Thomas Thoreau: Legend in the Making

Sitting across the booth inside DTB on Oak Street from Thomas Thoreau, frontman to The Indie Folk Orchestra and his agent Raquel, I am immediately struck by what an amazing team they are. Thomas very articulately describes a lifetime filled with music; both composed and played by him and his group, as well as that which begins in his head many places he goes. Thomas thinks big; this is clear. He certainly has the talent and ambition his aspirations call for. As our interview commences, I learn how much of a born musician bound for success he really is. At such a young age, Thomas has already accomplished so much; I do not doubt he is going many important places with his work!

M: Are you originally from New Orleans?

TT: I’m actually from Kansas City, Missouri. I moved down here about six years ago for school.

M: That’s awesome, what school did you attend?

TT: I went to Loyola for music composition.

M: Very cool, it’s a very good liberal arts school I know that.

TT: Yeah they have a fantastic music program.

M: So how long have you been playing music?

TT: Well, I picked up the clarinet in 4th grade and I knew that even though I may not be playing that instrument for the rest of my life, I knew I’d be doing something with music.

M: What was the name of your first band?

TT: Well the first time I was in a band and it was all my own music and I felt like I was the one curating the experience instead of just being someone’s guitarist or bassist, we were called Two Stories. It was an acoustic emo band I guess you could say, we kind of sounded similar to Bright Eyes.

M: Currently what instrument or instruments do you play and do you sing?

TT: I sing and play guitar in my current group the Indie Folk Orchestra but I play a variety of instruments, I spent a lot of time on piano because I also make music for films for a living.

M: Awesome is there a particular genre of music you prefer to score?

TT: Absolutely. During my studies at Loyola, I took a strong interest in impressionist music, like early 20th-century French classical style, and so I always love composing things with a beautiful flowing style classical influence. So I generally find that style in dramas and actual romance movies as opposed to romantic comedies. I prefer when I get the opportunity to make a score that is just dripping with passion.

M: So like an emotional roller coaster?

TT: Yeah, a little bit. It just gives you so much to work with when you get to express what the characters are feeling musically, as opposed to just creating something generic that could fit anywhere.

M: I get that, and I’ve never really thought about it like that but it makes sense.  So how long have you and your band been together and how did you meet?

TT: So earlier this year, I believe in January, I started recording this record which I’ll be releasing next month. Also, I wanted to do my first solo record so I could put out something that’s just totally mine. But in the process, I found that I was, like, wanting to recreate that orchestral sound, so I called up a bunch of my friends and I recorded string sections, flutes, and clarinets. And then I realized while mixing and mastering everything that I wanted to recreate that sound live and that’s not something a lot of people are doing. A lot of people might have studio musicians make their songs orchestral, but very few people actually take the time and effort to create that sound in a live environment. So I just called up some of the people who recorded for me and was like, “Hey, would you be interested in making this into a performing act,” and so that’s kinda how things developed into the Indie Folk Orchestra.

M: That’s so cool, how do people generally react?

TT: Well it’s a different experience than people are used to. We might play music that’s a little calmer than people are expecting on a Friday night, but for the right kind of people it ends up being a very pleasant surprise. I use a lot of what I learned scoring films in my composition; there are certain queues that we all respond to, and so it’s possible to write something really emotional that’s simple. Not saying that all our music is simple, but there’s certain things I’ve learned that really shapes people’s moods and experience and I try to incorporate those things in my music.

M: So this is an off the wall question. I’ll see a person, and I’m kind of observing their mood, and I’ll think of like a song to put behind them; do you ever start coming up with a soundscape notion when you see someone interesting?

TT: Actually yeah, this may sound strange but I’ve never been afraid to be who I am. And so, I’m always the weird person whistling or singing, or beatboxing, so I just make music everywhere I go regardless of what people that see me walking in the street think. So there’s always something in my head, and I strongly believe that there is art in everything, so I try and find inspiration in every little thing. And so to answer your question, I’d say yeah definitely.

M: Life, in general, can be some of the best inspiration.

TT: Oh yeah definitely. That’s the only inspiration I think, art is just reflecting the experience of the person. That’s like why we take in art; because we want to enjoy someone else’s perspective of life.

M: I totally concur. Genre’s aside, in your own words, how would you define your music?

TT: I’m going to stop because I want to say that it’s orchestral or symphonic, but that’s kind of a tough one. I guess I’d say musically, it’s emotional, but lyrically it’s highly logical because I find myself to be a more logically based person than emotionally based person. But the music is very emotional at times so it’s an interesting mix of both of those things. I’m just trying to relate my experience through art.

M: Well speaking of reasoning, do you have a favorite philosopher?

TT: At this point in my life I’m really into Camus, but I acknowledge that interests change over time. Right now I’m in my mid 20’s, and so that whole existential absurdism with a little bit of nihilism is par for the course for being in your mid 20’s.  So I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years but right now I’m here. (both laugh)

M: Absolutely, live in the moment.

TT: Exactly.

M: So where do you and your group generally play, or what sorts of settings do you enjoy playing?

TT: The settings thing is interesting. We’re still trying to find our niche; there’s a lot of bars where people might not be expecting to hear really whispery, soft orchestral type music on Friday or Saturday night. But we find that the venues that really work well for us are the spaces that already have some interest in softer, prettier music, which is why I’m very ecstatic about the fact that we’re going to be releasing our record at the Marigny Opera House, and that was like my dream location so I really happy about that.

M: Congratulations!

TT: Thank you.

M: So in closing, are there any special thanks, insights, or shout out’s you would like to make to people in New Orleans in general?

TT: Yeah of course. Thursday, November 15th, I’ll be performing at the Marigny Opera House with the Indie Folk Orchestra and we will be releasing our debut record Sink Nor Swim.

M: Awesome, well definitely send me an invite through Facebook, I’m excited for you and wish you the best of luck on the album. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me; I really appreciate it.

My new incredibly friendly and forthcoming acquaintances head off to get Thomas to work, though I doubt that he will be punching a time clock much longer. I cannot wait to see and hear more of this charming, intelligent innovator of music!

Be sure to check out some of Margaret’s previously published reviews for local favorite spots and creatives like The Neutral Ground and Taja’ Mitchem!

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