The four members of tomatoband like to describe the group as “experimental music inspired by elegant parties, countless hors d’oeuvres and responsible psychedelia,” all of which somehow shine through on their latest album Bocadillo released April 30.
The album flows with a psychedelic progression weaving new material with tracks dating back a decade when the band was just keyboardist Alex Irwin and guitarist Charlie Mitchell — like “Yodis” and “The Horse’s Head,” the first two songs they ever came up with. “We usually eliminate a lot of old songs entirely, so the fact that those are still around means we’ve done a lot of work to them,” said Irwin.
Irwin and Mitchell started jamming as a duo in Richmond, Virginia, but when they relocated to Charleston in 2017, tomatoband expanded to a four-piece with Jake Acheson on drums and Paul Joliet on bass. Each member puts a spin on the tunes Irwin and Mitchell develop, and humor plays a big role in the songwriting process.
“Because we spend so much time together, we have a lot of jokes that we tend to just repeat to each other all the time,” says Mitchell. “People say that we have our own language, and we kind of do. We usually just take it too far and turn it into a song or album or something.” Like Bocadillo. The album title came from a conversation about the term “bocadillo,” a Spanish word for sandwich, which they thought was a funny word to say and it eventually morphed into the name of the new project. “We don’t write about conventional stuff ever,” says Mitchell, who wrote the songs “Bocadillo, Pt. I” and “Bocadillo, Pt. II.”
“I like telling people that Charlie writes a lot of songs that are sort of like an acid trip, but you’re dressed up in a tuxedo for it,” said Irwin. Classy and trippy. Though there are a lot of jokes and humor sprinkled throughout the album — like the track “Eastside Bagel” written about the former bagel joint on Line Street — the band does dive into more serious concepts as well. Irwin wrote the song “Todd,” named for his late father, after finding a chord progression his dad had written down.
“My dad passed away 10 years ago, and I had a bunch of his books and sheet music that I hadn’t leafed through until the pandemic. When I did, this old piece of paper that was yellowed fell out, and it had a chord progression on it,” he explained. After trying to figure out whether or not the chord progressions were a cover or something original, Irwin decided to turn it into a new song with his own melody. “It was very cool because it was almost like my dad wrote it cosmically. It happened in kind of a mystical way,” he said.