In person, the omnipresent Andy Tholberg is unassuming and mild-mannered, at least more than one might expect for someone who is so loudly involved in the local scene. Tholberg might be best known as the bassist in local rock band Ghost Hands (aka the quintet that has singlehandedly brought the 90s back), but he's also the frontman and creative force of the band Dabarko as well as a thriving solo artist and producer.
For Tholberg (who turns 30 on Jan. 28), music has always been a part of daily life. "My mom always had done music and art. I remember her recording songs back in the 80s. She had piano and acoustic guitars, and I picked up the guitar that was lying in the house and annoyed everybody with it," said Tholberg with a laugh. Although Tholberg started tinkering with the instrument in his early teens, he really began songwriting around seventeen. "I started writing some really terrible songs when I was 17. Real Tom DeLong sounding vocals." Luckily he kept at the craft (and got better), and is now easily one of Anchorage's most prolific and able songwriters.
Tholberg's solo work is where this productivity shines through the most - his portfolio is dynamic and catchy, with songs that range from dark and comical to poppy and upbeat. Tholberg's work is also a testament to his ever-evolving musical taste and writing styles. A great place to explore some of this original work is through the Portland-based company Marmoset, a website that tailors playlists to a listener's mood or desired tempo (upbeat, slow, etc.) Tholberg's artist page is host to a large number of instrumentals, including some of my personal favorites, "Dark Meat" and "Can't Bleed Through a Microphone." Part of what makes Tholberg's work so great - addictive, even - is his use of earworm-inducing acoustic hooks layered over electronic melodies that run the gamut from dreamy and meandering to energetic and driven.
On his upcoming solo project, Melted Crayons, Tholberg promises his songs will be more pop-oriented than his previous work. "This was just me and my little computer and one little midi keyboard," said Tholberg. "There's going to be some guitar, probably about 80 percent electronic with a few natural elements there too."
Melted Crayons was recorded over a two-week holiday, and will be receiving some extra touches from Chad Reynvaan at Wattage Studios and from producer Evan Phillips. Tholberg hopes the album will be released in the first half of 2014, although he hopes to drop some preview tracks prior to the full release.
When he's not busy with solo work, Tholberg also contributes his songwriting to Dabarko and Ghost Hands. He's also dabbled in producing, getting his start with Sophia Street's album Life+Shift. Doing diverse projects helps keep Tholberg's musical curiosity satisfied in ways that his solo electronic music cannot.
"Electronic music is instant gratification," said Tholberg. "No mics or anything - just turn the computer on, start jamming away and you have it instantly."
He said working with band members requires a higher degree of coordination, communication, and musical understanding.
"It's great to be in a band," he said. "[Dabarko] did a couple shows this winter, and it seems like we do about a show a month normally, sometimes two or three and we're set for the 31st. We'll keep rolling for some time. We're all staying here. Its pop tunes, you don't have to think about it much."
Ultimately, Tholberg plans on sticking around Anchorage for the long haul. Hopefully he'll continue bringing the 90s back through his solo work as well: when I ask Tholberg his biggest musical inspiration, he's quick to answer.
"I like a lot of 90s hip-hop," said Tholberg. "Dr. Dre - really, it's hard for me to make electronic songs that don't have the gangster whistle. The 90s will never die!"
The Midwinter Blitz at Tap Root
(3300 Spenard Road)
Friday, January 31 at 9 p.m.
Tickets are $10