Music | Unlocking the Tolchocks: Salt Lake City rockers release their long-awaited Albalone Skeletone. 

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The first thing I notice at Oliver Lewis’ west-side house is the squash growing by the front yard. The first thing Lewis’ bandmates in Tolchock Trio notice is my Flaming Lips T-shirt. They mention that they actually have Zaireeka parties, playing the Norman, Okla., nutcases’ disc as it was meant to be—on four different players. I’ve never heard it that way, only one at a time with channels dropping out like dead brain cells. These guys could be interesting.

Bassist/vocalist Lewis and drummer Dan Thomas have played together since junior high. Thomas moved from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis, and Lewis played with guitarist/vocalist Ryan Fedor in St. Ryan’s Lament. Thomas returned to Utah for college, and Lewis and Fedor lived with him for awhile. That was 2000. That’s when things started to happen.

“Our original mission statement was to sound like My Bloody Valentine crossed with Wilco,” Fedor says, and reminds Thomas, “You got me into Modest Mouse.” Built to Spill and Sonic Youth come to mind as well. But T3 are their own animal.

They take their time, working at a snail’s pace to produce each album. Their debut Hello Bird (2003), produced by local guitar and studio wiz Jeremy Smith, sounds a bit ramshackle—a quality that’s always been part of their fiber—but it also evokes a sense of imminent danger and emotional elevation. A Russian friend told them, besides the Clockwork Orange reference, their name is slang for everything from flea market to prison toilet.

The new Abalone Skeletone is more polished than their second full-length release, Ghosts Don’t Have Bones, though Bones is slightly more immediate. Skeleton’s opening track “Divorce Papers” (featuring former guitarist/vocalist Chad Murphy who moved out of state for grad school) started as the end of another song, Thomas recalls, and it shows how the group really works as a team—each member singing at times; all hands in on the songwriting. For example, Fedor is a fishing aficionado, and “Sheepshead” depicts a nightmarish impression of a fishing trip on a young boy. Lewis says “I like that different songwriters and voices keep us from getting bored.”

Thomas drums for Red Bennies, Vile Blue Shades and Glinting Gems but says he doesn’t feel as invested in those other bands. “Drumming can make a guitar riff sound cool or stupid,” he believes. His inventive drumming work is a big part of the band’s sound, but it’s really all about the interplay between musicians, which reaches a high point on Skeletone.

Tolchock attended SXSW several years ago, winning the City Weekly SLAMMys competition, and while they plan to tour some, they aren’t interested in moving to bigger ponds. What makes Salt Lake City a great place for music? “The national media isn’t focused here, so we all have our own motivations,” Fedor says. “It liberates you.”

TOLCHOCK TRIO CD RELEASE @ The Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Friday, Sept. 5, 10 p.m.; Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, Saturday, Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.

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