“If you were to ask me what my religion is I would say 3 things: Music, Art, and Nature. Those are the things I’ve dedicated my life to and which bring me the purest of joy,” Thomas explains. “Often when I’m making art or music I feel something guiding me- call it god, call it Magic, call it Jim… whatever it is, it makes me happy! My god is probably something totally different than yours, and that’s a beautiful thing! I was thinking about that one day, so I wrote this song. What does your god look like? Is it a frog sitting atop a mushroom? A fifteen headed cobra? A swirling vortex? Old white guy with a long white beard is the only wrong answer!”
At the core of Smalltown Stardust lies Thomas’s desire to commune with nature on a spiritual level. Images of the natural world, from blizzards to green mountains to cloudy days, fill the songs and create a setting unmistakably far away from Los Angeles, as evidenced in the “Portrait of God” video, shot in the rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula. “It’s one of my favorite places on Earth, perhaps the most magical forest I’ve ever seen! It was honestly hard to concentrate on making the video when there was so much mossy love around us,” says Thomas. The video, directed by Nicola and Juliana Giraffe, co-stars SASAMI, who also co-wrote and co-produced the album.
Last month, King Tuff announced the album with a video for the title track “Smalltown Stardust,” which Consequence praised as “a triumphant return,” Rolling Stone called a ‘Song You Need To Know’ and Paste named one of the ‘Best Songs of the Week’ saying it’s “warped in unexpected ways.”
King Tuff is hitting the road next year in support of Smalltown Stardust. The North American tour kicks off March 1st in San Diego, CA and wraps April 7th at Joshua Tree, CA with a show at Pappy and Harriets. All dates below.
SMALLTOWN STARDUST TOUR DATES:
March 1 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
March 3 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
March 4 San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
March 6 Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
March 7 Vancouver, BC @ The Wise
March 8 Seattle, WA @ Neumos
March 10 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
March 11 Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
March 15 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall Upstairs
March 17 Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
March 18 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
March 19 Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
March 21 Washington, DC @ DC9
March 22 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
March 23 Boston, MA @ The Sinclair
March 24 Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere Hall
March 25 Brattleboro, VT @ The Stone Church
March 28 Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB
March 29 Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
March 31 Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
April 1 Minneapolis, MN @ The Turf Club
April 3 Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
April 5 Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
April 6 Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge
April 7 Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy and Harriet’s
There are times in our life when we feel magic in the air. When new love arrives, or we find ourselves lost in a moment of creation with others who share our vision. A sense that: this is who I want to be. This is what I want to share.
It’s a fleeting feeling and one that Kyle Thomas, the singer-songwriter who records and performs as King Tuff, found himself longing for in the spring of 2020.
But knowing he couldn’t simply recreate this time in his life at will, Thomas—who hails from Brattleboro, Vermont—set out to write a love letter to those cherished moments of inspiration and to the small town that formed him. The one where he first nurtured his songwriting impulses, bouncing ideas off other like-minded artists. The kind of place where the changing of the seasons always delivered a sense of perspective and fresh artistic inspiration. Where he felt a deeper connection with nature and sense of community that had once been so close at hand.
“I wanted to make an album to remind myself that life is magical,” he reflects.
The result is Smalltown Stardust, a spiritual, tender and ultimately joyous record that might come as a shock to those with only a passing knowledge of the artist’s back catalog. On Smalltown Stardust, Thomas takes us on his journey to a place where past and present collide, where he can be a dreamer in love with all that he sees. Images of his youth abound.
While so much of Smalltown Stardust invokes idealized traces and places of Thomas’s past, the album’s recording process made his communal vision a reality. Thomas’s Los Angeles home in 2020 formed a micro-scene of sorts, with housemates Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) and Sasami Ashworth recording their own heralded albums (2021’s Fun House and 2022’s Squeeze, respectively) at the same time. A shared spirit dominated an era spent largely on the premises, with Thomas serving as engineer and contributor to both records, and Ashworth working as co-producer on Smalltown Stardust. Thomas describes the time with a fitting metaphor: “I’ve always thrived around other people making things. You want to bloom with each other.” Ashworth’s contributions are vital to the album: she co-wrote a majority of the record and contributed vocals, arrangements, and instrumentation to each song. As Thomas notes, “I tried to follow her vision a lot. It helps to open your world to collaborators. You always get something completely different than you would have expected.”
In the end, Smalltown Stardust is not merely a nostalgia trip. In making the record, Thomas not only conjured a special time in his life, he found new inspiration, surrounded by a small circle of collaborators and a sense of love and wonder for nature. If the first King Tuff record was content to merely state Thomas was no longer dead, Smalltown Stardust is a paean to what that life means. A statement of belief and a hymnal to the magic still to behold all around us. “I’m a different person now than I was 20 years ago when I first started it. But oddly, when I first started the band, it was more like this,” he says. Which is to say, things have come full circle.