The Austin-based soul band Tomar and The FCs recently released their second full length album, Rise Above. While Tomar and The FCs are indeed “Austin-based”; they are signed to Houston’s Splice Records and are in town for their album release show at Continental Club tonight. Opening up the show this evening is the soul & jazz sensation Madeline Edwards. Ahead of tonight’s wonders and sounds, FCs drummer, Paul Kresowik, jumped in with Byline Houston to answer a few questions about the album, recording and what’s next.
Byline Houston: Album Release shows tend to build anticipation in the fans for the weeks leading up to the show, what with all the new music and excitement and desire to show support. From the artist’s perspective, what do you enjoy most about Album Release shows?
Paul Kresowik: It’s true, there is a special kind of energy around album release shows. We wouldn’t be able to make music without the support of our family, friends, and fans. It feels cathartic to celebrate with them and hopefully put on a great show to demonstrate our appreciation.
Byline Houston: This is your second full-length album and most of the recording was done in Austin. Tell me a little bit about the recording process and personnel. And Tomar’s vocals are like two different instruments being played simultaneously: one instrument sings words and the other breathes spirit into each song. How much time is spent arranging and recording the vocals? Or, by sheer talent, does he just setup and fire?
Paul Kresowik: David Earl is an original member of the FCs (on keys). He recorded our debut EP, “Day by Day”. The band rehearsed in his house studio and we wanted to take our time with the recording process. We did 4-5 sessions before the final instrumental session – where the tunes you hear on the record were recorded live in 1-2 takes. David moved back home to Iowa in June of 2019 and we miss him but we’re glad this record exists as documentation of his skills as an engineer and keyboard player.
The vocals for two songs, “Rise Above” and “Enough is Enough”, were recorded at Carnival Beats but the majority of the vocals were done at Bud’s Recording Service in East Austin with Sam Patlove. Sam also mixed the record. Tomar, Salih, and Ishaq are brothers. Carnival Beats is a family production company and is worthy of a whole separate interview. They have deep history with Houston Hip-Hop (and Hip-Hop in general).
I don’t like to speak for Tomar but, since we’re on a time crunch, I’ll give it a go. Tomar would definitely appreciate your kind words about his vocals, so thank you on his behalf. The vocal tracks at Carnival Beats were done more methodically and took considerable time. The rest of the vocal tracks (all 8!) were done in two nights. That said, all of us had been thinking about these tunes, our parts, and overall arrangements for two years. Tomar has rare talent that can be both methodical and spontaneous.
Byline Houston: “Rise Above is a call to transcend the current divisiveness in our country around politics, race, and so much more. Hopefully it can provide a few minutes of unity during these turbulent times.” Those are Tomar’s words describing the new album; and I have great appreciation for what he’s said. I reach out to music often when I’m hurting or generally unwell. What music did you listen to while formulating and crafting Rise Above?
Paul Kresowik: One of the wonderful things about the FCs is that we all have diverse musical tastes. When we started working on the record, we had recently decided to move forward without horn players. So, I was listening to The Alabama Shakes, Booker T and the MGs, The Dirtbombs, and any band that was making soulful music primarily without horns. I know Tomar was listening to Bobby Womack (he was a big influence on “Can’t You See” – which opens the record). More recently, as the album was nearing completion, I’d been digging into the Stax Records catalogue between 65-69. We added horns to several of the tunes on Rise Above and I think that was partly the influence of those Stax records. Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Otis, etc.
Byline Houston: The album is finished and pressed. Tonight, you’re going to swell the hearts of Houston. What’s next after that?
Paul Kresowik: We hope so, thanks. I can promise we’ve got quite a show in store. Horns, incredible backup singers, and maybe a special guest (or two)! Well, we go to San Antonio and then New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We plan to do a couple tours this year and we’re already writing new music.
Byline Houston: Let’s fast forward to you thinking about the next album, the THIRD album. What does that look like in a dream world? Where do you want to record? Who do you want to produce? Who else do you want to work with?
Paul Kresowik: I’m still pretty heavy into Stax right now. So, I can hear some of the sounds I want to work with on the next record. We’ve talked about recording in another town, maybe Nashville, Ft Worth, or Houston. We haven’t discussed any producers yet. I know there are some pretty strong opinions in the band (including my own). So, it’d have to be someone patient.
Byline Houston: Many artists choose to cover a song every show. And even some cover the same song every time. What is your opinion on the “cover song”? What’s your favorite song to cover? And what is your favorite performance of cover?
Paul Kresowik: We have a stable of covers in our set. We’ve been doing David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” for a couple years now. We learned it for Splice Record’s Bowie Elvis Fest and it stuck. Shout out to Shaun Brennan, Sarah Miller, Madison Snelling, and everyone at Splice Records and Juice Consulting for all that they do! David Bowie was a master musician and songwriter and I like that it’s an unexpected soul band cover. People like to get down to it too.
Byline Houston: Rise Above being your second album, what lessons did you learn from recording the first album that you got to revisit or change this time around?
Paul Kresowik: We wanted to take our time with this album. Up until Rise Above, I’d never had more than 4 days in the studio to finish the rhythm section tracks. Having nearly a year to experiment in David’s studio allowed us to work on our sound and let the songs develop. Some of them had drastic journeys. The overarching lesson was that we were playing them all too fast in the studio (so we slowed them down). There are a few tunes on Heart Attack that I now feel were recording at the wrong tempo or in the wrong key. I don’t feel that way about any of the tunes on Rise Above (at least not yet…)
Byline Houston: What were some of the challenges Tomar and The FC’s faced while making an album aimed at unifying and healing?
Paul Kresowik: Our band relationships are analogous to brothers. There’s a deep bond but sometimes we get heated and passionate about the creative process. There were plenty of extended discussions about where the record was headed, why it was taking so long, and how it should sound. We also had to meld three different studios together. Sam Patlove did an incredible job mixing and providing the right home to finish the record. JJ Golden did an amazing job with Mastering too. On a more philosophical level, there’s a lot of polarization in our country right now. We want to make a call for unity without ignoring the deep problems that exist.
Byline Houston: How does the songwriting process begin with Tomar and The FCs?
Paul Kresowik: There are four different songwriting processes on this record. Four tunes Tomar wrote outright, “Rise Above”, “Innocence”, “Can’t You See”, and “This Woman”; one tune that Andy wrote, “Enough is Enough”; one tune that David wrote, “Up”; and four tunes that were collaborations – where the FCs wrote the instrumental and Tomar came up with melody and lyrics-, “Fine Time”, “Take Your Time”, “Gypsy Woman”, and “Always You.” That said, it’s common for different band members to contribute chords, sections, or form ideas to any and all songs.
Byline Houston: If you could have a Rise Above listening party of ONE, who is the one person you would invite to sit down and listen to every track with?
Paul Kresowik: David Earl. We’re all going up to his wedding in May. We’ll bring a copy and listen to it together.
This show on a lovely Houston Friday night will sell out for sure. So grab your tix while you can right here. Doors open at 8pm and Madeline Edwards takes the stage at 9pm. You don’t want to miss that set.