Tora is the Byron born, Amsterdam-based band making soulful Sunday infused sounds and taking our hearts wherever they go. On a pre-lockdown stint at home members Jo Loewenthal, Jai Piccone, Thorne Davis and Shaun Johnston had their portraits taken by Kitty Callaghan. And talked James Blake, music to get down to and why making it isn’t for the faint of heart.
What sparked your decision to move to, or base yourselves in, Amsterdam?
We’ve been considering basing ourselves in Europe for many years, ever since we first toured here in 2015. We had such a great response over here from the public, but also from the music industry, with many great opportunities and like-minded creatives to collaborate with.
Amsterdam felt like the logical spot to be because it’s so well situated between many of the countries where we have the most traction, but it’s also a magical city, and my girlfriend [Loewenthal's girlfriend model Gigi Ringel] is Dutch so I’ve spent lots of time here already and built a network over the years here which helps make the transition smoother.
Are there are any artists in Europe you plan to collaborate with either musically or visually? The visual side of your project seems to be somewhat integral in Tora.
There are many great artists of all types in Europe, we have our eye on a few, but we can’t give away our secrets just yet, before they fully manifest in reality, we don’t want to jinx anything. With that said, you can be sure to expect artistic collaborations in the plenty this year.
Who would be your favourite or dream producer to work with, if any, for your next studio album?
It would be a dream to work with James Blake on some music someday, but we tend to self-produce all our own records, which is the key to us achieving the sound we bring to the world.
When you started Tora, which artists did you take most inspiration from? Do you think this has changed much as your craft and project has evolved?
Over time our tastes have certainly evolved, but some artists have still remained big inspirations all the way through. Early inspirations for Tora were John Mayer, James Blake, Toro y Moi, Little Dragon, Sohn, Alt J.
Your latest release includes remixes from the likes of Tayrell and Kill Paris. Do you feel, working as electronic artists that collaborating with other artists in this way is important? Why did you decide to release the deluxe edition of your album Can’t Buy The Mood?
Collaboration is important for expansion, if you want to take your ideas beyond your own imagination you have to let other artists give their input. Initially we just sent our album to a bunch of our mates to get feedback, and many of them requested stems to remix, before long we had too many remixes to release stand alone, and we had a couple of B side tracks which we didn’t include on the original album, so it made sense to compile a deluxe album.
Have you ever found translating your sound from the studio to the live setting a difficult task? Do you factor tour into your songs and sound when working on them, or is this something comes after the songwriting and production process?
In the past this was one of our biggest challenges, in our early days we used to just write / produce songs on a laptop from start to finish, and then when it came to learn the tunes we came up against lots of technical challenges. Over time we have become much more mindful of how songs translate to a live setting, which has really helped us evolve and create songs that make sense to perform as a band. It’s taken us many years to really grasp what is and isn’t important in a live setting, people seem to love watching humans play instruments and not just click buttons, so over time we’ve become more focused on being instrumentalists and performers, whilst still striving to maintain our electronic embellishment and the core production sounds of Tora. Our songs have become more songy, which seems to be quite well received by our audience. Now people can actually sing along and understand what we do.
If you had to sum up what it means being in a band or choosing a creative career path like music, how would you describe it?
It’s pure passion, you do it because you love it right to the core. Creating and performing music is meditation, it’s like sex, it’s the only time you’re truly present, it’s healing, it’s therapy, you forget about all your problems when you’re amongst it. A career like this is not for the faint hearted. It’s a fine balance between inflated confidence and debilitating self-doubt. You’re always on a polar flip, one day you feel like you’re doing something important, and the next you feel like everything you’re striving for is pointless. It’s many years of relentless hard work, for basically no pay. Your pour every ounce of your soul into it, in the hope that someday people might understand and appreciate it. Despite all the struggles, the passion trumps it all, and when you receive messages from fans letting you know that your music helped them through hard times, or impacted them positively, it’s all worth it.
Speaking of passion, what are some of your ultimate songs for seduction?
This is a tough question as it’s always changing, but these tunes are pretty sexy rn ...
Tora's Can't Buy The Mood (Deluxe Edition) is out now.