The Amazing

Early Show

The Amazing

Tor Miller

Mon, November 5, 2012

Doors: 6:30 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

This event is 21 and over

The Amazing - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
The Amazing
The Amazing fell far from the tree. A natural process: slowly crystallizing into a collective – pushing, bending, then playing with any preconceived notions of pop.

When a band takes a name like The Amazing, they’d better have the chops to back it up. Happily, this Swedish outfit – a collective headed by Reine Fiske and singer-songwriter Christoffer Gunrup – are masterful enough to take that mantle on.

As friends first and foremost, it’s the band’s kindred spirit that imbues the album with a feeling unlike that of most releases – one of natural harmony, persistent progression, and with a panoramic gaze fixed on distant settings.

Gentle Stream is widescreen, panoramic, horizon-reaching stuff. An elegantly constructed record of moody psychedelic majesty; it comes with a great dose of CSNY-style Laurel Canyon bliss. Its nine songs clock in at a luxurious 50 minutes, during which astral guitars intertwine in serpentine solos, horns blast rainbow melodies, and Gunrup’s flute-like voice floats elegantly over the sunset sounds.

Nothing is introverted or overworked – between the natural melodies and soulful vocals, everything is kept in perfect balance. Gentle Stream is a feeling, an organic consequence of something that effortlessly came together.

Completing the line-up with Fredrik Swahn, Alexis Benson, Johan Holmegard, and highly rated jazz drummer Moussa Fadera, The Amazing recorded their LP in Stockholm, Sweden, and plotted their path in this incredible unison. There are countless stories to be told, including playing a show for the Swedish Royal Family and Pink Floyd, where audience member Roger Waters appreciatively caught a bouquet thrown by the band during a standing ovation. This mysterious band holds one principle dear to their hearts: “The music speaks for itself”.
Tor Miller - (Set time: 6:30 PM)
Tor Miller
Native New Yorker Tor Miller is endearingly vague when asked to explain the source of his singing voice. He grew up, he says, with a dad “who was part of the Glee Club at university, and he’d sing all the time at home, all these old college drinking songs. But my mum can’t sing to save her life. My parents always say that I would sing around the house all the time, too, but I don’t remember that. I do know that they would go to parent evenings and ask my teachers about my participation in music, and the teachers would go: ‘What? He never contributes.’ I’d sing along to the radio, but I never thought anything of it.” (one can easily lose count of the great singers who will give a similar answer when quizzed about their talent. How cool must it be to be able to shrug in explanation -oh, the singing? I never thought anything of it.)

As Tor tells it, it took a major upheaval in his life to kickstart his conviction and self-belief, and turn him from someone who would “sing around the house all the time” into an artist on a mission. When he was 12, his parents moved from Manhattan out to New Jersey and six months later, Tor enrolled in a new school. It was those six months, and the two years that followed, that would shape him both as a singer and as a songwriter. Each weekday he and his mother would do “a 90-minute commute. She would drop me off and I’d sit for about half an hour, waiting for school to open, listening to the music she had given me – Ziggy Stardust, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac. I listened to those records pretty much nonstop, up and back. And that was the point when I started writing my own songs.”

As is so often the case, a great teacher proved another catalyst. “I had this piano teacher at the new school who would just let me play what I wanted to, so I’d play him these songs and sing along really quietly, and one lesson he said: ‘You have a really good voice. Next week, instead of just working on the piano part, we’ll learn the vocal as well. And the week after, we can try writing something.’ So it was all thanks to that one teacher.”

The music lessons aside, Tor’s new school was, for a long time, not a place he was happy to attend. “I was a complete outcast; I didn’t talk to anyone for about two years. But I was getting confident in my music, and wrote my first couple of songs, so I decided to perform at the eighth-grade talent show – and at that point, no one had really ever heard me even speak. I was so mad about moving schools and leaving all my friends, so I hadn’t participated in anything, but I got up there and performed a song I had just written, and immediately after, people suddenly wanted to talk to me, I got all this attention – especially from girls! It propelled me to keep going, and I started booking shows, open-mic nights in places like The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. I went to high school, and joined a jazz band there, and some of the guys in that joined my band, and we just carried on playing shows. But it all came from that first performance in eighth grade.”

The songs “began to pour out, most of them about isolation and loneliness,” Tor says with a wry laugh. “I felt that I’d been taken out of the city and away from a life I loved, and thrown out on a horse farm in New Jersey. And here, suddenly, was something I liked – and I didn’t like anything at the time.” The bug had bitten him and, when he took up a place studying music at NYU, Tor dived right in. “The moment when it felt properly real was in my first semester at college, when I was writing all these songs. There was this room in the basement of my dorm building, next to the laundry room, it could reach 100 degrees in there, but I’d be in there three or four hours every day, writing away, skipping class, and I really felt that I was coming into my own. My attitude was, ‘No, fuck the classes, you need to be working on your music’.

Glassnote Records – home to artists such as Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Childish Gambino and CHVRCHES – picked up on the buzz about Tor, and last year, he signed to the label. Which led, he admits, to a slightly tense family summit with his mum and dad. “I’m supposed to be on this two-year leave from college at the moment, and I think my parents both fully expect that I’ll be going back there at the end of it. It was an incredibly awkward conversation when the deal came about. I had to say: ‘Because of this, I don’t think I’ll be going back to college next year.’ That was pretty nerve-wracking.”

Headlights, the title track of Tor’s EP released in February 2015, includes Hold the Phone, a song from Tor’s dorm-basement days that he recorded on his i-Phone, and which first gained traction when Zane Lowe named it as the Next Hype on his R1 show and Now and Again which has a swagger Ziggy would have approved of, and a sonic eclecticism that recalls Lindsay Buckingham’s multilayered production mastery. But it is Midnight that most captures Tor’s impassioned musicianship – and his abiding, imperishable love for the city he was forced to abandon temporarily as a teen.

In the midst of the release of his new single Carter & Cash, Tor is working to complete his debut album at London’s Eastcote studios with the producer Eliot James (Noah and the Whale, Two Door Cinema Club, Plan B, Bloc Party). Tor describes the recording environment as “a bit dilapidated, which is exactly how I like it. And Eliot is a producer who really drives the recordings, and captures the grit in a song. It’s a huge relief to finally find the right match.” He’s determined not to play it safe, he says, or smooth off the rough edges in his songs. “Risk-taking is rare in music. When I wrote some of these songs, I’d listen to some of the lyrics and think, ‘Fuck – do I really want to be saying that? Do I really want to let everyone know how I feel?’ But I think that’s something you have to do if you want to produce work that is honest.”

The key moment in Midnight is when with the backing vocals rising to a tumult behind him, Tor sings “Calling out, calling out for something true.” The most thrilling thing about Tor Miller – though he may not have realized this yet – is that he’s found it.
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002