“Just shut up and listen” – an interview with Tobby Davilmar

Photo c/o Seylin

As I listen to music, I’m transported to different times in my life, sometimes a daydream that almost feels real but often they are just hazy memories that are so distant I can’t remember if I dreamt them or if they actually happened. I use music as a soothing blanket. It’s there to comfort me in times of uncertainty or, as it often exists, there to make a good mood even better. I’m on a continuous journey of falling in and out of love with music; I allow it to take me wherever it pleases. I can always count on it to be there for me because it provides comfort that is rarely found elsewhere. As I listen I can sometimes feel myself begin to open up, to feel vulnerable in my isolation. It makes me feel what I sometimes neglect, it makes me reflect on situations that did not go as planned but I can also rely on it to remind me of the soft touch of the love of my life or driving through the flat lands of Texas en route to Florida. Music manifests in unpredictable ways but tends to be unyielding in its ability to make us feel.

Back in March, I started an email interview with Tobby Davilmar that was quickly lost in my inbox after responses started to pile on from eager writers. I stumbled across the old questions and reread them. I didn’t feel as connected with them as I did when I was writing them due to them just boring questions about functionality and influence and they didn’t reflect how interested I was in Tobby’s music, which I was, and still am, ecstatic about. It was also conducted through email, so a lot of nuances in tone were lost- I’m almost glad it got buried so I was able to come back and conduct a better interview, which is exactly what intended to do when I emailed him a few weeks ago asking if he was still interested. To my surprise, he said was down.

During my first round of questions back in March, Mail Order Bride had just come out and I wanted to find out how the neurons in Tobby’s brain fired when he was being creative. During that interview, I asked Tobby what was inspired the moody sound of Mail Order Bride and his response was as follows: “I’m not sure if I was aiming for a certain mood but this record definitely feels more dark than previous releases. alovesopure’s mood in general is not so happy in general I guess. I was kind of going through some personal things while making it so it reflects in the music.” Tobby is extremely brilliant when it comes to translating feeling and having that feeling reciprocated by the listener, reflecting and reverberating in the music itself, a talent few ever achieve. 

Tobby’s newest effort under the monicore alovesopure is just a two song single but it’s been on a constant rotation since its release. Playing an Angel, the eponymous track, is a true clinic in building sound, introducing a layer of sound every verse that feels as though it’s building to a crescendo, which Tobby then deftly pivots into what feels like a breakdown. The sounds build and he achieves a very effortless, unexpected tempo change in the middle of the track that can’t be described in any other word but perfection.

“Love can fill you with a lot of happiness or so much grief. It’s hard to find a definition it when it can mean so many different things. As alovesopure I’m kind of just contradicting myself, ‘love’ and ‘purity’ are both completely opposite things,” Tobby said in response to my question about what love means to him. There may be some truth in his assumption that love and purity may be contradicting. Can purity exist with love? Love itself is often so uniquely complicated. When I shared this sentiment, Tobby replied, “I don’t think true purity exists because it gives the sense that something can be without flaws or imperfections. It’s humanly impossible. People try to work toward purity but end up falling flat on their faces. All you can do is put your best foot forward and hope for the best, otherwise, you’d just go fucking insane.” The more I spoke with him, the more I got a sense for where his head is at, always looking forward and always realistic. 

Do you sometimes associate sounds or songs with memories? How does this tend to change your feelings about the music or the memories? 

Definitely. I don’t really let it affect me really. I do get those flashbacks to certain music: good times, bad times, and everything in between. Things that you wished turned out differently. Good music is good music though.

Where do you find the energy to keep going when things don’t tend to be favorable?

I really have to dig deep to find it. Being around loved ones helps, even when you’re at your lowest. 

How do you put your mind at ease? What do you need to feel comfortable?

Sadly, I find it extremely difficult to put my mind at ease, mental illness will do that to you. Couple episodes of Chappelle’s Show or a good nap usually does the trick though.

Are you okay with feeling vulnerable with your peers or do you reserve that feeling for when you’re alone?

I’m not the most vulnerable person in the world so I guess I reserve it for myself sometimes, I’m trying to work on that though. 

Have you ever loved something so much that it hurt?

I’m not sure honestly. Even though love can hurt so much, that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to. The lines get blurred too much. 

How do you feel you process negative emotions like jealousy, greed, or hatred?

Sometimes I don’t process them in the healthiest way, but then I have to remember I’m not the only person on the planet and being selfish leads to literally 0 solutions. We’re conditioned to be greedy and spiteful and always be ahead of somebody. A lot of things are deserving of hate, but not everything.

Is self-care a priority for you during this time of prolonged isolation? 

It has to be. Especially now, otherwise you would be so deflated. A big thing for me is decreasing my time on social media. Working on this album has been helping me a lot too honestly. It’s been keeping me busy. 

What are your thoughts on self-care and what does it mean to you?

The idea of self-care has been distorted over time, self-care is not selfishness. It’s as simple as taking care of yourself and making sure you do it in a way that’s productive and healthy.

Are you a routined person? Morning or nightly rituals? 

Lately, life has been groundhog day over and over again. The closest thing I have to a ritual is washing my face every night and watching the NBA playoffs.

What’s your skincare routine? 

I start with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser and afterward throw on Elf Daily Moisturizer. At night, I do the same thing but then put on CeraVe Healing Ointment for bedtime.

What’re you specifically looking forward to when it’s ruled safe to go out? 

Shows. Shows. And more shows. I miss them a lot but I also don’t miss some of the weird politics that come along with it. 

Is alovesopure something you try to sit down and think about, or is it just more in the moment type process? 

I think it’s a bit of both. I don’t want to think too hard about things but it’s also something I shouldn’t sleep on. The concept in itself has to make sense. The best material comes from the spur of the moment. The challenge is honing the craft.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned/discovered about yourself this year? 

Honestly, I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. I realized that I really like making beats. I wanted to stop doing it in 2018 but I realized I enjoy it way too much, it’s a good challenge for me. Overall I want to focus on doing things I love rather than doing things out of necessity if that makes sense. 

If you met your younger self, what words of wisdom or affirmations might you have for/give to them?

Just shut up and listen. Stop trying too hard.

Ain’t that the damn truth. What’re your feelings on self-criticism/self-critique? How critical are you of your own music?

I gotta be critical of myself, or else that means I think everything is passé. Maybe I’m too critical to where I’m suffocating myself. I gotta look at things from an objective standpoint, Is this a good song? Or do I just think this song is good? For the new record I scrapped like 3 songs and rewrote different songs 5 times, I never really did that before. I used to play 2 chords for 10 minutes, add a random drum beat and say oh well that’s the song now. I have an album I put out in 2017 that besides maybe 3 songs, it’s fucking horrible hahaha. Every record I made there’s things I like and things I wish I could change or didn’t age well. Even with my other band Be All End All, I can’t ever write subpar lyrics so I will rewrite over and over until it makes sense to me. I guess you could say I’m very critical of myself and my music. 

What are you looking to accomplish with your next musical release?

I wanted to accomplish a sound that’s more cohesive and flows together. I wanted the drums to hit harder, better melodies, explore more sounds, etc. This is my best record so far. Mail Order Bride was a stepping stone. More than anything I want every record I put out from here on to sound different and better than the last. Maybe I wanna put out 10 more albums, I dunno. I’ll find out eventually.

I’ll leave you with Tobby’s thoughts on time and mortality, “mortality and time go hand in hand right? You want to work against time before your time is up. Time is something you don’t get back; bad decisions, relationship failures, friendship failures. Lately, I’ve been thinking of my own mortality, how I would like to be remembered. 2020 has been filled with so much death it’s hard to ignore. Even with all this horrible shit, there’s a part of you that still wants to see what the other side of the coin looks like if things do get better. I hope collectively, as a people, we get to see it one day.”

You can listen to alovesopure wherever you stream music.

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