Natural Light: The Continuing Rise Of Tomberlin

Natural Light: The Continuing Rise Of Tomberlin

"I mean we’re all lonely people whether or not we want to admit that or not..."

Tomberlin’s new EP ‘Projections’ is a continuation of both form and thought. Her debut album ‘At Weddings’ saw her toiling with her Christian upbringing and making fascinating observations out of the everyday. It searched for a sense of place and belonging, it scoured battlegrounds on which relationships are fought and tried to find happiness amongst it all.

This combined with the understated arrangements make ‘At Weddings’ a comforting companion. Something in which people can relate to and see themselves within, which in turn can help the healing process and alleviate loneliness when you feel understood by something that you can normally find hard to express yourself.

For Tomberlin’s upcoming EP ‘Projections’ she wanted to move past the perceived notion of herself and figure out who she is. Enlisting the help of Sam Acchione and Alex G, the four original tracks were recorded in Alex’s Philadelphia apartment. The new EP is another beautiful collection of intimate songs topped off by a wonderful cover of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone’s ‘Natural Light’.

‘Projections’ gives us an insight into Tomberlin’s artistic progression and hints at where she might be heading next.

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You reached out to Sam and Alex to work on your new EP, how did you first meet them?

Technically I met them when I was like 18 or 19 at a show of theirs but like actually meeting them, we did a small tour in May of last year like a week-long tour that they asked me to open for and we just hit it off.

What do you feel that they added to the sound of Tomberlin?

They helped me expand my own ideas and put some more behind it, I guess. It was really a collaborative thing at first.

I just thought that Alex was gonna produce it and then we all kind of kept jamming and I was kinda like ‘I guess we’re all producing this!’ So it was really organic and a really cool process, having people you’re comfortable around and they get your ideas and they’re not trying to push you in one way or another.

Were there any changes of approach when writing any of these songs?

I guess the approach is something I’m always wondering about but the more I wonder about it the more the mystery kind of evaporates in a way.

I think I’m just like realising that when I write it’s setting aside time to be a vessel to some kind of mystical channel that comes through me because a lot of my songs, I write in one sitting. I really have to have set aside solitude to be open to that but that’s kind of what I’m learning about my process.

You’ve said previously that you wrote the songs for the new EP to get away from people’s perceived notions of you. Have you gone through a period of self-discovery since your debut album?

Definitely! I feel like writing ‘At Weddings’ I didn’t really think I was writing an album I was just there writing my best attempts at songs and I was just stepping into my own adulthood in that time.

There’s no reason to hold onto an idea of yourself or people’s perceived notion of you because I think we view other people like a video game sometimes, we expect them to act a certain way like a projection really of what we think they are and so yeah I think I’m getting more comfortable knowing that changes all the time.

One lyric that I enjoyed in particular was ‘It’s all sacrifice and violence this history of love’ and it reminds me of your previous lyrics ‘Love is mostly war’, do you think in some ways you view love as one of our more self-destructive tendencies?

Well it shouldn’t be that way, but I feel the way that love has been marketed to us as a society is really violent. Like the idea of what love is, is like storybook and rom-com.

Basically we think love is what people do for us like that makes us love them, but I think that love is more so like loving someone no matter of what they give to you. Just on the idea of love, we’re like ‘love has to look the way we want it to look’ and we’ve seen that with war and rulers like Constantine, like devote yourself to me, it’s just always been a thing and so I was just kind of reflecting on that.

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‘Sin’ almost subverts religious values and pokes a bit of fun at certain ideals, how did it feel to reclaim or repurpose that Christian imagery?

I think that Christian imagery and even the Bible a lot of those kind of ancient texts are really beautiful even though they’re extremely chaotic and wild. But also, it’s used for violence against people so it’s trying to take like that magic and that beauty back and use it in a more accepting (way) of myself and accepting of the people I love.

Do you think your relationship with faith is still evolving further into your adulthood?

Yeah I guess it’s evolving in the sense that I understand myself but for a while I was like,’ I’ve been so drenched in this particular theology that I can’t even be interested in any of these spiritual paths or even reading about it’ because my mind would just be like ‘oh well that’s wrong because this, this and this’.

So, I just kind of really took a break from all of that and now I feel like I’ve actually had enough space from it to start digging at it again and it’s something that I’m talking about with people all the time.

On a track such as ‘Floor’ it sees you with someone, feeling comfortable around them but there’s also a sense of loneliness, is that dynamic for our search for connection and our own alone-ness something that intrigues you?

Yeah definitely, I mean we’re all lonely people whether or not we want to admit that or not. Like everyone deals with loneliness and being accepted because some people don’t deal with it like ‘I’m a lonely person’, we all deal with it in different ways.

I find that when I’m distracting myself from my loneliness, I’m trying to distract myself from myself. So, I wish we could view loneliness in a less negative way and kind of like lean into it and be like what can I discover about myself? That’s something I’ve really been working on especially during quarantine.

You’ve put some really interesting demos up on Bandcamp, how important have those Bandcamp Fridays become for you as an independent artist?

I think it’s a great thing that Bandcamp is doing to try to show people how much musicians need monetary support. I mean that’s kind of the whole thing, that’s how art has always survived, people who believe in the thing donating to the artist.

I think it's great I think it also helps people understand that we don’t really get paid from Spotify and Apple music and all these different things like it's great that it’s accessible for people but it really does not financially support us that much at all. 

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Tomberlin will release her 'Projections' EP on October 16th.

Interview: Matthew Pywell
Photo Credit: Marc Silverstein

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