Tonsil Yeti Is All In It To Win It, Dude

The last time I spoke to Tonsil Yeti, they were just releasing their debut album, A Bomb and A Bull, which quickly made the band a recognizable fixture in Flagstaff's local music scene. This time around, I caught the Northern Arizona quintet hungover somewhere in California (they didn't quite know where either), right before they were about to surf some waves.

This is an exciting time for Tonsil Yeti -- it's the band's first-ever tour outside of their mountain town home, with shows up and down California's coast and few in Arizona.

Self-described as "straight up good rock 'n' roll," Tonsil Yeti blurs the line between grunge and hard rock, with a tinge of heavy metal. There's a certain vulgarity involved, (see tracks like "Legs So Fine" or "The New Sleazy"), but it's balanced out by lead singer Derek Born's background as an English high school teacher, giving his lyrics a literary edge (see tracks like "Pit and Pendulum").

We asked Born about his experiences on the road and how they've handled playing empty bars, crashing a few parties, and even doing some skydiving.

Up On The Sun: How have you guys been?

Derek Born: We've been really fucking good. It's been amazing, man. We're all in it to win it. It's just been a blast dude. Dave [Swain], the drummer, got a little bit of money from his grandma passing, and he's so dedicated [that] he sunk it all into a band vehicle, so we actually have a nice Chevy Tahoe and a trailer with our stuff. So it's pretty cool.

Do you have any crazy stories from the road?

We wanted to go skydiving, right? We knew someone that knew someone and called up these instructors. They were the coolest fucking people. We met 'em and they took us up and we dove with them -- it was amazing. So they were like, you're in a band? You wanna play somewhere tonight? Fuck, yeah! We didn't have anything scheduled.

They got us a gig that night and the next night. They were early gigs because those places had their late-night gigs booked, of course, but it was just fun to play. There was a free-for-all, a jam, after we started playing, so there was this old, classic black blues dudes holding down the jam set, and I got on stage and sang with them a little bit -- just some scat stuff and our guitarist got up there and soloed with them. It was awesome.

We're hanging with Dave's cousin Tyler, and just by chance, he was a camera operator for Jackass since early on in the program. So he knows all those dudes and has a bunch of crazy stories. It's been a blast hanging out with him. He said he's willing to do a video for free if we just come up with a concept.

How have the crowds been? Our first night was also unscheduled. We went to this place Isla Vista, which is a notorious party college town. We heard it's just insane. There's this certain city block where there's just parties every fucking three houses. It ended up being more dead than the legends because it's summer and the college kids are gone.

So we just cruised the streets and were just like, "Hey, does anybody want a rock band to play?" Some of the ladies were stuck up and said [in an irritating diva voice], "Rock sucks."

But we did get a kitchen party. It was hilarious. We played the first song, and when we finished, there was probably only five people in the house at that moment because the noise drove them outside. We finished the song and it was crickets. [laughs]. They obviously did not care or appreciate what was going on. They looked up with a stone-cold expression and then back to whatever they were doing. We just laughed and kept on playing.

Oh, man, that's great. Ventura was cool because those skydiver dudes were in with all the cool local people and characters in town. There was a ton of real music lovers there. Because of the timing, when we started our set, not a single dude was in the bar. We had no control over that, but all the people that came in were really positive. They were like dude, this is fucking awesome. We love rock music and never see this kind of music in town. They told us we have to come back and play a weekend night. So we can't wait to come back and do it again.

That's awesome for you guys.

That's kind of what this whole tour has been, and we knew that going in. We're just trying to open some doors and make some stuff happen for the future and have fun.

How's your album been going over with everyone?

It's been really good. We actually just heard back from the A&R guy who discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and signed Jet and some other cool artists. He says he's been listening to it on repeat for the last couple of months and he loves it.

The downside is he wasn't sure if he heard a single on there for today's radio scene, but the cool part was his reason why. He thinks the vocal melodies are a little too complex and the lyrics are a little too artfully done. Basically, he said it's too good to be on the radio today. It's kind of a funny compliment, but we'll take it. Maybe he'll pass it on to people he knows and we'll see what we can do.

Good luck with that.

We are still so early in our little adventure that every little thing is exciting. But that CD release show [in Flagstaff] was sick. We had 250 people pay to come see us, which in our little town is fucking ridiculous. That was honestly the biggest high of my entire life. I felt like I was on every kind of drug possible.

You guys have anything else to add?

Uh, no, I literally have to grab my board and run right now.

All right, guys, have a good time!

Tonsil Yeti is scheduled to perform Thursday, July 26, at Rockbar, Inc. in Scottsdale.

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Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah