Rocker TOMI makes anthems to dance and cry to

Pam Autuori, who records as TOMI, first got her hands on a guitar when she was seven years old. “For some reason I had this notion that girls weren’t supposed to play guitar,” the singer-songwriter says wryly. “I kept it a secret. I would walk around with my guitar case at school and tell everyone it was a cello.” After honing her skills with her guitar-playing dad, dabbling in various punk bands in high school, and spending two years studying at Berklee College of Music before dropping out and alighting in New York City, 28-year-old Autuori has gained some confidence. On her new EP, What Kind of Love, she fully embraces herself and her past—flaws and all.

Autuori, who grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen and Cher, channels the anthemic sounds of ‘80s pop rock—glittering guitars, powerful vocals, head-banging percussion—on the EP’s rousing four tracks. “There’s this dope energy with all the pop hooks, but then there’s this sadness lyrically,” she says of ‘80s music. “It makes you want to dance and cry at the same time, and that’s the best combination.” Indeed, Autuori veers confessional in her lyrics, which touch on love gone bad (“What kind of love ties you up in its arm and swears it won’t do you any harm?” she asks on the title track) and the desire to drop everything and break free.

While her earlier work was a bit gentler and more folksy (her debut EP, Used To, came out in 2017), on What Kind of Love she opens up her sound, with the aim of capturing the energy of live performance. “I wrote these tracks with the idea that they were going to be played live, and I wanted them to sound as live as possible on the record,” she says. “They’re all very extroverted.” Now that she’s on a two-week stateside tour alongside Australian songstress Amy Shark, you have a chance to hear them live yourself. “I want the EP to get out in the world and see it fly,” Autuori says with a sigh. “I’ve known these songs, I’ve been playing them for a long time at this point. I want everyone to be able to vibe to them, too.”