When drummer Dan Thomas moved to Salt Lake City from Minneapolis in August 2000, he already had a plan to start a band with friends Oliver Lewis and Ryan Fedor. And on his second night in town, they had the first practice of what would become Tolchock Trio.
They lived in the same house for years and built a following via regular gigging in area indie-rock-friendly clubs. They won the Band of the Year award via City Weekly’s old SLAMMYs in 2006, opened an arena show for Weezer in 2008 and recorded three increasingly strong albums.
For Thomas, the move to Utah to start Tolchock Trio proved a monumental musical—and life—decision, with repercussions extending to today, 13 years later, as Tolchock Trio stares down their final show Aug. 3. Soon thereafter, Thomas will join his fellow members in Joshua Payne Orchestra, one of myriad other projects Thomas has played with through the years, in a move to sunny SoCal.
“The second I moved to Salt Lake City, I felt so in sync with the energy of the city, the whole vibe of the art scene,” Thomas says. “I felt like the quality was through the roof, the bands, the visual artists, the whole scene.”
Thomas’ move marks an exciting opportunity for the Joshua Payne Orchestra to expand on a remarkably successful run in Utah. In trio form—featuring Payne, Thomas and Ron Harrell—as well as the full orchestra that also includes six horns, JPO has played anywhere from seven to nine gigs weekly for the past three years. The move to Los Angeles gives them the chance to reach far more people and potentially land session work. The move also means the end of Thomas’ 10-year run with Red Bennies, who played their final show July 27, and the end of Tolchock Trio.
“Oliver, Ryan and me have always been Tolchock Trio,” Thomas says. “Without all three of us, it’s not Tolchock. We’ve had other members with us, like David Payne and Tommy Nguyen, but it’s us three. And all of us are in Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, and to be honest, that’s more where our musical energy has been the last couple of years anyway.
“When I first moved here, being in that band was a marriage, a religion, everything,” Thomas continues. “Tolchock Trio breaking up when I was younger would have been crushing. Depressing, like a relationship ending. When you’ve done anything for 13 years, you know where it fits in your life. You know whether it’s a hobby, or something that’s going to be more. That band coming to an end is sort of OK with everybody.”
You always hear how hard it is for bands to find a good drummer. That helps explain how busy Thomas has been the past 13 years; besides Tolchock, JPO, Red Bennies and Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, he’s been a member of, recorded with or played occasional gigs with Passenger, The Rubes, Alchemy, Smashy Smashy, Vile Blue Shades, David Williams, Glinting Gems, The Wolfs, The Devil Whale (a one-show fill-in) and Gigi Love.
With Tolchock—a band he summarizes as “indie-rock pop”—Thomas believes the band found a perfect place in time as a bridge in the local music scene from the old punk and hardcore bands of the ’80s and early ’90s to the more diverse sounds in 2013.
“I feel like Tolchock Trio was right on the cusp,” Thomas says. “We knew all those ’90s dudes around the whole Red Bennies, Ether, Wolfs kind of scene, but later it was The Devil Whale, Band of Annuals, David Williams and Andrew Shaw. We became friends with them, too, but it felt like a whole new generation.
“I’ve been so lucky to have been in the bands I’ve been in,” he continues. “I would have been playing drums no matter what, but it’s been better than I could have ever imagined.”
TOLCHOCK TRIO FINAL SHOW
w/Night Sweats, Selma
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Saturday, Aug. 3, 9 p.m.