Wine-Dark,” a solitary figure becomes the source of poetic rebuttal: “I try to tell her that the child ain’t mine, but she don’t understand.”

In “Talons,” the album’s title track, the band takes similar aim at a former lover. The sweetness of the intro is matched and countered by a bitter turn shown after two quick stanzas: “Purple talons in the moonlight, what did you kill?”

“Like a dew drop, eviscerated by the heat of the day,” eases into the feeling of despair, only to cut deeper: “You took my love and put it to death.”

Each song builds speed and steam. Slow beginnings become steady forward marches matched by rises in the power of both the instruments and their voice. Just as a song seems about to break or tip into chaos of metallic fury, the instruments drop off as vocals gather at the bottom of a quiet choral reprise. - Mountain Xpress


The Toothe is an indie folk band that consists of members Myles Holy, Ben Melton, and Paul Blackwell. If you like The Decemberists, Mountain Goats, The Avett Brothers or The Last Bison, then you’re definitely going to want to check out The Toothe’s new self released EP entitled, Talons. If you’re a big fan of college radio artists, then this is right up your alley. Seeing as how they are an upcoming band, keep your eyes on the CMJ line up for the fall because I can definitely see this high energy, folk trio playing there this year.

The Toothe has a great blend of acoustic guitars and folk instruments in their songs. The vocals sound great and at times reminds me of the lead singer of The Front Bottoms. Their song Mustard, is filled with the amazing sounds of banjo, mandolin, harmonica, acoustic guitars, tambourines and more. The song has a lot of high energy and catchy lyrics that will be stuck with you all day, in a good way! If you like what you hear, you should definitely check more of their music on their bandcamp page.

This indie folk band has a lot going on in their songs that makes them each unique. My two favorite songs that I have gotten my hands on are Mustard and Talons. Mustard is upbeat, catchy, and has a nice vibe to it where you can listen to and it fits to any mood you may be in. Talons starts out slow with acoustic finger picking and then slowly picks up while gaining some energy to the song. It has a nice build throughout the song and ends beautifully with a few chord progressions to finish it off.

Take a few minutes of your day to check out this band, they’re definitely worth it! - MusicBeards


If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that The Toothe were an alternate identity for The Avett Brothers. Because throughout the folk/rock trio’s “Talons EP,” I had to double check and make sure I wasn’t listening to Seth and Scott Avett do their thing. In fact, The Toothe (formerly John Wilkes Boothe & The Black Toothe) are a North Carolina outfit comprised of Ben Melton, Myles Holt and Paul Blackwell and this six-track EP is a revelation.

Avett-inspired opener “Earthworms” sets the tone, and The Toothe take a bite out of keepers “Mustard,” “Slab,” “Wine Dark” and “Talons.” I have listened to “Talons EP” pretty much constantly for a few weeks and am anxious to hear more from The Toothe. And soon. (Jeffrey Sisk) - Pittsburgh In Tune


t’s a fresh twist on folk with an energetic edge.

Folk isn’t usually a genre I’d peg as exciting. I don’t mean that to be insulting, but most mainstream folk has a reputation for solemn acoustic ballads and scraggly beards. But we’re not exactly talking about the mainstream when considering Asheville, NC three-piece The Toothe. The group has released their previous music under the title John Wilkes Boothe and The Black Toothe. And while there are still beards (whew), a nice blend of originality and surprise make Talons EP worth checking out.

It’s a little difficult to pin what genre these songs want to be. Folk-pop is closest to putting a name to it. Whatever it is, it works to their advantage. It’s a fresh twist on folk with an energetic edge. The lyrics are worth noting too, seemingly unconventional compared to a lot of folk music I’ve heard. “I’m so sorry I splattered mustard on your leotard.” There’s nothing wrong with writing a song about mustard stains; I commend the creativity. It also mirrors the uplifting vibe the whole EP radiates, which is strange due to some of the underlying lyrical sorrow.

The only track available at the time of this writing is “Mustard,” but I assure you the EP holds much in store beyond that track. “Husk” is a dark and witty journey that somehow comes off as pleasant, an easy favorite of mine from the bunch. Each song on the EP brings its own energy and flavor to the mix with uncanny cohesion.

If the band’s 2011 album made a splash, then this release is going to make waves. Talons EP is easy listening, a no-pressure opportunity to simply enjoy the music. It does this while adding some atypical influences to make us rethink our own ideas of what folk can be. I’ve never been to Asheville, but I hope it’s just as interesting to take in. Talons EP will be available June 16 via S/R records. B- | Alex Wilking - Playback St. Louis


To fully understand the city of Asheville, NC, listen to Talons, the six-song EP from folk trio The Toothe, who call the mountain city home. Fully invigorating, incredibly quirky and undeniably magnetic, Talons is indie-folk done right: unapologetic, brazen, brainy and pretty damn infectious. In short, Asheville in a nutshell.

The EP opens with “Earthworms.” a banjo and organ-fueled affair with a hazy, homey charm. Within a minute the song unravels a winning melody and the song coasts from there. Four minutes in, no complaints. The trio employs a similar formula on the ebullient and jocular “Mustard,” a cheery and inspired effort that draws its strength from its quirkiness as much as its musical acumen.

A folk band is only as good as their ballads and the introspective and intimate “Husk” is The Toothe’s first stab at balladry. As one might expect, it is easily the best song of the disc and an absolute must-listen. Should you find interest piqued by said review, do yourself a favor and download “Husk.” The band returns to jangly lo-fi folk on the jubilant and ringing “Slab.” The Toothe are not short of admitting their love for the 1970s (their album art is a direct paean to the era) and while much of Talons EP does feel directly culled from said decade, “Slab” is the first effort that feels as if it was written forty years ago.

Almost predictably The Toothe return to balladry on the understated and deeply inspired “Winedark,” a vernal effort with few if any flaws. Talons closes with a song of the same name and in many ways encompasses all of its five predecessors into one tightly-wrapped near-five minute effort. If “Husk” is the first song from the EP you download, make a point to make “Talons” the second.

In less than 25 minutes, the weirdly wonderful folk trio have cast an indelible and wide impression, something Asheville often does in exactly that amount of time. Though their sound is indeed tough to pin down, anyone who has enjoyed records by the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel, Violent Femmes or Ween will find something to savor here. Sure, they probably won't chart on Billboard, but college radio will scoop this up in nanoseconds. - Absolutepunk.net


If one were looking for two Asheville acts that lined up stylistically for collaboration, The Critters and John Wilkes Boothe and the Black Toothe would be an unlikely selection. The former is an aggressively psychedelic garage outfit with Sloan-approximate hooks and a roughshod sense of rock ‘n’ roll energy. They’re less about precision than than joyous momentum, often seeming close to careening out of control, though they always manage to hold on. The Toothe is a trio that brings order to normally chaotic music, tightening elements of macabre freak folk into polished musings that peel back the prestige of Southern heritage to uncover murder and menace.

Despite these differences, the two outfits are well-matched on their new split EP, a six-song offering that collects two originals and one cover from each. The covers find each group re-working one of the other’s songs, gleaning additional excitement from the bands’ compelling contrasts.

“I think it’s almost more interesting how dissimilar our bands are. That makes this kind of an interesting collaboration,” says Critters guitarist Tom Peters. He and the majority of his band- and split-mates are gathered up in the home of the Black Toothe’s Paul Blackwell, where they recorded their new release. “The most obvious differences are no electric guitars, no live rock drum kit with the Toothe. So that’s what made covering each other’s songs so interesting to me.”

Lined up in front a computer for a Skype interview, the groups’ members are clearly close, sharing frequent jokes and finishing each other’s thoughts during responses that are both charming and convoluted. Their familiarity can be traced back about three years to when a few members attended classes together at UNC-Asheville. Blackwell recorded an early iteration of The Critters at the time. Since then the groups have remained close, sharing occasional bills and more frequent beers. Earlier this year, the Toothe approached their friends with the idea for a split EP. Critters guitarist Harry Harrison says they were thrilled with the concept.

“I’d never even heard of a split EP until you guys suggested it,” he laughs. “I was like, ‘That’s a great idea! You guys are geniuses!’”

The outfits began work in May, recording with Blackwell over the summer and finishing the final touches in early November. Working together provided an accepting environment that made them comfortable to work through songs outside their comfort zones. “Eventually Die, Marie” finds The Critters jangling through perky folk-pop that recalls The Byrds when they covered Bob Dylan. “Blood on the Wind” sees the Toothe casting off their prettier elements and indulging in an oppressive dirge powered by a down-and-dirty bass line and brightened by intricate blues picking.

“It just made us more excited about it because we already were comfortable around each other as people, and then we already liked each other’s music,” says the Black Toothe’s Ben Melton. “It came pretty naturally.”

“It’s been great because Paul’s been recording everything in his house,” adds Peters. “It’s just really comfortable coming to record and hang out here, having the dudes from the Toothe hanging around while we’re doing it.”

Exploring unusual originals is one thing, but the covers allowed each outfit the opportunity to merge their aesthetic with that of the other.

The Critters tackle “Deep Winedark,” a musically bright entry in the Toothe’s repertoire thanks to its tangled acoustic licks and infectious kick drum-and-tambourine rhythm, a winning contrast with the song’s dark tale of disputed paternity. The Critters charge it up with chugging riffs and cutting fills, adding manic rock ‘n’ roll energy without losing the bittersweet tension that makes the original work.

The Toothe chose “Gee Golly” for its cover. The relentless rocker is among the more propulsive Critters numbers, zooming forward with resplendent riffs during the verses and pausing for a refrain about a girl who “went rock ‘n’ roll and forgot me.” The normally neat Toothe mimic The Critters’ velocity in a ragged acoustic barnstormer that displays an unexpected knack for chaos.

“We tried to make it sound like us,” Blackwell says. “We tend to obsess over details in a way that The Critters don’t. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just more about the pure expression of it, of a song or a sound. We do really obsess over details, and we tried to balance that with the rock ‘n’ roll spirit that The Critters gush.”

“They took our song and refined it into something that moved me to tears personally,” Harrison adds. “And we took their song and slapped it the f--k up.”

Jordan Lawrence is music editor at Shuffle Magazine and a contributing writer at The Independent. - Mountain Xpress


From North Carolina, Ben Melton, Myles Holt and Paul Blackwell have finally laid down eleven tracks to introduce the inquisitive listening world to their 'high-energy folk absurdism,' determinedly acoustic, with open tunings, trilling piano, banjo, high-register mouth harp and strident vocal harmonies, this is an album that confounds classification and seems to have its tongue firmly in its cheek.
There are no sleeve notes on the self-packaged product to explain who does what, but it's busy and full, without a rhythm section, as well as melodic and well paced. No lyric sheet either to allow the listener to discern any meaning from the intriguing titles, including 'The Ballad of Charles Manson,' 'The Ostrich and the Octopus,' and 'The Goatchilde.'
Of course, even lyrics on the sleeve of the double EP 'Magical Mystery Tour' led us no nearer to understanding 'I am the Walrus' and similar Lear-esque references, 'the cavalcade of marmalade running down the mountain' that hints at mid-60s psychedelia here. Most bizarre is 'We Shall Fight in France,' a duet between tuneful, delicate acoustic guitar and a looped Winston Churchill sample. - David Innes, R2 (Rock N' Reel magazine)


You have to admire an act who name themselves after a notorious assassin, sing songs about Charlie Manson and stick a crucified walrus on their album cover, a death metal combo perhaps? Well John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe confound expectations as it transpires that they are a trio from Ashville, North Carolina who eschew Satanic riffs and instead offer up an intricate acoustic folk stew that blends the likes of the Violent Femmes, Incredible String Band, Jeffrey Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Comus and Pearls Before Swine into a beguiling dish.
Comprised of Ben Melton, Myles Holt and Paul Blackwood the trio weave their guitars and occasional percussion expertly while they introduce a sense of naivety with their slight voices and the absurdism of some of the lyrics which feature unicorns, walruses, goatchilds, ostriches and octopi. Although on paper this might appear twee as hell they avoid mawkishness instead evoking the spirit of adventure and exploration that characterised the more leftfield exponents of early folk rock.
Opening song The Possum is a fine introduction to the weird world of the Toothe with its hint of incest set to a high lonesome harmonica. They delve deeper into darker tones with the cadaverous The Carrion which is one of the weirdest love songs we’ve ever heard but the highlight here is the sinister and absurd surrealism of One Foot. A love song to a woman who is only one foot tall it has a beguiling delivery that is hypnotic and spellbinding.
Weird indeed but often weird is good. - Paul Kerr (Blabber N' Smoke)


Upon initially hearing this, it made me think a mental hospital had acquired some recording equipment and in the place of group therapy, some of the patients had opted to express themselves with these new found toys.

This is a duo, although their FB page shows a picture of three gentlemen dressed in dapper attire. One page lists Myles Holt, Ben Melton, and Paul Blackwell as band members and the other very clearly refers to a “catchy two-headed lovechild birthed from an orgy between the Mountain Goats, Ween, The Avett Brothers and Morgan Freeman.”

Which is hard to argue with. Really, what do you say to this sort of gothic claim of a twisted car wreck of parentage?

“Let’s Pretend it’s Sunday” is one of the stand out tracks, and is positively Monty Python-esque. “We were both looking forward/To a day filled with Public Executions/But they were post-poned/Due to Inclement weather/What can you do?”

There are pretty melodies, and deft acoustic performances, and a lot of really odd lyrical musings. “In the Splendor of the court of the Rhinoceros King . . .” sings the singer on “Unicorn.” “I would give you everything I own/ For a Drop of Unicorn blood.” Most likely he’s not alone in this sentiment. “The Ballad of Charles Manson” is another memorable title and track. “The Ostrich and the Octopus” sounds like it could have been culled from a mid-70’s George Harrison album.

This release is available as a free download and worth every damn penny. You want something different? Something to listen to while you woo that arty, witchy girl who sits across the room? Music to make out to while you’re on your 15 minute break at the slaughterhouse? Or maybe just some background music while you dine on the flesh of the Goatchilde?

This my friends is it.

More twisted than the pointy fonts of that would-be-evil, trying too hard to be creepy and strange metal band that lives down the street from you. Someone, or possibly everyone in this band is off of their meds, and there’s no point in trying to get them back on.

http://www.facebook.com/johnwilkesbootheandtheblacktoothe/app_204974879526524 - Indie Music.com


"These are songs about love and octopi or whatever, but there's definitely still a dark underbelly and kind of a subtext of menace," says Miles Holt, one half of John Wilkes Boothe and the Black Toothe. "I really like that juxtaposition between accessibility, catchy melodies and good vibes, but just as in reality, there is something dark under the surface."

He's just captured the band's essence in one sentence. John Wilkes Boothe and the Black Toothe are high-energy folk absurdism, delivering comically dark and bizarre tales packaged in warm harmonies and acoustic traditionalism.

Holt's musical brotherhood with multi-instrumentalist Ben Melton, the other half of JWBBT, began in a high school black metal band. The collaboration took many forms over many years before settling into an energetic folk duo. Hardcore metal might seem more fitting accompaniment for lyrics like "I wanna tell you that you're just like that corpse / Can't you see that we were meant to be together / Putrid and warm and breaking into a million living pieces," but taken in full context, that's a heartfelt expression of love that oddly suits the upbeat and cheerful delivery.

"The lyrics have always been that way, more or less,” says Melton. "But we love really catchy stuff and vocal harmonies, and we just wrote the most natural thing that came to mind."

That formula is prevalent throughout the band's catalog. From the dark and morbid to the seemingly nonsensical, Holt's lyrics are always rooted in universal themes. They're just viewed through a dark lens and colored with warm harmonies and upbeat folk sensibilities.

"Whenever I'm writing a song, it takes me a couple months afterwards to define exactly what it’s about," says Holt. "But usually I find that everything falls into place thematically, even if it seems like a complete disconnect at first. And I feel like ambiguity makes things more universally relatable. These songs can mean absolutely anything you want; I don't give a shit. If this song speaks to you then f--k what it means to me.

"I get a little bit uncomfortable about the level of vulnerability that tends to surface," he adds. "So I kind of balance that out with this Dadai-istic, completely out of nowhere chorus formula so people know you don't have to take us completely seriously."

The band is no joke though. Frenetic live performances showcase the duo's musical dexterity, utilizing foot percussion and a variety of instruments to transcend the possibilities of a traditional two piece. It's a dynamic approach that has landed the band opportunities to share the bill with a diverse roster of local bands, from folk poppers like Now You See Them to punk outfits like Zombie Queen. They even opened for a recent Seduction Sideshow burlesque performance.

Clearly, the formula that appeals to a broad audience. This year, the band landed a spot as Best Local Acoustic/Folk Band without ever releasing a record — evidence of how powerful and engaging its live show can be.

"We've got Ben playing two to three instruments simultaneously," says Holt. "We're definitely pushing it to the limits, stage-presence wise. I feel like at this point, we can hold our own against full bands."

He admits there is also a certain appeal to the spectacle of the stage setup.

"We're doing the work of four people. At least three and a half people. That is entertaining, I think."

But Melton is quick to distinguish what they do from a gimmick.

"It's what I genuinely want, to be able to play all these instruments, because I love playing them," he says with conviction. "So if we're able to do it with just two schedules to work around, that's just less work for us."

Coincidentally, the band's appearance in the Best Of WNC poll coincides perfectly with the release of it's first album, which the duo recorded at Holt's home studio over the summer. Melton describes the self-titled effort as a "more lush version" of the stage show.

"Live, it's a lot more stripped down and raw, and it tends to have a little bit more aggressive energy to it," he explains. "But on the record, it's more precise and it sounds a little warmer, I think."

The band is celebrating the release with what promises to be a highly personal set at BoBo Gallery, Holt's favorite room in Asheville.

"We're hoping to push that place past fire capacity. And we like the intimate vibe, because if a venue is too loud, I feel like it undermines the whole lyrical emphasis that we go for. We can belt it out, but at that point I'm not sure we've got our vibe across. And I also can't sing again for the next week and a half."

There are no plans for a big push immediately following the record release, but the pair have their eyes on expanding the band's presence beyond the mountains this spring.

"We're consolidating our power here in Asheville before we push the boundaries of the empire," Holt quips in typical deadpan fashion.

And if it's local popularity is any - Mountain Xpress


Discography

The Critters/John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe (2012)

John Wilkes Boothe And The Black Toothe (2011)

I Can Hear The Childrens's Singing (2008)

Photos

Bio

The Toothe (formerly John Wilkes Boothe and the Black Toothe) is a high energy folk trio comprised of Myles Holt, Ben Melton, and Paul Blackwell. With a sound that's often difficult to pin down in a few words, the band has been described by some as a macabre Simon and Garfunkel, folk noir, and as the catchy three-headed lovechild birthed from a meeting of the Mountain Goats, Ween, The Avett Brothers, Leonard Cohen, and Morgan Freeman. Staples of the band's sound include warm and catchy vocal melodies and harmonies, a wide array of different instruments including foot percussion, cleverly written dark yet comical lyrics as well as memorable, intimate, and highly energetic live shows. Along with shows all over North Carolina, the band has also expanded its reach with tours through cities such as Austin, New Orleans, Knoxville, and Charleston to name a few. Come take a listen, and see why the Asheville community voted the trio as the #1 local acoustic/folk band in this year's "Best Of WNC" poll for the Mountain Xpress!

Band Members