[Interview] With ... Samuel Toms

Photo Credit: Martin Shaw

The career of one of indie rock's best drummers remains one of admiration and fascination. But leaving Temples, quite possibly the most acclaimed and loved contemporary psychedelic rock band in the world, has definitely left Samuel Toms with a deep thirst, lots of energy and creativity. The talented drummer and songwriter has been super-busy juggling several music projects since leaving the four-piece from Kettering.

One of the first things Samuel did was to accept the invite to join the experimental post-rock band Fat White Family as their drummer. He was already a fan and a friend of the band so that was an easy decision to make. He also wanted to be a solo artist, the dream of going it alone was far from new, it was something he has been thinking about for years. It seemed to be a natural next step, more than a decision and he had been writing music and lyrics while he was still in Temples.

Samuel plays rhythm guitar and sings. Writing songs, playing with excellent musicians, delivering some quirky, edgy and entertaining live shows is what he wants to do. There are clear advantages of leaving a band after six years, it can give an even greater sense of freedom and  inspiration. Suddenly he was able to pick up offers of work, because he had an interest or a passion. Samuel also fronts Secret Fix, he collaborates with Max Oscarnold of Toy and The Proper Ornaments and plays guitar in The Telescopes. 

It goes without saying that being a permanent member of Temples for such a long period was special; leaving the band, moving on, throwing oneself into new projects, working with other musicians requires dedication, effort, hard work and energy. But Samuel Toms continues to deliver all of the above. Curious to hear more about the musician's new careers, thoughts and ideas about the past and the future, It's All Indie is beyond proud to bring this rare interview exclusive with the extraordinary musician. 

So much has changed, what are your thoughts and feelings about your current situation?

"I feel very lucky, and things have just kind of fallen into place which is great. Fingers crossed things are going to keep doing that."

Did you ever imagine that you would become a member of Fat White Family?

"I had  been to a few of Fat White Family's shows. Temples had played a few of the same festivals before. Then I just bumped into them through other friends at parties and they asked me. I was originally going to play with Secure Men but that was when I was still in Temples, I was too busy so they ended up getting someone else in. But it has all worked out well, so when I left Temples Fat White Family sort of went ‘Do you wanna do this?’ and I was like ‘Yeah!’." 

What is it like to have gone solo? Are you enjoying it so far? 

"I guess I have been doing it the whole time. I wrote while I was still in Temples but I definitely felt even more inspired since I left. I am going to record some songs, see what happens and because it is my own thing I can work around whatever else I am doing, all of that is entirely up to me. I want to make an album and then go from there. If somebody wants to put it out that is cool, if not I will get it pressed and do it myself."

How would you describe your sound and lyrics?

"In a way the songs are like children’s songs with adult themes. I am sick of the whole psyche rock thing, when I say that I am talking about the clich├ęd psyche stuff but artists like Panda Bear are pushing things forward, instead of just having a guitar band using lots of reverb."

"I have a real interest in poppy melodies but with real kind of silly lyrics. I wanted my own stuff to be quite dry, not atmospheric. Satire and social commentary are of interest to me but I did not want to be too serious. I think if you start off as a joke then no one can take the p*ss out of you in the future because you have already done it yourself. I wanted to write some simple songs. I might still rework some of them, make them sound more modern, use some kind of mix, like dubs or something like that but let's see what happens."  

What subjects or situations do you take inspiration from?

"I get annoyed by a lot of things, like bad things, things that a lot of people probably get annoyed about. I don’t like the idea of mixing art with politics, so my songs are about things you see in life, people and attitudes. Have you ever seen a film called The Dewey Cox Story? It is like a spoof version of Walk The Line. There is a bit halfway through the film where something happens and you go ‘Hang on, that is a song’. I think that almost sends a sensor to my head, whenever something annoys me or really stands out. I am not sure if this is interesting to anyone else but I guess it is a way of venting frustration." 

Sonically the influences are not straightforward or easy to nail down but everyone who has attended one or more of Samuel's live shows agrees that there is something unique on display. There is a sense of originality and individuality. Samuel says that some people see references to the likes of Squeeze, Syd Barrett, Television Personalities and Ivor Cutler ."

"Temples' style is vague and it is quite poetic, whereas, my own stuff is like straight down the line."  

Photo Credit: Martin Shaw

Do you associate the need to have a band made up of some of the best musicians as being a Temples' trait, 

"Luckily all of my best friends are amazing musicians. I do like the whole sort of stripped down thing and I have worked on that with Max. For example, he might play a cheap little Yamaha keyboard, I will be on guitar and it sounds nice. Tonight's set is going to be a bit more proto punk and more of an electric sort of thing. We might do three songs with the band and then I do one on my own, like a pop or a drinking song. It is usually fun."

Some of Samuel's song titles are Booze and Hippies For Hate and he is keen for them to go on his debut album, out in due course. Another song title is The Professional, a song about someone he knows. "Some of the titles are vaguely self-deprecating including Useless Pr*ck, but this is not about making people feel sorry for me. I have a song called Jimmy Riddle’s Milk as well as Special Disease. Titles are really important to me and the  same counts for the artwork. When I write something everything is taken into consideration."

How are you going to release it? Have you had anyone approaching you?

"So far no one has come forward yet. I probably need to finish something first, put a single and a video out, just so they can see something concrete. It is about letting everyone know that I am doing it. I have been chatting to a guy who manages a big established band and he might be interested in helping me out." 

Moving on to the subject of Temples, the communication about your departure has seemed sparse but what is your take on things?

"No one in Temples has said anything. I have been getting messages from fans saying stuff like ‘What’s going on? and 'Why are you not playing with them? So I do feel maybe Temples could do a little post of acknowledgement and/or thank you, or whatever."

What was the atmosphere like at the particular point of you leaving?

"I was a bit of a nightmare for them but the thing is that we are like family. We all grew up in a small town but you don’t live with your family your whole life. At some point you move out and get new, naughty friends and that is what I have done." 

What prompted you to leave? 

"They asked me to leave. I won’t go into details now but it wasn’t such a bad thing. We both felt it was time to part ways I guess and I didn’t admit it to myself almost. I want to let people make up their own stories about what they think and see what they make of it."   

"But I had thought about leaving for some time, it was difficult because I was getting paid to go on tour and travel the world and that is hard to give up. There are times when you question your integrity, I probably should have left a bit earlier, just to be fair to myself and to other people." 

At what point did you realise you didn’t see a long-term future with them?

"Probably not long after I joined. I have always been someone who enjoys being properly involved in things.  But Temples were very much someone else’s work. In a way that is cool. It is nice just to play drums and not have to worry about stuff but at the same time I don’t like being on a ship that someone else is steering, that is kind of scary. You know decisions get made that you are not quite happy with and it is just one of those things. But I had a really great time and it lasted six years. We toured the world, met great people and had lots of fun." 

With Temples touring the world for long periods of time, what shows stand out? 

"Some of the festival slots in Japan were really special. Many of the independent ones we played there were amazing. Manchester has always been absolutely incredible, the kids always go mad, they like moshing to Temples' music. There was also a show where we all got really sick, we had played in Ibiza and it was weird, just wasn't our kind of thing."

"We were due to do Benicassim the next day, it was just as we were getting bigger and more popular, we didn’t have a clue as to whether anyone would come and see us. There was no one out there, we were all throwing up backstage but when we walked on stage thousands of people were there to see us. The sun was setting and it was the best gig, we got through it still feeling rough but the adrenaline helped. It was so magical."  

What do you count as some of the most memorable moments or experiences?

"It would have to be some of the people I met during that time. I can now go to almost any continent where I will have friends I can spend time with. But they are not just friends, they are amazing characters as well, people that you wouldn’t even imagine exist, their lives are like movies. It is insane to think about some of the people I have met and they are all so lovely." 

"I have a great friend in Kansas City. Even just to go to his house is special, you have probably never been anywhere like that before. It is not expensive or anything but he has has got porches, you can sit out at the front, people walk past and say hello and it is truly romantic, it is great."

"There is this guy called Clinton. I made friends with him, and ahead of what was Temples' next visit to Kansas City he said ‘I am coming to pick you all up, I will be there in half an hour'. Then he called me and told me to look outside. As I looked out I saw that he was in a pink Cadillac, it was bright pink. Then he took me on a trip, he didn’t tell me where he was taking me but it was to this old vintage shops in the middle of nowhere, which this old lady runs."

"The woman has been doing this since the 1970s, she gave us these suits and we both came out looking a bit like Fred Astaire, they were like penguin suits and we got top hats too. Then he drove me around the city in his pink Cadillac, we just had the best day. Things like that, they are the sort of things that make touring special and obviously you are playing great gigs but they are both things I live for."

 That does sound rather special. To what degree has it influenced your ideas and creativity?

"At some point I had a documentary idea, and I want to do it at some point. It is called the Ambassadors because every person I have met when you go on tour is like an ambassador. It is like you go to a city, you know that person will be here to show you around and show you a good time. My idea is related to staying with people, I would make up of list of them and go and stay with each of them for a week and film their lives. There would be a big party at my house where all the ambassadors come to me and meet. All the best people from around the world." 

"I think that could be cool because you could do so many follow-ups and pick bands to be ambassadors. For example, Fat White Family could feature and you could film their ambassadors and see all the crazy friends they have made. All these people deserve a commission as well they are all so inspiring to be around. So you are not just focusing on the kind of the bands, the glamorous side of it. You want go beneath the surface and get to see where they come from." 

What is the latest on Fat White Family? What can you tell us about your future plans with them?

"They are finishing a record now. It sounds really good, it is amazing. They are always going to be doing really great stuff and it sounds so different from recording to recording. I won’t go into too much detail, they might kill me if I say too much. But I think we are going to put out new material next year and then we will be touring constantly. so I better hurry out with my solo material." 

Photo Credit: Martin Shaw