The Tontons, a funky, sultry, jazz-inspired rock ensemble from Houston, have spent the past year mastering the art of the open road while playing shows left and right along their tour across the country. They’ve played cozy venues and stages at major festivals like Austin’s South by Southwest (four times, actually), Fun Fun Fun Fest and Paste Magazine’s Untapped Festival in Houston. They’ve opened and played alongside other incredible artists like ishi, P. Diddy and Dawes--and been the featured act.

The band performed its last show of 2013 at Houston's Warehouse Live alongside Dallas’s ishi and two of Austin’s favorites, Wild Child and Quiet Company. Soon, they'll be embarking on their first-ever European tour in April 2014. In fact, Asli Omar, the band’s lead vocalist, says it’s her first trip outside the continent. And she couldn’t be more eager.

Photo Credit: Megan Tipps

Photo Credit: Megan Tipps

In the meantime, The Tontons will be touring with Bright Light Social Hour in February, and are already a part of the Official SXSW roster. While it’s still on the down low, the band will also be on the lineups of a few (yet to be named) summer festivals.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. For the first time, Omar said the bandmates have been able to give up other work in pursuit of this--their dream. “We’ve had so many jobs,” she said. “For the first time in our career, we’re seeing the fruits of our labor. We don’t have to work outside of the band. Making music is now our luxury.”

Photo Credit: Megan Tipps

Photo Credit: Megan Tipps

Omar is beautiful to speak to—both physically and spiritually. She’s poetic by nature and speaks just as eloquently. And that inner-outward beauty is as vibrant as the colorful foremothers of sultry soul music like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. She gracefully carries notes you can hear and feel; and you can’t help but sing along. She’s a vixen. Collectively, those qualities adhese the group in a way that produces sultry, funk, rock—all infused with a little experiment and surprise.

The band has been intact since 2008, with a handful of EPs and LPs under their belt, including their 2008 debut EP Sea and Stars. But, the upcoming tour is in celebration of their new album, Make Out Stories and Other Stories of Love, scheduled to be released February 18. The album was mixed by Dave Boyle who’s worked with solid musicians like Robert Plant and Black Joe Lewis. 

The band released a single in November from the album--“Veida”--which was first released via Paste Magazine, while the official video premiered on the Wall Street Journal. With all the buzz months in advance, a successful album release and fan-growing world tour is certainly on the horizon.

After a Sunday afternoon chat, there’s no doubt the band is ready for the [international] road. Omar, along with Tom Nguyen (bass), and brothers Justin Martinez (drums) and Adam Martinez (guitar) have zigzagged across the country for months facing both crises and strangers, new vistas and sounds. Their American tour has challenged them, shaped them and inspired them. Omar gives kudos to that open road for exposing them to so many life lessons and inspiring the band beyond belief. “I’d never seen a mountain before this band,” she said.

They were on a self-described “spiritual journey” that entailed, among many other experiences, a particularly challenging day after their van broke down near D.C. The group crossed paths with a local police officer who offered no aid; so the band trudged forward, walking to D.C. through “woods and stuff.”

There’s no doubt they’ll continue to trudge onward in pursuit of their next big thing. Omar did say they missed the privacy of sleeping in and (in her case) having only a limited wardrobe while on the road, but she can’t wait for “more of this.”

While the latest album and upcoming tour is the next big opportunity for The Tontons, the band has high hopes to continue fostering relationships with artists who’ve inspired them in their musical endeavors. They’d love to share a tour or stage with artists like Dr. Dog, who Omar describes as “champs,” and Phoenix.

But their inspirations extend beyond the obvious. As our conversation ended that sunny Sunday, Omar expressed her excitement for the final headliner at Fun Fun Fun--Slayer. “It’s an excuse to crush some skulls without repercussions.” Here’s to crushing the upcoming album release and European tour with the same vigor they’ve given the past year.

Photo Credit: Julie Worsham

Photo Credit: Julie Worsham

Check out their charming EP, "Magic Hour", here: 


Ashley M. Halligan is a storyteller, wanderer, and lover of music, hailing from the Appalachian foothills with a degree in Journalism and has found herself in Austin where she writes, explores, and backroads with her nomad dog, Timber. When she isn't in the middle of a crowd dancing her ass off, she can be found on the open road with her dog, sunhat, and camera, or, sometimes, vino drunk and booking international flights. She recently founded her own site, Contemporary Pilgrim, covering all things music and travel. Follow her mischief and {mis}adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

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