The Undertow: Tonks is staking their claim as Philadelphia’s premier acoustic project

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Dryjacket’s Ian Foley side project, Tonk, is one of the best songwriters in the Philadelphia area.  Photo courtesy of    bandcamp.com

Dryjacket’s Ian Foley side project, Tonk, is one of the best songwriters in the Philadelphia area. Photo courtesy of bandcamp.com

Preface: I know I’ve been spending quite a lot of time on mid-Atlantic artists, seeing that it’s my faith and blood, but I really want to discover more local artists, whether that means more New Englanders like Aurora Birch or Connecticut undergrounders I’ve never heard of. My point being, if you are a musician, songwriter or both at UConn or anywhere in the Nutmeg State that I now call my adopted home, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I can be found on Twitter @pinecohn, or on Facebook as Daniel Cohn (my profile picture is me in a black T-shirt). There’s no way a university of 20,000 students doesn’t have a few dozen talented singer-songwriters, right? Even if most of them are from Connecticut. Kidding! Alright, as I was saying.  

Indie music is a massive tent that includes anyone not signed to a major label. Any artist or band that hasn’t caught the big time yet would fall into it – rap, rock, pop, etc. – by the definition of the word, “indie” encapsulates them all. All of the millions of artists trying to catch a fleeting eye of a record label need to do something to earn their attention. Sometimes that’s glitzy production, sometimes it’s doing relentless tour dates to get their work out to the general public, but my favorite method of connecting with the masses is just writing outstanding lyrics that tell a story. Tonks, the side project of Dryjacket bassist Ian Foley, is one of the best songwriters in the Philadelphia area as it stands, and with their sophomore LP potentially dropping in the near future, their spot in the underground scene could bubble above the surface soon. 

I found a Tonks track, “The Great Idaho Fire” on a semi-routine DIY playlist check this past spring, and was hooked. 

“Time flies when you’re having fun-damental issues with the honest way you’ve been designed” is such an earworm of a lyric that has been bouncing around my head for the past half year, I swear. By the end of the four minute track, I already put on the entire album it leads off, Tonks’ 2018 debut “Windows Down & Dying.” Playing a perfect 38 minutes, “Windows” is chock full of stripped back tunes about love, travel, love while traveling and everything in between. Foley’s skeletal guitar guides his words through the nine tracks, with some instrumentation appearing from time to time in the background but never more than needed.  

“Pictures of Privilege” comes almost exactly midway the nine tracks, and it’s my favorite on the record. With the exception of a lone shaker and some drums, the track is just Foley and his guitar, crooning about heartbreak.  

“You, you and I both have suffered and choked on the rust that’s been force-fed to us for a lifetime,” he says. Through the song’s ¾ time signature, Foley’s words come out more like a hipster waltz than the journal entry it really is. It’s a type of magic that only true music can really create. 

Tonks have released two singles this past June, the Sufjan Stevens-Esque “Frozen Trees” (if you didn’t know, it could absolutely double as a lost mid-2000s Suf track) and the jovial summery “Sand in Our Jeans.” Indie releasing can be sporadic as it is rarely the artists’ main source of income (and usually no record label dates to hit), but signs point to Tonks releasing another project soon. Unless you don’t like songs with good words sown within them, you won’t want to miss it.  


Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.

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