October 4, 2012

Making Noise: Toughcats removes its leash in latest CD, 'Woodenball'

The Americana rock trio is contemplating a national tour this winter.

By Aimsel Ponti aponti@pressherald.com
News Assistant

The Americana rock trio Toughcats has just released its third album, "Woodenball." The band consists of Jake Greenlaw on drums, percussion, guitar, lead and harmony vocals; Joe Nelson on acoustic and electric guitars, bass, percussion, lead and harmony vocals; and Colin Gulley on acoustic and electric banjos and guitar.

click image to enlarge

Toughcats, an Americana rock trio, became a band by accident, working up three songs together to fill a void in a benefit concert in the summer of 2004.

Courtesy photo


"Impregnable Question," Dirty Projectors

"Mario's Flaming Whiskers III," Deerhoof

"Make Up Your Mind," Here We Go Magic

"One Time Too Many," Phoenix

"School Yard," Northshore

"The Vt.-Ore. Floor," Michael Hurley

"Who Makes Your Money," Spoon

"Eat at Home," Paul and Linda McCartney

"You're Too Weird," Fruit Bats

"That's Us/Wild Combination," Arthur Russell

TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

GO recently caught up with the trio via email for a band tutorial.

When did Toughcats first become a band?

During the summer of 2004. Colin was organizing a benefit concert on North Haven. Jake was playing in one band, and Joe was playing some solo stuff. Another group was needed. At the last minute, the three of us worked up three songs and performed them. The audience was really into it. And we were too. So we kept doing it. We didn't try to start a band. It just happened.

How did you choose the band name?

Joe came up with the name. He was talking to a friend on Vinalhaven who had just come back from a night in Rockland on the mainland. His friend made reference to the Rockland toughcats, as in the tough characters hanging out and starting fights around the bars and docks late at night.

Do you all still live up that way?

Jake is still living on North Haven full time. Joe and Colin live in Portland at the moment.

How do you feel about "Woodenball" as compared to the two that came before it? How has the band evolved over the past couple of years?

In the past, we tried to keep our recordings true to what we could do live with the songs. This time around, we didn't limit ourselves in that way, and it opened up a lot of possibilities. We are really happy with how it turned out. We have always thought of ourselves as a rock band, but have sometimes been trapped by the perspective on what having a banjo and resonator guitar means. We used a lot of electric instruments, including electric banjo, on this album.

What was it like working with (producer) Jeff Lipton? How did you hook up with him?

Jeff was recommended to us by a mutual friend. We are also big fans of a lot of the bands and labels he has worked with. He has worked with Merge Records and done most of the records put out by Numero Group, which are both fantastic labels. He has worked with Spoon, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, The Magnetic Fields, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Jeff Tweedy and the list goes on and on. We think he did a great job with "Woodenball."

Are there any sources of musical inspiration that the three of you share?

We are pretty different from one another but have always had a very strong and natural musical bond from the first moment we played together.

When we started out eight years ago, we were coming from different musical places, which had a big influence on our sound. Over the past eight years, we have all really influenced each other a lot. Which has also had a big influence on our sound.

When it comes down to it, we all have a very similar passion for playing, performing and being creative, and that is the driving force behind Toughcats.

What's next for Toughcats?

We just put out this new album but are actually writing and working on a lot of new songs at the moment. We are also making music videos and pursuing other creative endeavors. We are playing some shows around New England over the rest of this year, and there is a good chance we will be doing a larger national tour with the album sometime this winter.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:


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