An Interview with Andrew Toy

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I will never get tired of speaking with drummers, and today is no exception. What is great about this one is Andrew Toy is stepping out from behind the drum kit and embarking on his own solo career, with his debut album Guardrails, which you can grab via Andrew’s Bandcamp here.

Today, I’ve got Andrew Toy aboard for a chat, and it doesn’t disappoint. Andrew is incredibly talented, articulate and has awesome taste in music. We touch on his roots in music and as a drummer, the recording of his new album Guardrails, his thoughts on the scene today and much more. Dig in.

Andrew (Daly):
Andrew, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Andrew (Toy):
My pleasure! Yes it’s been a year for sure. I’m doing alright, trying to adapt and stay positive as best as possible. There’s less gigging of course, which sucks, but more time for family and working on music, which is fantastic.

Andrew (Daly):
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Andrew (Toy):
I started drumming as a kid, in Delaware and since then it’s been a constant progression of putting myself in different musical settings and trying to grow as much as possible. In my early 20s, I played in cruise ship orchestras for a while which, although the music wasn’t all that interesting, really made me a better musician. Being around other musicians from around the world really opened my ears to a lot of things.

Andrew (Daly):
As an artist and drummer, who are some of your earliest and most important influences? How did you develop your signature sound?

Andrew (Toy):
Like a lot of kids in the 90s, I grew up with tons of Thrash, Grunge, Alt-Rock, etc. Some of my biggest early influences were Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden), and Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins). My sound, so to speak, is really a mishmash of all the things I’ve played and gotten inspiration from across the musical spectrum. Just about everything has had some impact, whether conscious or not.

Andrew (Daly):
Let’s jump right in and talk about your new record Guardrails. What was the inspiration for the new album? What more can you tell us about the recording? Where can we get your new album and what formats will it be on?

Andrew (Toy):
The album was a little bit of a personal experiment to see what I would come up with when left to my own devices, without the usual parameters of playing in a band or as a hired gun. That is what got me thinking about this idea of musical “guardrails” and what happens when they’re removed, for better or worse. More specifically, a lot of the musical ideas evolved from things I play in my live show and really took some interesting turns in a recording setting. Of course, everything that happened in 2020 is bound to have some psychic effect on anything made during that time. The album is available in CD and download formats at andrewtoy.net and on all the streaming services.

Andrew (Daly):
I really love the eclectic nature of your music. The blending of atmospheric Ambient with lush abstract elements is really incredible. Do you intentionally eschew genre boundaries, or does that come naturally to you?

Andrew (Toy):
Thanks! I suppose I intentionally take an “anything goes” attitude with my own music which is pretty liberating for me. But, at the same time, I try not to force anything just for the sake of being different. I like to think of different genres as building blocks that can be mixed and matched.

Andrew (Daly):
Let’s talk about the production side of things. Do you work with outside producers, or do you self-produce your work? What goes into the decision either way?

Andrew (Toy):
For this project it was all me, though I did have it mastered by a great engineer, Ryan Schwabe. Since I’m usually playing on other peoples’ recordings, I wanted to do all the production myself for a change. It was a fun process and the line between performance and production sort of disappeared.

Andrew (Daly):
What is the artist vision for you music going forward? How has it changed since you started? How have you evolved?

Andrew (Toy):
I love re-thinking instrument roles and using rhythm to create full pieces of music. I think my music has evolved in a pretty natural way with more depth and more fleshed-out ideas than when this started. I also love playing live, which in some ways is its own separate thing from the album.

Andrew (Daly):
Tell us about your songwriting process. How do you translate the sounds you hear in your head and make them a reality for us all to enjoy?

Andrew (Toy):
Sometimes the inspiration for a piece could be a single sound, like a kalimba, a helium tank, or an effect on a drum. Through improvising and experimenting, it might become something worthwhile (it also might not). It’s like planting a seed; with some care and patience, something might come of it. Sometimes, keeping an image in mind, like a movie scene or a specific feeling, helps to keep the song on track.

Andrew (Daly):
Touring is usually a huge part of a working band’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?

Andrew (Toy):
Besides music, travel is my biggest passion and it is one of the best things a person can do for themselves. Traveling while making music is my favorite thing. Those days will come back eventually so I’m enjoying being a homebody in the meantime.

Andrew (Daly):
On the subject of touring, indie venues were in trouble before COVID and they definitely are now. I’ve seen and heard about places shutting down for good all over. With companies like Ticketmaster strangling the market and bands unable to tour and generate revenue for these places, what do you think the post-COVID landscape is going to be like out there?

Andrew (Toy):
The shows and the money aren’t there now of course but when things open back up, people will be hungrier than usual for live music and there will be a need for venues. Hopefully some of the good venues can hold on until then. New ones will surely fill the void left by the ones that folded.

Andrew (Daly):
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do out part to help?

Andrew (Toy):
It really is a crime how little artists are paid but I try not to dwell on that. It’s awfully nice being able to find so much music on the streaming platforms but of course it’s at the artists’ expense. I think most artists are set up to either sell music or accept donations online.

Andrew (Daly):
In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Andrew (Toy):
I like to think that the real artists find a way to make it happen and listeners genuinely want to hear something interesting. As depressing as the dwindling revenue streams are, technology has become a great democratizer; anyone can record and put out an album that the whole world has access to. The challenge then is cutting through the noise, finding an audience, and connecting with them. Hopefully with great music and not some kind of schtick.

Andrew (Daly):
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

Andrew (Toy):
I wish I could say I had a huge vinyl collection but alas most of my music is on CDs or digital. I used to DJ on college radio and would make these treks to the Princeton Record Exchange, which is a massive record store. I mostly stream music now and I’m a little ashamed of that.

Andrew (Daly):
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Andrew (Toy):
There’s a few albums that I remember hearing for the first time when I was younger and having some sort of revelation. Everyone has albums that, for whatever reason, just resonate with them on some level. A few big ones for me are:

  • Loveless by My Bloody Valentine
  • Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction
  • Mind Bomb by The The
  • Cure For Pain by Morphine
  • Low by David Bowie
  • Combat Rock by The Clash

Andrew (Daly):
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Andrew (Toy):
The ones mentioned above for sure. Some more recent bands that really inspire me are Dawn of Midi, Battles, and Jaga Jazzist.

Andrew (Daly):
Last question. What advice would you have for young artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Andrew (Toy):
Keep your ears open, identify the things that really excite you, and find your own creative voice. I think intention is very important. If your intention is truly to create something special and to share that joy, it’s going to be obvious, as opposed to someone just doing a job or trying to be popular. First and foremost, you have the listen.

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Andrew Toy? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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