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Artist Highlight: TOLEDO – Our Tradition

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TOLEDO is the indie rock duo of Dan Álvarez de Toledo and Jordan Dunn-Pilz, who grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts and are actually based mostly in Brooklyn. Their first two EPs, 2019’s Hotstuff and 2021’s Jockeys of Love, shone by for his or her heartfelt, emotionally nuanced songwriting and glistening manufacturing, each qualities they bring about to their debut LP, How It Ends, out this Friday through Grand Jury. Recorded in an upstate New York cabin in addition to a church they rented of their Massachusetts hometown, the album finds the duo trying again on their upbringing to look at how the dynamics of one another’s household surroundings and historical past proceed to seep into their current lives, flicking by reminiscences of childhood innocence, trauma, and separation searching for catharsis and empathy. With further manufacturing from Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, it’s a surprising document that advantages from the pair’s intuitive method to collaboration, which supplies How It Ends the texture of a worldless dialog between pals who’ve lived by a lot, and who, when given the possibility, may talk about it in the identical breath. There’s so much to unpack beneath the floor, however the magnificence and resonance of what comes out is just plain.

We caught up with TOLEDO for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak about their upbringing, their method going into How It Ends, working with Jay Som, and extra.


What involves thoughts when you concentrate on your upbringing? Does it deliver up comparable reminiscences for every of you?

Jordan Dunn-Pilz: We spent lots of our Newburyport time as pals. And it’s such a small city, so imagery-wise, it’s lots of the identical stuff. I really feel like all we did was stroll round by the water.

Daniel Álvarez de Toledo: I really feel like earlier than we knew one another, after we had been like 11 or so, these had been adolescence of childhood, and we most likely had our personal completely different paths. However then as soon as we had been pals with one another, every part intertwined a bit and it type of felt like we had been occurring the identical path. Till we separated once more after we went to school, after which we’re again on the identical path now. So I really feel like our experiences could be type of comparable – I imply, they’re actually completely different by way of family issues, that’s what the album is about. However I really feel like we type of perceive one another’s experiences, and we’re there for lots of them.

JD: We had a band collectively in highschool, too, so lots of what we did was play music collectively.

DA: Music was at all times part of it. However I really feel like we each consider Newburyport in the identical means or consider our upbringing in the identical means. It’s simply that mine had, like, the Spanish spice to it and yours had some divorce spice.

What had been your impressions of one another whenever you turned pals?

DA: Intimidated.

JD: That’s honest. I used to be undoubtedly quieter than, and angrier than –

DA: Angrier than?

JD: I bear in mind after we first met to play music collectively, Dan was taking part in piano and I used to be taking part in guitar. And he began taking part in Sara Bareilles’ ‘Love Track’, and I began taking part in the Treatment’s ‘Lovesong’.

DA: I imply, that’s actually the epitome of the album, although, if you concentrate on it. As a result of we at all times attempt to deliver that again, like our upbringing, with music.

JD: As a result of there’s moody guitar line, slide-y stuff, however then there’s additionally singer-songwriter-y choruses.

DA: We at all times attempt to mix all that collectively. However I believe our impressions of one another had been– I don’t actually bear in mind an excessive amount of, however I used to be intimidated, my dad and mom had been intimidated by Jordan. Jordan was a scary character. And I used to be like a goody two footwear little boy, dressed up in my button-up shirts. I used to be, like, a neck-beard loser. I had a Jew-fro, I had a fedora, Jordan was like, puffy jacket and a sequence…

JD: [laughs] In just like the whitest, most secure city.

DA: Oh yeah, in a literal vacationer city.

Jordan, how about you? I suppose you weren’t intimidated by Daniel, however…

JD: No, he was carrying a fedora. He was very Jason Mraz vitality. But in addition, I believe it was actually thrilling to me as a result of I had been taking part in music earlier than with individuals – this was like center faculty –and so they had been simply hobbyists, after which I met Daniel and he was really already actually good as a 12-year-old. I bear in mind in highschool I might be like, if nothing else, I’ll simply journey Daniel’s coattails to the Grammys.

DA: And that’s what we’re doing. Jordan’s simply using my coattails.

Do you suppose if it weren’t for music you’ll have related in the identical means?

DA: No.

JD: [laughs] In all probability not.

DA: Nicely, possibly, but it surely wouldn’t have sparked the connection.

JD: We had the identical mutual pals, was how we acquired arrange collectively anyway.

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DA: And after we had been in highschool, there weren’t lots of people doing music. It was type of within the background of our social life, but it surely was there. We had weeks the place we’d go to the native Chinese language restaurant with our pals on Saturday, after which Sunday we’d have band apply. It was very built-in into our lives in a reasonably seamless means. Nevertheless it was there within the background, it’s not till now that it’s actually the forefront. You reside along with your girlfriend in Manhattan, I stay with my girlfriend in Brooklyn, and now we have our studio in Brooklyn that we meet at. That is like, we’re in month two of us not dwelling collectively for the primary time in like 4 or 5 years.

JD: Withdrawals.

DA: Yeah, withdrawals.

Whenever you got here again collectively after school and began taking part in music collectively critically once more, what was that transition like?

JD: I really feel like there have been a couple of levels, as a result of Daniel was going to high school for music and I used to be going to high school for appearing. So I really feel such as you at all times knew you’re going to do music; I assumed I used to be going to do appearing hardcore. We had been assembly throughout our winter breaks in school to write down and document music, and ‘On My Personal’ and ‘Crane Track’ had been written throughout these breaks.

DA: We nonetheless pine for that period.

JD: Proper. [laughs] The naïveté. Proper after faculty, I did theatre for like eight months, like a tour.

DA: And I used to be a yr behind, so I used to be nonetheless at school.

JD: We had been doing the factor the place we’d meet throughout breaks, and I believe we had been realizing I used to be liking that far more than I used to be liking theatre. And Daniel’s most likely like, “I like this music far more than I like white neo-soul.”

DA: The Berklee music. I hated it.

JD: He graduated proper once I was ending the theatre tour, after which we recorded our EP and we’re taking part in exhibits in New York. Then we had been dedicated to it, however we nonetheless had facet jobs and stuff. After which after, when the pandemic hit and we had been simply doing music in the course of the pandemic, it felt so good. We had been like –

DA: “We acquired to only do that for work.”

JD: After which we stop our facet jobs, and now we simply do TOLEDO and manufacturing stuff.

DA: For different individuals, which is type of nice.

Do you look again on a selected second in the course of the pandemic when that turned clear to each of you?

DA: It was clear after we acquired to New York that we had been like, “That is what we wish to do with our lives.” However then it was clear with the pandemic that we had been like, “I believe we can do that now.” It wasn’t a pipe dream anymore. It was extra, we’re doing it, we simply acquired to maintain doing it and decide to it. So now we’re in that stage, I can’t even think about going again to nannying. [Jordan laughs] We had been each nannies for a few years. That was formative for us.

When it got here to reflecting on the relationships you grew up round on How It Ends, was that one thing you spent fairly a little bit of time speaking about earlier than you began writing about it? Was that a part of the method in any respect?

DA: Not likely, as a result of it was one thing we type of simply knew.

JD: We most likely knew that there was lots of materials about that type of stuff.

DA: And the opening track [‘Soda Can’] type of introduces you to that dialog that now we have about it. The lyrics are Jordan speaking concerning the escapism of going to spend time with me and my household, particularly my mom. And I really feel like that begins the dialog for the listener, however for us, it was pure within the sense that the way in which that we discuss emotional issues is simply by track.

JD: On a private stage, I used to be doing lots of speak remedy earlier than we had been writing that album, so I really feel like that was effervescent up. My grandfather had simply died, and that acquired me pondering so much about my very own father. After which all of it simply got here out.

DA: And that type of launched me to – I used to be like, Jordan’s writing about his upbringing, I had a really privileged upbringing. I needed to type of step exterior of that and see what I’ve realized from these relationships, whether or not it’s optimistic or detrimental. It was good for me to have the ability to hear Jordan writing about these themes, after which take into consideration them for myself and be like, “How does this apply to me? The place can I put myself on this?” We got here up with songs like ‘Ghosty’ and ‘Climber’ out of the relationships that I had. I really feel prefer it simply naturally occurred, and the dialog that we’d have about it exists inside these songs. There’s no paragraphs describing the songs – the deepest it goes is in these songs, and I really feel like that’s what’s most essential to us, is that individuals get a window into that as a substitute of closing them off from any info.

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On the finish of ‘Soda Can’, are you saying “double it”?

DA: Oh, yeah. Meta, as a result of we’re doubling one another the entire album, I believe, is us singing in unison collectively. It’s like 4 voices, as a result of it’s Jordan doubling himself and me doubling myself all on the similar time.

JD: And we prefer to preserve little snippets in.

DA: We prefer to have somewhat little bit of that natural – you are feeling such as you’re there whenever you’re listening to it. We don’t need it to really feel prefer it’s some polished factor, as a result of then it simply feels type of impersonal to the listener.

JD: And since it’s not.

DA: It by no means is. We by no means do the large studio factor. We wish individuals to know the way unhealthy we’re at it. [Jordan laughs]

It is sensible to depart that in too, as a result of I assumed it’s one thing you say or not less than do so much all through the method.

DA: I didn’t even know that was in there.

JD: I really like the hyper-specific questions.

DA: That was a winner query.

I really feel just like the album is much less about just like the formative experiences themselves and extra about the way you carry them within the current, in the way you categorical yourselves and in your relationships with others and with yourselves. And I really feel like lots of that rigidity is type of launched on a track like ‘How It Ends’, however I don’t know if it’s ever absolutely resolved.

DA: I imply, I really feel like ‘Fixing Up the Again Room’ will get into some decision – or much less decision, extra confrontation. However we discuss this on a regular basis, we by no means need the initiatives to really feel like they wrap up in a pleasant bow an excessive amount of, as a result of these conversations that you’ve got about these matters – about divorce, about realized love, about relationships – they’re type of a unending dialog. And also you don’t actually wish to say there’s an answer or a solution to any of it, however there’s at all times a query. I really feel like we don’t actually reply any of our personal questions, we extra simply type of land to the purpose by the top the place we’re forgiving and understanding of the conditions that we had been in. However we’re not letting them go. They’re not gone.

JD: The best way the album ends was type of bizarre. It was additionally one of many first songs written for the album. ‘Soda Can’ undoubtedly begins like, current day, that is how I really feel about it, these are the unresolved emotions that I carry round. After which the final track travels again to when my mother had her first child and was a single mother or father with me, and making an attempt to place your self in her footwear and perceive the place she was coming from. I like that it goes from this actually indignant place at first of the album to type of like lullaby children track. As a result of that’s the place the trauma comes from, is whenever you’re too younger to even perceive what’s occurring.

DA: It type of creates this loop of, we’re on the age our dad and mom had been now after they had been having children and getting married, and we’re not that. So, going within the loop after which ending it along with your mother having her first child  type of places it on this cycle of generational, like, “What’s subsequent?”

Do you are feeling such as you’ve realized methods to be extra empathetic in direction of not simply the individuals in your previous, but in addition the individuals round you, because of this?

DA: I believe so. I believe that’s the aim. I believe it’s much less about us studying to do it – I imply, we clearly must, but it surely’s type of about different individuals and listeners making an attempt to get that out of it. However I believe for us, it’s been fairly cathartic. It received’t really feel as emotionally impactful to me till it’s available for everybody else, I believe. Proper now, it simply feels prefer it’s nonetheless in our heads as a result of it’s not on the market on this planet but.

JD: It did push me to have needed talks with my household, which was good. So on a private stage, it was good, and if it does that for different individuals, that’s when it will be actually significant; if it sparks these conversations or helps somebody who’s going by a household divorce or one thing to really feel like they’re not alone on this state of affairs. We wish it to be fairly clear that it’s about that, as a result of as a child I felt like, I don’t know if many albums had been about that overtly. I believe that’s a cool factor that, like, half the individuals on this planet will perceive. I’ve lots of pals that I used to be speaking to in the course of the course of, too – emotions about your self-worth, the way you have interaction in different relationships due to watching what your dad and mom had been like. It was simply coming to a head in our private lives, so it felt like a great time to deal with these patterns and experiences.

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Since you’ve put out stuff up to now, I’m certain you’ve needed to have troublesome conversations with individuals in your life that you simply handle not directly in your music. Does it really feel completely different with this album?

JD: It feels extra private.

DA: It undoubtedly feels extra private. It feels prefer it’s as private as we’re going to – not as we’re gonna go, I don’t know – but it surely seems like we needed to get that on the market to ensure that the story is there, in order that we will have somewhat extra enjoyable sooner or later with music and really feel like there’s not as a lot of a weight of feeling like we have to write about sure issues or not.

How did the collaboration with Jay Som come about, and what do you are feeling like she dropped at the album?

DA: She’s a good friend of ours, and we work on lots of different artists collectively together with her. In order that was type of a cool expertise of being like, “Hey, I do know now we have you combine our shoppers on a regular basis, do you wish to come and spend a couple of days with us at a cabin and work on some stuff?” And it was a small position, she simply got here in and oversaw among the issues we had been doing, added a couple of sounds. We weren’t able to have somebody produce a TOLEDO album, however we had been able to have somebody are available in and add their concepts. And I believe that Melina was the proper individual to try this, as a result of we had been already pals and we knew that there was this understanding about one another’s music that we had. It was actually enjoyable, but it surely’s such a small factor on the album typically, the place it’s like, this synth sound on the final track, the album ends with Melina laughing. All these little items that deliver you into somewhat bit extra of a world was a few of Melina’s doing.

JD: She confirmed us some cool manufacturing strategies that we’ll most likely use sooner or later too. Like in ‘Ghosty’ and ‘Again Room’, there’s some piano, you’ll be able to barely hear it. And he or she was like, “We must always put spoons and rocks and little knickknacks on the strings of the piano,” and it will get to a bizarre, jangly –

DA: And that’s the sound of lots of How It Ends. A whole lot of How It Ends is Melina and us simply having enjoyable with percussive devices and issues. And I believe that’s type of one of the simplest ways to make music, is be much less heady about it and simply do no matter sounds cool and is enjoyable and throw shit on the wall and see no matter sticks.

Are you able to share one factor that conjures up you about one another?

DA: Oh… That’s emotional. I believe one of many issues that conjures up me about Jordan is his poetry. We at all times depend on Jordan for lots of lyrical stuff, and I believe that’s one thing that we notice if we weren’t a duo and we had been separate issues, it wouldn’t actually work. So I type of know what Jordan’s reply goes to be, however what it conjures up me about Jordan and what makes me look as much as him as a songwriter is his skill to create a narrative with typically inventive imagery. Particularly within the new stuff, however lots of older songs, too, which can be extra poetic, have linear movement and have a narrative – and it could be written in a inventive writing sort means, but it surely comes by.

JD: Now, what do you suppose my reply is?

DA: I don’t know… Music?

JD: Nicely, I do at all times inform people who Dan probably the most proficient musician, however that’s not, like, inspiring. However it’s true. However I believe he’s actually, actually devoted. Typically an excessive amount of.

DA: Yeah. Backhanded praise?

JD: The work ethic is inspiring – I imply when he’s in a studio, like in a manufacturing mode, you may throw issues at him and he wouldn’t even discover as a result of he will get so centered.

DA: In it to win it. I’m going for like a Brian Wilson sort. I genuinely need that. I would like, like, psycho music savant sooner or later. That’s somewhat heady, however we’ll see.


This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.

TOLEDO’s How It Ends is out September 23 through Grand Jury.

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