Thomston On His Definition of Pop (Interview)

Some find the whole genre of pop simple, while others can relate to the accessibility of the music. New Zealand’s Thomston (aka Thomas Stoneman) is the latter and his debut, Topograph, certainly cuts through the noise that is modern day pop. We recently chatted to him about the album, how it came to be and what he likes to be classified as with his music.

Your debut album, Topograph, has just been released. How would you describe it?

I came up with the album name while I was on a plane from New York to London. I didn’t really enjoy New York so much; it was a bit stressful for this small kiwi. As I was flying away from the city, it looked very small from the plane. It made me realise that songwriting is very much like catching a plane and getting higher perspective of something in your life. It’s kind of like a map, hence Topograh.

Speaking of trips, what has the journey been like in bringing the album together, especially in comparison to your previous releases? 

When I wrote track 10, which is called Broken Skin, that was the moment I had a goal in mind. That was when I made a movement towards a project that was coherent with that track. I actually wrote that song in mid-2014, so that was two years ago. I saved Broken Skin because I knew that was what I wanted the album to sound like.

Because it’s my first album, there’s a lot more pressure for it to be a statement, EP’s can have more of a throwaway value. I definitely approached the album with more of a pop sensibility and confidence in writing versus my previous releases.

How do you feel about being classified as alt pop? 

I hate this term alternative pop so much. I call it (my music) pop but I have a really broad view of what pop is. Pop has a lot of negative connotations and people associate a lot of artists they find cheesy with pop music, so it’s kind of tainted for them. That isn’t a problem for me, I don’t think that any one bad artist can ruin a genre. I also don’t get why pop is viewed as a basic art form. For me, pop is anything that is accessible and can reach a large amount of people.

Do you think it’s important to deliver the complete package, aurally and visually, when it comes to your music? 

I think that I put a lot of emphasis on the visual aspect of it because it’s very important. It can completely shape the way you approach a song. I find a lot of new music on blogs and I’m always drawn in by a strong image. If someone tells me to listen to a song and the cover art is terrible, I’ll have a lower opinion of it.

If you’re writing a song and don’t have it in you to think about the visuals, then it’s showing that you’re not as observant and considered. When someone is working in a more considered way, it shines through in the writing and you can see that in the artwork. Personally, I get a lot enjoyment out of linking everything.

How involved are you in actually crafting the instrumentals for your music? 

I got really involved in the production on this album, more so than I’ve ever been. There are a couple of tracks on there that I completely produced myself. I’ve always worked with this guy Josh out of New Zealand. He’s been really patient with me and teaching me how to produce as well as the terminology to use to communicate what I want.

Do you feel that having that level of involvement is more needed in pop these days? 

For sure, it’s definitely more difficult but at the same time you are leaving less up to chance. If you are relying on other people to do a bunch of things for you, where people aren’t working as hard as you, you’re going to be let down. I try to do everything myself so I don’t have to rely on others, but over the past 2 years I have gathered others I can definitely count on. It’s really taken the pressure off me.

How has coming from New Zealand impacted your sound? 

It’s hard to know, because I haven’t really lived anywhere else. It has made me feel a little further away from success in a way. If you live in LA it seems like every second person is famous, so you’re living in that world. In arms reach. Living here (in New Zealand), music seems more like a pipe dream. Maybe that makes you work harder.

Thomston‘s debut Topograph is out now..