Armed with a few years of piano lessons and a love of confessional songwriting, Thomas Crowley (thom.ko) began creating beats and melodies in his bedroom, and released his first demo while still in high school. Since those formative years, he has traded his bedroom melodies for a more focused approach and continued to grow as an artist, carving out a distinct sonic niche for himself. With a distinct ear for arrangements, thom.ko deftly mixes genre and mood, creating songs that are unpredictable and endearing.
Here's what thom.ko had to say heading into their Sound Off! 2020 performance, which is set for Saturday, February 22 at the Museum of Pop Culture.
What does it mean to you to be part of Sound Off! 2020?
thom.ko: It means a lot. Going to public school in Washington I wasn't really exposed to the arts scene, especially when it comes to the youth. Going forward, I'm really excited to become a part of that really quickly. Just learning, listening to everybody's music, and then seeing how that translates live. It's just going to be a really exciting time. I'm so excited to play and share the stage with them, so it'll be really fun.
How would you describe your sound?
thom.ko: I'm trying to start defining it by unpolished R&B pop, pop alternative, that sense. There's aspects of it that sound familiar and are not really electronic, but then there's also aspects that you definitely need a computer to emulate. That's why I'm kind of solo right now and just use a track, which has been super easy, fun, and rewarding.
What artists do you look to for inspiration?
thom.ko: I try to shift my inspiration constantly. I think that's one of the aspects that I have the privilege of, especially in this day and age where you really do have everything at your fingertips and the more you can be agile in my realm where you're kind of doing everything on your computer and you have that ability, like why not just keep shifting? But at the same time trying to find your own lane, taking all of these different aspects into account. A person like James Blake early on was a big one, the Bon Iver side for slower things, and then a lot of rap too; just personally that's what I like. Alternative rap and experimental hip-hop has been a big part of what I was into and subconsciously has definitely influenced me.
Why do you make music?
thom.ko: Making music, especially in my first few years in university, it's been la huge escape. That's a pretty cliche answer, I understand. But I think it's just the reality of music and it's one of its key components is really just giving you that escape from things like your living situation, or what's going on in your head, or your actual life, or with whatever that is. But for me it's been an escape and it's also been a way to provide people that I've lost touch with a little bit of like, 'this is what's going on in my life.' And I try to kind of emulate that and do a two-and-a-half minute song. So it's been fun.
What are you hoping to achieve through your music in Sound Off! 2020?
thom.ko: I want to walk away with a better grasp of performing at this kind of setting and hopefully have that as kind of a precursor to things in the future; more stages of this size. And I want to walk away with just hearing all these other people's music and either collaborating, or at the very least, taking them in as influences and building around that. Other than that, it's all going to be upside and fun.
If you could describe your sound or your music as an animal, what would it be and why?
thom.ko: I'll say an Armadillo. It's rough on the outside and can withstand a lot of things that are thrown at it, including a lot of doubts from myself. But then once it uncurls and walks around, you see that it's tender on the inside, it's well intentioned, and kind of adorable.