Based in Newcastle, Tom Lines is the man behind thatwhichcrawls. With a new EP called Hardworker out on the 10th of July, we caught up with the musician, visual artist, and producer to find out more about him and his music.
What made you want to get into music?
I have been playing instruments for most of my life, and when I was at school, I wanted to play guitar in a rock band. I was into a lot of rock music, but I most enjoyed playing jazz, bossa nova, and blues. However, I never found the people that I really felt I really clicked with, so eventually I gave up and tried to work out how to make music solo, which is what lead me to drum machines, samplers, and eventually the modular synth.
What inspires you to write?
Usually the act of playing is the best inspiration. I am also a visual artist, and I think it is true for most artistic media that when you are not creating, I don’t want to create. But when I am in the middle of a painting, or halfway into a synth patch, it draws me in and it’s all I can think about. More specifically about music, I often focus on generating interesting musical timbres and rhythms, rather than melody or harmony, as my starting point when making a track. I find that once I have started and have a patch on the modular or a track on Ableton, it is more of a process of problem solving to eke a piece of music out of the fragments.
What has been the biggest challenge in your musical career so far?
Self-confidence. I have a bad tendency to compare myself to others, and if any musician is doing something that I do not do, whether it is performing live a lot, or playing the keyboard amazingly, I can convince myself I am inadequate. It has taken a lot of work to recognise that I do, in fact, make interesting music, and I can do it my way.
When will you feel like you’ve achieved musical success?
When people listen to my tracks as part of their rotation. That is the biggest compliment in my opinion.
What was the last album or piece of music you listened to?
Arca’s new album Kick i. My lord, it is an interesting album, but it also melts my brain. The track mequetrefe in particular, paired with the music video, made me actually feel nauseous when I first listened to it. But since then, I have been fascinated with it, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s been a rollercoaster love.
What other acts do we need to be checking out right now?
There has been a lot of great releases recently. I would say that Arca’s new album is worth checking out, but not for the faint of heart. I am loving Moses Sumney’s Grae, especially part one (Virile and Conveyer slap hard). I also think that RTJ4 has come at the most appropriate time and feels like a return to form for Run The Jewels, at their prime again. I also encourage everyone to check out Elysia Crampton and Richard Dawson, just because they are some of my favourite musicians, and they just don’t get that much attention.
Is the current lockdown impacting you musically?
Personally, it hasn’t been much of problem. It has let me focus a bit more on finishing tracks that I started a while ago. I am quite an indoors person, I am lucky in that I work solo and not in a gig-heavy style. I am more of a bedroom studio type of musician.
What would you change about the music industry?
I’m not sure I have been in the music industry long enough or deep enough to comment too much. I have mostly found I struggle most with distributing my work, so I would love it if there was a streaming platform out there that was more supportive of the artists than Spotify, Apple, and Tidal are. A more indie friendly platform, like Bandcamp mixed with Soundcloud.
Could you tell us more about your latest release, Hardworker?
It’s a little release, a bit like a traditional single with an A side and a B side, and I am focussing more on building the tracks around some more experimental lead synth work than I am used to, working from melodic synth patches and then editing them down. The lead track, Hardworker, is playful and sweet but also has a gritty concussive side to it, which I really enjoyed making.
Cassettes, CD, Vinyl, download, or stream – which do you prefer?
Nowadays I usually stream, but I like having physical collections of things. At my parents’ place I keep a whole lot of CDs, and when I go there, I often see albums that I have forgotten about but still love. Having the physical thing to go back to is really nice. If I had more money and space, I would probably start a vinyl collection, but I don’t think I’ll consider that for a few years to come.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m going to keep making music and releasing little 2 or 3 track things for the rest of the year. I’ve found a bit of a flow in the last few months and made my music set-up more ergonomic so my modular and my DAW sync up easier. I’ve also picked up the guitar again after years of it getting dusty, so who knows, that may just make its way into a track. I’m just excited to see how I develop and get better.
Hardworker is released on the 10th of July. You can discover the EP and more music by thatwhichcrawls over on Bandcamp. Tom Lines’ official website is a treasure trove of information about his other projects, so be sure to check it out.