The Tom Fun Orchestra
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The Tom Fun Orchestra

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada | MAJOR

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada | MAJOR
Band Alternative Folk




""An end to an astounding record""

As much as the band has perfected its personal brand of booze-soaked, kitchen-party-in-the-middle-of-the-woods Maritime rock, there are more than danceable tunes on Earthworm Heart. Peppered with sandpaper smooth serenades like "Lungs" and "Boxcar Lullaby," the standout is "Sympathetic Wolf," a guitar-heavy rock ballad with a healthy dose of emotional banjo and telltale horns, which would be just as perfect as a show-opener as it is as an end to an astounding record. - Whitney Moran, The Coast, October 2012

""A good indication that the Sydney-based ensemble hasn’t slowed down ""

Animal Mask, a whipcrack rocker about a methadone addict’s rush to get to the clinic before the shakes kick in, is like a caffienated take on the Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man, and a good indication that the Sydney-based ensemble hasn’t slowed down since 2008’s You Will Land With a Thud. - Stephen Cooke, Chronicle Herald, October 2012

""At midnight, everyone hugs and invades the stage""

At 15 minutes to midnight I head to a small stage to see Tom Fun Orchestra again. Inexplicably, there are only 30 people there and somehow among them are all my friends. The band pumps out the sort of gypsy jazz funk punk rock that you only hear at festivals and is always made by men with perfect moustaches. At midnight, everyone hugs and invades the stage. We start 2011 with a screaming, howling, stomp. - Christian Brimo, Liveguide (Australia), January 2011

""Pushing a glass of cheap red wine into my hand ""

I’m not usually one for this sort of music, Gogol Bordello being the exception, but the TFO are really reaching out and grabbing me, pushing a glass of cheap red wine into my hand (it’s bottomless…) and making me dance. - Samuel J. Fell, Inpress (Melbourne, Australia), January 2011

""No pigeon hole wide enough within which to fit Tom Fun Orchestra.""

Ultimately there’s no pigeon hole wide enough within which to fit Tom Fun Orchestra. You Will Land With A Thud is, like the band’s name suggests, a whole lot of fun, with enough twists and turns to keep your feet tapping and the spirits – human and distilled – flowing. - Beat Magazine (Melbourne, Australia), January 2011

""A great collection of music that will have you hooked in seconds""

You Will Land With a Thud is a definite unsung hero of an album. The Tom Fun Orchestra has put together a great collection of music that will have you hooked in seconds. For anyone that likes good music, you will like this album. It will leave you trying to figure out what it is you just heard but you’ll be doing so with a smile on your face. - Anthony Hess, Music Feeds (NSW, Australia) January 2011

"Spirit and Passion of Nova Scotia's Deep Roots"

My live artist pick of the weekend was undoubtably Cape Breton's rolling party known at the Tom Fun Orchestra. This nine-piece ball of energy put on an unbelievable set of pure joy, somewhat like a Maritimes version of the Hidden Cameras fronted by the lead singer of the Misfits. By the time they closed their set with a rousing cover of Greg Macpherson's blue collar anthem "Company Store", they had me fully converted. They were the singular band that captured the spirit and passion of the event, and in turn the spirit and passion of Nova Scotia's deep music roots. The Tom Fun Orchestra is doing three shows in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal and you should not miss them. - Grant Lawrence - CBC Radio 3 (November 2007)

"Touching Down"

Like so many great bands before it, The Tom Fun Orchestra is an accident. The behemoth of sound from Cape Breton, with nine members at its core, began at the 2005 East Coast Music Awards in Sydney. Ian MacDougall, Tom Fun's songwriter, vocalist and one of its guitarists, had returned home from a stint in Edinburgh with a pack of songs in his back pocket and a no-case lined up.

"There's a bunch of people in the band who'd played my songs before, mostly for kicks, so I had an idea that some of them would be willing to play with me," he says, sitting in the CBC Radio building a few minutes before a Mainstreet interview. "I sent a last-minute email asking for volunteers to play. I showed up on February 13th and the show was on the 15th---a couple of us practised the night of the show, others just showed up and sort of played and it was kind of terrible." He and bandmates Albert Lionais, Zach MacLean and Morgan Currie share a laugh over the memory. "But people liked it, I guess, and I was pleased with it, my first three songs," says MacDougall. "And so it evolved from there."

Tom Fun's reputation as a killer live band began building that night, reaching its apex during last year's ECMAs here in town, with a string of showcase appearances that had attendees dancing well into the morning, laminates flying as stages strove to contain the band and a ramshackle combination of musical prowess and kitchen-party verve. MacDougall, the Orchestra's mad genius, is quiet and reserved in person, but comes roaring to life on record and onstage, singing in a grizzled Waits-ian growl, sounding 30 years older than he is.

The group's energy and popularity reached some big-time ears in Warren Bruleigh, a Cape Breton native who's "been living in New York making records for the last 20 years or so as an engineer and he's good friends with Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes. Warren came to Cape Breton one summer and heard us, passed it onto Gordon and decided it was something they wanted to work with."

And so The Tom Fun Orchestra, whose members are culled from literally dozens of bands, including Slowcoaster, Rock Ranger, Yellow and I Was a Spy, found itself in a studio in the tony town of Stamford, Connecticut, for two weeks last spring, putting together the 12 tracks of You Will Land with a Thud. (If you caught the band at the Seahorse at the end of January, you could've picked it up and you'll likely be able to snag it this weekend at the ECMAs in Fredericton, but its official release date is February 26.) 

"It was the highest-end Connecticut," says MacDougall, laughing. "The wrestling headquarters, the WWE headquarters, were just around the corner---and Xerox headquarters. But you'd never know because it was this beautiful old country home tucked away in this fancy, swanky, high-end neighbourhood. There's just mansions everywhere and then there's this studio---Pantera have recorded there, a whole variety of people have been in and out of that place."

Tom Fun has built its buzz on the strength of its performances. If you only know them by reputation, you might not realize what an interesting, clever storyteller MacDougall is, spinning tales that take place at funerals, in bars, out on the road and in the woods, punctuated with terrific, sometimes surprisingly heartbreaking turns of phrase. On opener "When You Were Mine" he asks, "And did the fish near Newfoundland sleep half an hour earlier?" "And there were lots of old women but no old men/so the boys worked harder to pay the rent," he sings on "Tar Pond Tango." 

The upbeat arrangements and pure energy emanating from the band can overshadow this wordplay, but MacDougall doesn't worry about it. "I like them as a prize that people can find," he says as if he's been thinking about it, "A reward for buying our record and opening up the liner notes." - Tara Thorne - The Coast

"Top Ten New Canadian Acts"

Who? A ten piece Celtic folk country rock explosion with throaty Tom Waits-esque vocals courtesy of enigmatic front man, Johnny Turbo.
What? Their phenomenal debut, You Will Land With a Thud and their stuffy sweaty live performances have got critics talking country-wide.
From? Out east, Nova Scotia. - Saria Delmar - Clash Magazine (UK)

"Intense Folk 'n' Roll"

The late-night session included the cream of Cape Breton fiddling - including Howie MacDonald and guitarist Dave MacIsaac, Dwayne Cote and Andrea Beaton - plus the most rocking set the Festival Club has ever seen, courtesy of Sydney's Tom Fun Orchestra, which blew the doors off with some intense folk 'n' roll. - Stephen Cooke - The Chronicle Herald (October 2007)

"Stopped Listeners in Their Tracks"

Next up, Canadian group the Tom Fun Orchestra take to the stage, whose quirky brand of country-tinged alt-folk and irrepressible energy both warms the assembled audience and brings passers by to stand still.
- Guilfest (July 2007)

"The Name Says It All"

It didn't take long for the Orchestra - which includes guitarist/vocalist Carmen Townsend, bassist Shane O'Handley, accordionist Dave Mahalik, banjo player Victor Tomiczek, drummer Tommy Stallion, violinist Morgan Currie and trumpeter Albert Lionais - to start wracking up rave reviews for its knock-'em-dead live show on the East Coast. As the band got tighter, it began to generate some serious buzz among music fans and rock scribes in other parts of the country, all of whom were echoing the same resounding sentiment: "You have to see these guys." - Jen Zoratti - Uptown Magazine (02/19/09)

""Playing the snot out of their instruments...""

“The second encore showcased the band playing the snot out of all of their respective instruments and jumping around the stage, falling all over each other and generally creating merry chaos all over that Horseshoe stage. They played for somewhere near an hour and a half, and I was exhausted by the end of the show but, needless to say, this is not a show that I'll be forgetting anytime soon.” - It's Not The Band I Hate It's Their Fans (February 2009)

"Welcomed with open (and drunken) arms"

“…the stage must have looked incredibly tiny for their eight piece band. But that didn’t seem to deter them from giving it their all to a packed crowd. There was even a large line-up outside, where people were waiting patiently to get drunk and dance to TFO’s unique blend of indie rock. It was the band’s first time in Vancouver, and I’m sure they didn’t expect such a large crowd, but we welcomed them with open (and drunken…) arms.” - (02/24/09)

"Less an orchestra than a three-ring circus"

“They're less of an orchestra than a three-ring circus, with banjo, accordion, trumpet and a Cape Breton fiddler all sharing space with a fiery rock trio, successfully steering away from tired Celtic rock clichés and instead inserting last-call intensity to songs that aim for Springsteen-ian heights with dashes of New Orleans jazz for good measure. It's one part Cape Breton barroom brawl, one part New Orleans bordello, one part Parisian café, and one part working class Irish bar in Brooklyn." - Michael Barclay - Kitchener-Waterloo Record (01/29/09)


Earthworm Heart (LP, 2012)

Miles Davis (Single, 2010)

Christmas Dinner on a Coleman Stove (Single, 2009)

You Will Land With a Thud (LP, 2008)

You Will Land With a Thud ( iTunes Ep, 2007)

Two tracks featured on The House of Rock Compilation (2006)

Tragicfoxtankliftoff - 3 Song Demo (2005)

Several songs from You Will Land With a Thud receive regular airplay on CBC radio, college radio and some commercial radio stations across the country. The album peaked at #7 on CBC Radio 3's Top 30.



The Tom Fun Orchestra is a world famous band of modest Cape Breton musicians who obviously hire professional types to write their bio. The band would never themselves choose to list their many accomplishments, which include multiple tours across Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as sojourns to the Republic of Ireland and Australia. If they wrote their own story, would they even mention their widely popular 2008 debut album, You Will Land With a Thud, the album that helped them win two East Coast Music Awards and two Music Nova Scotia awards? It is doubtful, for they are a humble band.

If pressed, The Tom Fun Orchestra would admit their excitement over Earthworm Heart, the sophomore record being released nation-wide on November 13th, 2012. The seven-piece band may be persuaded to mention how their sound has evolved from the full throttle onslaught of the first record. Earthworm Heart is comprised of leaner, tougher compositions with particular attention paid to finding the appropriate arrangements for each song. It produces diverse physical reactions from the listener, including uncontrollable hip wiggling, fist pumping, jumping and guzzling.

If The Tom Fun Orchestra were forced to self-scribe, they would sheepishly mention their upcoming Canadian World Tour, which will see them play nearly thirty dates across the country, beginning in Fredericton on October 18, 2012, and bringing them all the way to British Columbia and back again. The Tom Fun Orchestra could tell you all of these things, but they don’t have to, because they are too famous and too humble.

Check out a complete list of tour dates and other great stuff at and