Tom Krell of How to Dress Well Is Pop Music’s Resident Philosopher

How to Dress Well

Tom Krell of How to Dress Well, photographed by Sean Stout.

This is SOUND ADVICE, a weekly destination for playlists curated by Interview’s friends, enemies, and lovers. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gathered playlists from Thugpop, Dasha, and George Clanton. This week’s guest is the multimedia artist, singer-songwriter, and producer Tom Krell, aka How to Dress Well, who’s just released an album last week after a six-year hiatus. Entitled I Am Toward You, its name captures its contents: a deeply embodied sonic journey that bares its heart in search of a truth more profound than the appearances of our mortal world. “Music, like fragrance, is best when it produces language,” Krell told us. “Pure sensation or affect is pretty boring, the real stuff happens when affect produces a charge that unearths unknown corridors in language.” The self-avowed “friend of the undertow,” Doctor of Philosophy, and recent father of a daughter (whose heartbeat closes out the last track) curated a playlist for us encompassing his varied taste, featuring Mariah Carey, 1010benja, Lorraine James, and more. For our Sound Advice questionnaire, Krell tells us his favorite philosophers, album cover art, and the secret to dressing well.



Where do you dance? 100% of my dancing now happens in my living room with my wife and baby–she loves Neil Landstrumm and loves to watch The Sound of Belgium.

Bluetooth or wired headphones? Bluetooth, but I really don’t have a dog in this fight.

How does music succeed where language fails? Music, like fragrance, is best when it produces language–pure sensation or affect is pretty boring, the real stuff happens when affect produces a charge that unearths unknown corridors in language.

What song on this playlist makes you cry? “Asunder” by Lovefear and Fatshaudi. It’s like… what if Grouper was even more depressing and economical in its delivery of misery?

How do you dress well? The best way to look cool is to not look like anyone but yourself. So, you’re immediately taking an L if you dress from a GQ post. You’re probably gonna get a W if you are comfortable in your own skin.

You’ve recorded albums in Berlin, Chicago, and L.A. How does location affect your process? Weirdly, I work the same way everywhere. It’s beautiful to be different places and hear different music, but it’s a real “wherever I go, there I am” type situation.

How has studying philosophy influenced your music? And who’s your favorite philosopher? My whole life is an indissociable mass of philosophy, poetry, sound art, pop music. They’re all part of me and all filtered through me. I don’t have a favorite philosopher because depending on the day, need, etc. you might grab Zhuangzi, Plato, Hegel, Maria Torok, Fatal Strategies, Bataille, Lispector, or Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia.

What is your favorite music video of all time? “One” by Metallica. Huge influence on my life lol..

You just dropped your new single, “CRYPT SUSTAIN.” What are you bringing with you down inside the crypt? The energy and generosity to translate the encrypted miracle, roughly.

All-time favorite album cover art? 333 by Bladee.

What song do you wish you wrote? I don’t wish that I wrote anyone else’s songs, but a song that feels amazing within my body is “Sliver of Ice” by Anohni.

Who is the queen of pop? ML Buch.

What’s your favorite movie needle-drop? Without a doubt it’s the “performance” of Jean-Louis Marat in Claire Denis’ J’ai pas Sommeil.

Who is your dream collaborator, dead or alive? My friend Mike aka CFCF or my friend Aaron Charles Read who have both played on so much HTDW and are all over the new album.

Name your favorite artist no one knows about. Def ACR.

What was your first concert? My dad took me with him to Hancock/Shorter when I was really little.

Favorite venue in L.A.? I did a set with North Americans under the pepper tree at the Audubon Society, that was beautiful.