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Tommy Santee Klaws


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The man himself, Tommy Santee Klaws, has a brutal, quavering wail. At one moment, he’s threatening, a well-reasoned exponent of dread. The next, he’s the spokesperson for failed animals (think the weaker elk who did not win a mate, or a caterpillar with parasitic wasp larvae eating its guts.) The band provides a commotion of agreement, punctuating the peaks and valleys like patches of forest. When they sing together, their voices harmonize like clouds in different weather. The upright bass makes doom-laden growls. The drummer caresses his cymbal with a violin bow. Beneath everything, toys and crickets, frogs, chirping birds, and weather act as framing devices, overtly relocating your brain.

There are moments that bloom and flourish—suddenly—and your fingers mash at the increase volume button to make it even bigger, to somehow get it loud enough that it becomes tangible: vines growing up your chair, coyotes howling, flies struggling inside pitcher plants, a campfire. This cannot just be sound. Despite its seriousness, there is something very devious here, something a little romantic too. Occasionally the music has a smirk; the awesomeness of feeling wretched.

The band is a motley assortment. Sam Seree, Tommy’s younger brother, complements Tommy’s plaintive bellows with cavernous, assured accents, filling in the sonic gaps, giving the songs a thicker skin. Donna Jo, Tommy’s wife, is in charge of the toys, playing with scissors, a tennis ball, spoons, chains, a kazoo, a baby bullhorn, windchimes, a thunder shaker and a toy piano, among other things, constructing friendly riots.


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