Sibling Duo Tonstartssbandht and Mac Demarco on (Not) Quitting Music Forever
The first line on An When, Tonstartssbandht’s 2009 debut album, introduces the Orlando-born psychedelic noise duo with a simple question: “What’s the name of your band?” Despite its seeming straightforwardness, this query has followed brothers and bandmates Andy and Edwin White over 13 years and 17 records. (For those still wondering, it’s pronounced “Tahn-starts-bandit,” and it means nothing). Last week, the duo released Petunia—their first album in four years— introducing their signature blissed-out psych-rock sound to a new wave of listeners. On the eve of the record’s release, the White brothers hopped on a Zoom with their friend and long-time collaborator Mac DeMarco to discuss their shared crush on Coldplay’s Chris Martin, their touring nerves, and “quitting music forever.” — JACKSON WALD
MAC DEMARCO: So here I am, interviewing the Tonstartssbandht boys. Rockin’ and rollin’.
ANDY WHITE: That’s what we’re doing man. We’re both in Orlando rehearsing, basically relearning all the songs that we haven’t played since we finished the album last summer — which is something I’m sure you’ve experienced, where you’re like “Fuck, I remember recording this but somehow playing live is so much different and weird.”
DEMARCO: It’s super weird. How’s it coming?
EDWIN WHITE : It turns out we’re good at what we do.
DEMARCO: It turns out that you guys fucking rock, eh?
ANDY WHITE: We fucking rock.
DEMARCO: When’s the tour starting?
EDWIN WHITE: October 24th.
ANDY WHITE: Asheville.
DEMARCO: At the Grey Eagle?
EDWIN WHITE: Yeah, have we played there before Mac?
DEMARCO: I don’t know. I did a solo show there once, and I like that place. It’s got a courtyard, it’s a got a coffee machine in the green room. I remember the first time we played there, I did an interview with Playboy. I don’t think it ever came out, but I was like “Wow. Very sexy.”
ANDY WHITE: When you did the interview with Playboy, did you get a boner?
DEMARCO: Hell yeah, the whole time. Okay, so Interview wants to know: How did we meet? That one’s easy. I met you guys in Montreal.
ANDY WHITE: I believe the year was 2009.
DEMARCO: The venue was Zoo Bizarre on Saint Hubert. And look at us now. We’ve known each other for more than 10 years.
EDWIN WHITE: Remember we had a party at our house, and you guys came over. We drank beers in my room and chatted for a long time.
DEMARCO: Yeah, I remember that. Remember your chopped organ?
ANDY WHITE: Yes, I had one of my testicles removed right around then.
DEMARCO: [Laughs] What? Not that, not that. The organ in your bedroom — you chopped the speaker part off.
ANDY WHITE: Oh. Sorry, that must have been another time you guys visited.
DEMARCO: That reminds me of the last time the Mac Demarco Band rolled into Baltimore. My car didn’t work, so we were stuck there, and we watched the Beatles anthology on VHS for a few days straight.
ANDY WHITE: Oh shit, that’s right.
DEMARCO: And Pierce [McGarry, member of the Mac Demarco Band] was having some issues with his boils at that point in time.
EDWIN WHITE: Boils in weird places.
ANDY WHITE: Unrelatedly, I briefly read some of the comments on one of our new YouTube videos, and I saw someone be like “Hello, this sounds like Coldplay.” And you know what? I was like “Fuck yeah.” This song does sound like Coldplay, and it’s a cool song.
DEMARCO: Someone once compared me to Chris Martin and I had the same reaction. I was like “Hell yeah. Why not?” For all those Interview readers out there, Andy and I met Chris Martin once and he was incredibly handsome and friendly and kind.
ANDY WHITE: He was a gentleman. He was hanging out with his kid at Glastonbury. We really like him.
DEMARCO: We really like him. There you go. Coldplay now, Coldplay forever. So, you’ve released a bit of the record.
ANDY WHITE: The rest comes out on Michael Collins’ birthday, October 22.
DEMARCO: But you’ve splashed a couple of the tunes out in the world. How does it feel so far?
ANDY WHITE: It feels nice, man. We finished the record so long ago, so when it finally came out, I started hearing from my friends who were all like, “Hey, I really like your new song,” and I was like “That’s cool, I’ve heard it so many fucking times.” You heard it early on, because we enlisted your pro ears to give us feedback.
EDWIN WHITE: I think the email was like, “Mac, can you tell us if we should quit music forever or keep going?”
DEMARCO: I said, “Keep on rockin,’ babay.”
ANDY WHITE: When we reached the 50% mark on the record, we were like “Either we keep going, or we stop, so let’s ask Mac.” And you said go for it.
DEMARCO: Yeah, it’s time that this record gets out there. The world needs that rock n’ roll again. I haven’t done shows in forever, but I did one solo show two weeks ago at Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Festival. And I was playing solo, on a big stage, in the middle of the day, and I was terrified because I haven’t done that in so long. I think coronavirus made me feel a lot of ways about going back up there, but once I got up there, man, it felt great. You guys haven’t performed yet, have you?
ANDY WHITE: No, we haven’t played since all this shit happened.
DEMARCO: Are you excited?
EDWIN WHITE: I just mean it’ll be mellow and it’ll sound cool.
DEMARCO: I’ll tell you this, the Eddie Vedder vibe: not bad. But I was worried about going back. I wish we had done a club show to get warmed up, so it’d be like “Okay these are my fans, so even if I fuck up, nothing can really go wrong.” but I kind of enjoyed the festival crowd — obviously there were some kids there to see me in the front—but it was a lot of middle-aged Pearl Jam fans looking at the stage like, “What the fuck is this.” I think I love that even more than the kids that came out to see me. It’s kind of like, “Uncle and aunty, here we go. You gotta deal with me now. This is gonna happen.”
ANDY WHITE: I’m so happy to hear that.
DEMARCO: I think over coronavirus there were a lot of points where I was like “Wow I’m not going to get to do the thing that I do all the time, for a while.” And then you start thinking like “Woah, the thing that I do is so weird… and do I even like doing this thing that I do? I think I do, but I’m not sure.”
ANDY WHITE: I relate to what you were saying, especially after a year passes and you’re like, “Will I ever do this again? Was that the end of it?” on the other hand, you’re like “What an insane way to live, and what a weird thing to make a routine out of.”
DEMARCO: It’s pretty much the weirdest possible life.
ANDY WHITE: Absolutely. I’m so stoked for it, though. I just want to get in the van man. I’m excited.