By Tyler Fox (@TylerFox585)
Some people just have a knack for performing. It’s in their blood. It comes naturally and it just seems like those people are constantly creating and showing their passion to the world. This is evident with Peter Fand and his new artistic endeavor, Tin Toy Cars. Fand pours his heart into his projects and it is a surprise he even has the energy to start this one, let alone be as successful as he is.
Fand landed in Las Vegas, a city built around and dedicated to the performing arts, and has not stopped working on his craft since his arrival. Fand came to Vegas as part of Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana and from there found like-minded and fellow hard-working artists from Cirque du Soleil that were willing to team up and lay it all on the line in the name of art. This is how Tin Toy Cars was formed.
The band has been crazy busy since their formation, playing shows and recording and releasing their new album, Falling, Rust & Bones. Somehow, Fand also found the time to answer a few questions for Turnabout about what else has been going on and what it is like being a local band in a city saturated by big-name acts. Head over to Tin Toy Cars’ website to grab Falling, Rust & Bones and check out their Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on what is going on.
Tin Toy Cars is a fairly new project in the grand scheme of things. How did everything get started with you guys?
Well, it came together at a moment when all of the elements were right for this band to come to life. Three of us work as musicians with Cirque du Soleil, and we met in that context. After performing the same music more than 470 times per year, we are all a bit eager to be involved in creative music projects. At the same time, we’re in Las Vegas, which is home to a rather remarkable pool of talent. Many of the great musicians in the world find their way here, either as part of a show, or simply to capitalize on the myriad of opportunities that this city offers. As a result, we’re all involved in interesting artistic endeavors, with some great people. In the beginning, we just set out to play a casual show at a local bar, just kind of for the fun of it. But as soon as we started rehearsing some repertoire, something clicked, and we all just sort of knew that we had an important new project in our lives.
Having a Cirque du Soleil background, you guys are no strangers to the stage. How, if at all, do you approach performing this music differently than you would your other artistic endeavors?
In the context of Cirque, everything is done on an enormous scale. The theaters and audiences are huge, and the productions are massive, with budgets up in the tens of millions. Naturally, that’s a fun thing to be a part of, and there’s a certain thrill in taking the stage as part of such a giant project. Yet, in some ways it’s less personal, and that feeling of nervousness from performance is pretty much non-existent. Somehow, even after performing for thousands of people every night of the week, there’s a more immediate thrill, in a way, playing original music in a small venue, even if there are only 50 people in the audience. It’s more exposed and intimate, and you can feel the audience respond with every word you sing, and every note that you play.
That feeling is particularly pronounced with Tin Toy Cars, because the music, by nature, is somewhat revealing. All of the musicians are featured, and the nuances of what we are playing are front and center all the time. It’s kind of electrifying actually, because we are challenged to bring our best game every time we take the stage.
You have a very eclectic sound that blends Americana and Funk and Bluegrass with a hint of Traditional African music to make this unique sound. Where do you guys pull your musical influences from?
Ha, yeah, that’s right. There are a lot of things at play in this music, which is essentially because there are a lot of things at play in our lives. Naturally, because of the instrumentation of the band, with mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, etc, there’s an automatic gravity towards the Americana roots thing, which I’d say is at the core of what we originally set out to do. At the same time though, people are complex beings, and when you put five of them in a band together, the music that comes out will be a reflection of the vast and varied experiences that they all bring to the table. In my case, I spent the first 20 years of my career deeply entrenched in the West African traditional music world, traveling back and forth to Guinea and Mali, so it’s unavoidable that those sounds find their way into my writing and playing styles. Meanwhile, our fiddle player, Martin St-Pierre, is a French-Canadian whose career started in the world of classical music and composition. Then our roots-driven Bluegrass bass player, Brian Burns, adds his unmistakable flavor to the soup. It goes on like that, and the result is a music that is tough to encapsulate in a word, but hopefully is engaging to listeners across a variety of genres.
I’ve always been intrigued with local music scenes and Las Vegas is something totally foreign to me. It is clearly a city built for performance arts, but what is the local music scene like there?
It’s not surprising to hear that the local music scene here is foreign to you, because it gets a bit obscured by the massive entertainment conglomerate productions that dominate the Vegas media. Las Vegas is an interesting place in that way. While it’s the epicenter of the grandiose production, it’s also home to a very cool and burgeoning original music scene, which largely revolves around the old downtown. It’s birthed notable groups like “The Killers” and “Imagine Dragons,” but is also rich with creative bands, pushing the limits in some cool ways.
Also, there are lots of fantastic musicians here as performers in the big shows on the strip. As a result, a lot of them end up playing around town in creative projects, so the technical level of the scene is actually quite high. I have a feeling that there will be a new wave of bands getting some recognition from this town in the coming years.
The band just recently released a new album, “Falling, Rust & Bones” that came out at the beginning of the year. What was the writing/recording process like for this album?
Most of the songs on this album were written in the months leading up to the recording. It was a rather prolific time for me as a songwriter, which was fueled in large part by the excitement of this new group of musicians. We’d been playing around town a bit, and it seemed that at each show, we had strong new repertoire to present. A lot of it really crystallized in the studio though. Once we set down to record this music, it cracked open, and we went deep into discovery mode.
That was a really fun process, albeit all-consuming. Once we’d started, it felt like the outside world ceased to exist, and each day was marked by what was accomplished in the studio: today we finished violin for three songs…today we got two guitar tracks done…today I rewrote the lyrics to the bridge in one song. And slowly, through carefully directed inspiration, this album was born.
To go along with the album, you guys put out quite the music video for the single “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead.” What was it like making this video?
That was an awesome project to be a part of. It was absurdly ambitious, but we were able to pull it off because of the wildly talented community we are a part of. We have acrobats and performers from eight shows on the strip, skydivers and more…we even have an 8-foot Elvis appearing in it. We shot in 5 very different locations, which was a massive thing to coordinate. At one point, we were even in a cemetery, where they dug me a grave, and buried me in the ground. Pretty crazy. The gravedigger told me that I was the only person he’d ever dug a grave for that made it out.
And now that it’s done, and has gone live, it remains a really fun video to watch. It features the song “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead,” which is playfully challenging the listener to live, while they still can, and throughout the video, we see examples of that charge. The talent level of the performers is very high, and the locations are stunning, so on a visual/sensory level, it’s a bit like eating a truffle.
With the album still being fresh and a busy schedule, what can we expect to come from Tin Toy Cars in the coming months?
We’re currently planning to hit the road in late summer, and hope to make it to some of the places in the country that have been supporting the album with radio and press. We’re really looking forward to that. We also expect to be on the East Coast in September as well. Check out our website www.tintoycars.net for tour updates, etc, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tintoycarsband, and drop us a note to say hello.
We’d like to thank Peter Fand of Tin Toy Cars for his time and the photos he provided. We’d encourage you to follow the band at the links above.