Vancouver’s indie math-pop, Tommy Alto

Band reflects on their past with launch of new EP.

Tommy Alto / Tommy Alto

Tommy Alto / Tommy Alto

By Monica Mah

“The way the industry is, is very unpredictable,” says Thor Vanderkam, lead vocalist for Tommy Alto, a Vancouver rock indie band. “We never expected our van to roll over, and all sorts of things, good or bad, can happen which will completely turn over your schedule.”

The band first came together in 2010, although they’ve recently acquired a new bassist, in part related to the fact that they van flipped while touring just outside the city of Hope. The incident occurred after driving home from their last show, and instead of staying the night, they decided to head straight home. Exhausted, the driver slowly drifted to sleep and accidently drove the car off the road. Although there were serious injuries, thankfully there were no fatalities. “That’s what made us lose our original bassist,” says Vanderkam.

Tommy Alto is an indie, math-pop group that plays catchy and fun beats. Math-pop refers to the odd time signatures and weird rhythms in the music they play. The band describes their music as, “Vampire Weekend meets This Town Needs Guns at a Minus the Bear concert.”

“For some bloody reason, we decided to name the band after some arbitrary character in a really old book of poetry, really nothing else to it,” says Vanderkam. They hoped Tommy Alto would intrigue people, and they felt it rolled off the tongue.

Tommy Alto is made up of four core men each contributing to vocals; Thor Vanderkam on guitar with lead vocals, Ben Klassen on guitar, Chris Young on bass and Chartwell Kerr on drums. The original band started in Vancouver around 2010, and the current members have been together for a little over two years now.

Musicians that inspire Vanderkam personally include older punk bands, especially The Misfits, whom he describe as being very DIY. He says he admires how they went about their music because it sounded like they were recording in a garage with microphones, which leaves the listener with an authentic tone.

Five years from now, the band see themselves touring mostly across Canada and the U.K. and eventually hope to “get across the pond” in 2015.

“We can’t even think a month in advance, we live day by day,” says Vanderkam.

Tommy Alto’s latest EP is Patterson, which was released this past summer. Their music plays across North America and around the U.K., both in concert and on the radio. One of Vanderkam’s favourite songs to play is, “Beneath The Rain On A Strange Rooftop”, as he says there’s a lot of meaning behind it, and because he feels it’s cathartic to play on stage during shows.

“We’re definitely a band that prides themselves off their live shows,” says Vanderkam. “It’s always a good time getting on stage and shredding.”

Tommy Alto has shared the stage with many well-known bands, including Coldplay, Bastille, Protest the Hero and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They are also very well travelled, currently heading off to Victoria and Nanaimo for their next shows. The band just got back from a long, three-month tour with few breaks in-between. They headed through the west coast of the States for a period of three straight weeks, then took a break and headed down to do a few shows in Washington and Oregon.

For Vanderkam, his favourite part about touring is, “Meeting so many rad people … that end up being lifelong friends.”

“Although Canada is spread out geographically speaking, it’s such a small world and we’ve met so many people.”


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