Tillsonburg Scene is calling this Friday night’s Tongue Helmet debut at Sammy Krenshaw’s the “biggest hip hop party of the year.”
Tongue Helmet, which provides a ‘unique, updated look at a classic psychedelic hip-hop sound,’ is hitting the road with six shows in eight days – Windsor (Thursday) and Tillsonburg (Friday, May 17) with Le Stack, Gabe Graves and local band Anibus. Then Ottawa (Saturday) and Hamilton (Sunday), followed by London, and wrapping up in Toronto May 23rd.
Online tickets for the Tillsonburg show ($10) are available via
Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tongue-helmet-members-of-july-talk-live-at-sammy-krenshaws-tickets-60428996756.
Tongue Helmet initially started as a collaboration between two longtime London friends, drummer Danny Miles from the alternative rock band July Talk, and hip hop artist Tim Wallace, also known as Timbuktu.
“It’s a side project thing that I do with my best friend,” said Miles. “He’s the rapper, lyricist of the group. We’ve actually been making music for a long time, kind of in the hip hop genre. This is the first time that we’ve really pushed it to be like an actual group, do a full record together, and just go full-in. We’ve been making this record for about a year-and-a-half, just when we have time. It’s a really fun project.”
Miles and Wallace are joined by Peter Chapman, a creative multi-instrumentalist, and DJiRATE (Ward Pitfield), adding the scratch, to complete Tongue Helmet, which released a five-song EP (The Brain on Fire) in May 2018.
“We just put out a video for our first single from the new record that’s going to be coming out in the summer, some time in June, called Sunstroke. We also put out a remix album with remixes from some more known indie artists…”
Miles said their music is very much in the world of Beastie Boys, who rose to fame in the mid-80s, or Beck (Odelay era) from the mid-90s.
The Sunstroke project features their original track “Sunstroke”, with five unique takes on it from Rich Aucoin, Thomas D’Arcy, Savillion, Wolf Saga, and July Talk’s Ian Docherty.
“It’s got a bit of a hip hop, but also indie alternative thing going on,” said Miles.
“And it’s all live instruments, so there’s no sampling on it. It’s fully live instrumentation,” he said, noting that is rare in rap or hip hop. “Usually a lot of rap music and hip hop is played on either drum machines or stuff like that, and produced on a computer. Or a lot of it is sampled from other music. What we do is we try to make it sound like it’s been sampled. So if you hear it for the first time, you’re not like ‘oh that’s just a live band playing music,’ it sounds like it’s been sampled. But it’s all just us. So it gives it kind of a unique hip hop sound, but it’s all just live instruments.”
At the Sammy Krenshaw’s (51 Broadway) show Tongue Helmet will be playing songs from The Brain on Fire, which is available on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, as well songs from the Sunstroke Remix EP, which is releasing through URBNET.
“I think (The Brain on Fire) EP is really great, but Sunstroke is a step up for sure, I think,” said Miles. “Definitely, in a year, we learned, connected and gelled as a band.
According to the band’s website, “It is more than just a hip hop group or an indie alternative band with remixes. You really get to hear the song in six different ways with six different identities. We think Sunstroke in all its forms is a great introduction to the band.”
Origin of Tongue Helmet
A one of a kind band name, Tongue Helmet may not be what you think.
“I do bird photography as well, as a hobby,” said Miles. “I’ve done gallery shows and stuff like that, so it’s a big part of my life. I was explaining to Tim one night when we were making music, I said, ‘You know a woodpecker wraps its tongue around its brain, to protect its brain, when it’s hitting its head against a tree, to get food or make a nest or whatever they’re doing.’ He said, ‘Oh, so they have a tongue helmet.'”
They recognized tongue helmet could make a cool name for a band.
“We were unsure at first, it’s an easily misinterpreted name. It can interpreted, I think, in a more ‘dirty’ kind of interpretation, but that is literally what it is. It’s a birding thing, it’s a bird reference. On the new record we have a whole intro to the record explaining what it actually means.
“It’s definitely a name that stands out. You either say, ‘That’s a cool name!’ or ‘What? That doesn’t make sense.’ Which was kind of the point, it’s just supposed to be something different. I think you need that nowadays with the internet.”
Miles’ full-time main gig is still the band July Talk, which consists of Miles, singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, guitarist Ian Docherty, and bassist Josh Warburton.
“I was just on tour with them for three months and July Talk is putting out a new record, probably early next year,” said Miles.
“So Tongue Helmet is really just an outlet for me to do this other stuff. I love late-80s, early-90s hip hop music – I’m a big fan of that – so there’s always been something in me that wants to make that type of music.
“So it’s like a side project… we’ll probably keep doing it forever, Tim and I, as long as we want to do it, because we are best friends and we hang out all the time. This was just something for us to do in our spare time and we have a good time doing it.
“It’s definitely not something that’s going to take over July Talk. July Talk will be my No. 1 gig and they are family to me. That’s my life, the July Talk thing for sure, and I’m really excited about that new project – I can’t wait for that to come out, it’s going to be an incredible record.”
July Talk, which formed eight years ago, had been on the road for an extended stretch, said Miles, pretty much five years, then went off the road for about eight months. That left band members time to do other things.
“July Talk is like our full-time job, so there was spare time. Rather than sitting around watching Netflix, making another project was more productive.”
A truly collaborative effort, Miles helps write Tongue Helmet choruses and even adds some vocals.
“It’s fun in that way, it’s a little bit different. The live show is a little different as well – this is a different challenge, a fun challenge. The live show is super fun and we’re looking forward to Tillsonburg and the rest of tour.”
Miles tries to bring the same energy and vibe to both bands.
“Obviously, with July Talk, we’re like this force, pushing forward. I think as a drummer of that band, you’re the heart of that body… pushing the energy forward. Obviously Peter and Leah are incredible front people, they bring this theatrical, wild vibe to the show. So seeing a July Talk show is a special thing every night, even for me. I’ve played I don’t know how many hundreds, and maybe into the thousands of shows with July Talk – I’m still shocked every show, what they’re doing.
“Because of all that, what I am used to bringing to the table for the July Talk show, I do definitely think I bring it to the Tongue Helmet show. In a bit of a different way. It’s not a July Talk show, but the energy is definitely there. It’s a really exciting show.”