TOY TV
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TOY TV

Blue Ridge, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Blue Ridge, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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The very name TOYTV was inspired by an attempt to move couch potatoes away from the soul-sucking blue glow and into the lively musical night

BY ERIKA BOLIN



TOYTV has an interesting mix of sounds, but don't ask for "Freebird".


AUGUSTA, GA - “Turn off your television and go see some live music.” That’s what Chris Farmer likes to say. Now his band, born from the acronym of that motto, TOYTV, is helping to make you want to tackle such a feat.

“We rented out a local art center in Jasper, Georgia. We didn’t have a band name then, but we called event ‘Turn Off Your Television Night’ to try and get people to come out and see live music.

“We had an ad in the paper to advertise. Then I saw TOYTV as a way of shortening the ad. From there it just kind of stuck,” Farmer said of the band name’s genesis.
For Farmer, it was sibling rivalry that led him to a guitar in the first place. “My big brother Jason had a guitar. Of course, me being a little brother, I wanted to do what he was doing, I started to play. But it wasn’t until high school that I took it serious.”

Farmer moved to Ashville, N.C., and said he could find an open jam session just about everywhere. “After seeing the musicianship and the super-fast picking, I said, ‘I have to do that!’ I practiced a lot.”

Today he’s added a banjo and electric mandolin to his picking and playing skill list. “The mandolin is like playing backwards. A guitar is six strings and a mandolin is eight with four notes and double strings. It’s kind of tuned backwards from the guitar. You have to think backwards, but I think it’s actually easier and it’s like playing a toy.”
Farmer is also an accomplished artist. “I have a degree in art education. I shot the debut album cover and handle the band’s promotional stuff. I have had a few photography shows and I do pen-and-ink designs.”

The group’s members are accomplished musicians who have highly evolved and diversified tastes. The differences are immediately apparent in their unique sound. Farmer said they like to call their music, “Apocalyptic freestyle folk rock funk music. We try to jumble all our genre influences into one cohesive sound.”

The new genre fits. TOYTV’s songwriting styles call up Tom Waits and the band’s melodic beats are reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival with a spicy infusion of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Vox man Richard Wells’ vocals sway back and forth between old-time radio crooning to almost a beat poet’s tone. His lyrics are wildly interesting and as catchy as a toddler’s cold, sans the accompanying throbbing head.

“He tries to give form to what we are all thinking. He talks about the mainstream nonsense and the way things are progressing in this country. They are very witty, though — they’ll make you laugh,” Farmer added of his bandmate’s flow of words.
TOYTV shows get folks dancing. But he added with a semi-serious wink, “Please do not yell out ‘Freebird,’ ‘Dust in the Wind,’ ‘Brown-Eyed Girl,’ or whatever your favorite FM rock staple may be. We really don’t approve of such things here in the forward- thinking, not-so-dirty South.”

- By Erica Bolin - The Metro Spirit


"This band has the sound and the feel, fresh from the mountains, that could take them a long way..." - The Greenroom Magazine


Local band ToyTV, whose sound presents an organic fusion of seemingly unrelated musical styles, will release their premiere studio album later this month.
The self-titled record features eight original songs, all produced by ToyTV. (The name is an acronym for Turn Off Your Television.)
ToyTV lead singer and guitarist, and Whitestone resident Rich Wells, said in a recent interview, "The album is a good representation of everything we do - blues, bluegrass, folk, jazz, even some hip-hop, with some dark undertones."
Wells wrote the words to all songs except "Charity Organization," which was co-written by Wells and bassist/ vocalist Bobby Worsham.
Worsham and drummer Jason Chumley do not currently live in Jasper but they grew up here. Mandolin player and vocalist Chris Farmer hails from Gilmer County.
ToyTV added a second guitarist to their roster, Dan White, after the album was recorded and engineered. White, who also lives in Jasper, has performed on stage with the band at recent live concerts.
Drew Daniel recorded all the tracks at the Nate's Music Room studio in downtown Jasper.
Wells, who has played and written music for over ten years, has long looked forward to producing an album.
Until he started playing with the members of ToyTV about two and a half years ago, he tried numerous attempts at solo recordings. In 2002, he even recorded some demos of just himself on the acoustic guitar, singing his songs. However, mainly for "personal reasons," nothing led to a commercial release.
Wells has known his current band mates for several years, and even played with some of them irregularly before ToyTV was conceived. ("I've known Bobby since the sixth grade. He was the first person I ever played music with," he said.)
The four musicians started playing as ToyTV after a chance meeting at an open mic night at a local establishment.
"We saw some magic happening when we started playing," said Wells, adding, "I wonder where I would be personally, if I hadn't started playing with these guys."
After playing a few live shows the band soon developed their own tunes, to which Wells added the lyrics, many of them converted from older poems he had written.
Wells lists a melting pot of musical influences that have contributed to his style - Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Dead Prez, Captain Beefheart, Butthole Surfers, Bad Religion, Dead Prez, Spearhead, and Willie Nelson.
The lyrics he writes tend to contain Wells' own "social commentary," sometimes in juxtaposition to the band's upbeat sound. "I put a lot of thought into the songs I write. We can play music that feels good, but at the same time there's a hard-hitting message in the words," he said.
The band is especially proud of the track "Rowboat," an eight-minute tune on the upcoming album that is packed with a variety of musical styles. Wells called it "one of the fuller tracks on the album."
Guest artists featured in the song include fiddle player David Blackmon of Widespread Panic fame, and Fred Williams on the keys.
Local musician Jamie Roberts adds to the tune with his unusual ability to create urban beats using only his voice (or "beat-box").
It is when ToyTV gives live performances where the listener can tell what Wells means when he says, "We all enhance each other." They played one such show Saturday night at the Red Light Café in Atlanta.
The band members' comfort with the audience and each others' styles is especially obvious at times when all five instruments (six when Roberts throws in the beat-box, as he often does at live shows) produce a tight weave of interlocking rhythms, together forming a seamless melody.
ToyTV has another concert coming up on March 31 at Moon Shadow Tavern in Tucker, Georgia; and one on April 14 at JJ's Bohemia in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Production of the record has been "a good learning experience," said Wells, who also did the layout design for the cover. He said producing the next album should be much easier with the knowledge the band has acquired in putting together their debut release.
When it is released, the CD will be available locally at Nate's Music Room and various sources on the Internet including the band's two web sites, www.toytvmusic.com and www.myspace.com/toytv. The sites also contain a full schedule of upcoming shows.
- By Michael Moore - Pickens Progress



The members of TOY TV (clockwise, from left) Jason Chumley, Bobby Worsham, Chris Farmer and Rich Wells settle into a groove during a recent set at Ellijay venue Sweet Melissa’s. The band recently completed work on its first self-released CD, due out by summer. Photo by Michael Andrews

The members of young Gilmer/Pickens band TOY TV (or Turn Off Your Television) are breathing a collective sigh of relief after putting the finishing touches on their debut CD. The four-man group has spent over a year recording, designing, financing and filling in the other assorted blanks that go along with such a project. Now, with their first release paid for and ready to press, the band’s members are already set to begin work on their next batch of songs.

TOY TV’s music is tough to describe using standard genre tags like “rock,” “blues” or “folk.” The eclectic sound of the band, two members of which reside in Ellijay, can be attributed to the input of four singular personalities and four equally differing musical tastes.

Vocalist/guitarist Rich Wells and bassist/vocalist Bobby Worsham have long been musical collaborators who grew up together in Jasper. Mandolin/ banjo player Chris Farmer and drummer Jason Chumley are both longtime Gilmer County residents who’ve played everything from heavy metal to rustic bluegrass since settling down with their respective instruments. When the four get together to perform, the end result is a style rooted in rustic, folk-tinged rock with underlying measures of jazz, funk and even hip hop showing through.

“I think this is the first group of musicians I’ve been with in which each member brings a completely different style and background to the table,” says Farmer. “Rich is a kind of folky singer/ songwriter; the way Jason plays drums is often in the jazz vein; Bobby is just a really flexible bluesy bass player and I come from more of a bluegrass background. Personally, I started out wanting to play bluegrass guitar and ended up going with the mandolin, which is an instrument you don’t normally see used consistently in a band like this.”

TOY TV has officially been together as a band for about two-and-a-half years. Its members, though, have been honing their skills in one form or another for much longer. Completing work on their upcoming self-released CD represents the fulfillment of a major goal for all involved. Having to choose a handful of songs to represent the band as a whole, photographing/designing the cover art and disc image and, subsequently, contacting press and performance outlets have been just a few of the new tasks taken on by frontman Rich Wells and his bandmates.

“It was a really valuable learning experience for me personally,” says Wells of the time spent putting the album together. “It took many hours learning the ins and outs of Photoshop and other computer programs plus, of course, many, many restarts. But I really learned a lot about what goes into putting a CD together, basically, from scratch. There are so many different steps involved, even in just the design process. We did all the photography here where I live with assorted items, like a rusted old TV set and other found objects set against a natural wooded background. I’m relieved to say I dropped our final design and mix in the mail today, so I think at least a small celebration is in order!”

Wells and his bandmates hope the time put into their digital debut will make their next foray into recording a little less hectic. Modern recording and imaging technology that allows musicians to design and distribute their self-made albums from home definitely allowed for more artistic freedom. Still, Wells, Chumley, Farmer and Worsham had to find a producer and subsequent mix/master studio to do things up right. Band friend Drew Daniel recorded the basic tracks for the album in Jasper and Full Moon Studios in Watkinsville, whose client list includes Georgian rockers REM and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, handled the final mixing and mastering duties.

“We pretty much laid down the basic tracks within a week,” Chumley recalls. “Then, you have to go back and listen to those tracks over and over to see what needs to be added. Then, you have to contact all the other musicians to see if they’re available to come fill in those parts. Then, you have to have enough money saved up to pay for those musicians and for the studio time, so on and so on. When you say it took over a year to get your first album together, that sounds like an awfully long time. But in that year, we learned and accomplished a great deal. It was worth taking the time to map it all out and get everyone’s input instead of rushing just to get things done. I think it turned out really good, especially for our first try.”

Entitled “Turn Off Your Television”, the CD itself may be a little brief at eight songs. However, it definitely paints a vivid representation of what makes the band tick. Wells is the main lyricist whose songs often carry a soci - By Michael Andrews - Times Courier


Discography

Live From Tom Quinton Arts Center 1/22/05

(TOY TV Debut) Turn Off Your Television 4/15/07

Photos

Bio

When TOYTV huddles around a stage or squeeze their way into an accommodating CD player you're liable to hear some savvy acoustic folk, some red eyed blues, some funked up jazz and maybe even a spoken word rant or two. This isn't the product of in-studio trickery or of accumulated trust funds but, rather, that of four close friends from various North Georgia Mountain locales who take their musicianship seriously. But not so much that they can't have a little fun tossing it around. Or a lot of fun, usually, unpredictable is the key word.
In October of 2004, looking to assemble a band to finish a solo project, Rich Wells encountered Worsham, Chumley, and Farmer at a local coffeehouse's open mic night. Having grown up together (Worsham and Wells met when they were 12) and playing together inconsistently in several different named and unnamed projects, he knew that it was high time to put a serious project together. Chumley and Worsham, who had basically been playing together constantly since '96, had become the “Rhythm section from Hell” and seeing that Farmer’s fluid multi-instrumental skills (banjo, mandolin, flat-picking guitar) would be a crucial ingredient, he asked them if they would like to help him finish his project.
After their first session it was apparent that there was more going on than a “Rich Wells” project. With the Berry Oakley influenced bass work of Worsham, the hints of bluegrass and raw Appalachian soul provided by Farmer, Wells’ thought provoking lyricism and Chumley’s mad-scientist drumming, they had created a different beast entirely and TOYTV was born.
Influenced also by the experimental sounds of Tool and the Butthole Surfers, geniuses like Frank Zappa and Tom Waits, the boys are not afraid to embrace the darker side of the musical landscape. Their songs may weave from chaos to order and back again, illustrating that noise can be music and vice versa. But even with the sporadic detours the train is surely to remain on track. Evidence is offered up by the variety of styles covered on their self-titled debut CD. From the blood pressure-spiking work routine documented in "Paper Pushin" to the thumping, paranoid confines of "Charity Organization", there's equal parts hope, regret, and social conscience flowing through these songs.
So, here's hoping you enjoy TOYTV, where a little bit of everything goes a long way. The all-caps moniker is actually a recommendation for potential acolytes to "Turn Off Your Tele-Vision", though some suspect a few of the guys might actually catch an episode of "The Simpsons" or "The Daily Show" every now and again. That's their dirty little secret though. The band handle is more of a swipe against the nasty habit of TV commercialism directing one's style preferences, political views, and consumer purchases. For more evidence, listen closely to "Plantation".
Hell, check 'em all out. Then, should you approve, pay the cover, see the show, do a funny little dance, make some appreciative noise and complement the barely-groomed facial hair. However, please do not yell out "Freebird", "Dust in the Wind", "Brown-eyed Girl”, or whatever your favorite FM rock staple may be. We really don't approve of such things here in the forward thinking, not-so-dirty south...