Hailing all the way from the great state of North Carolina, planting himself right here in the City of Angels, multi-instrumentalist ET Mathews began his journey as Tomahawk Baby, while also writing, producing and shredding alongside R&B goddess MALIA. He recently released his single and accompanying music video for “Talking to Myself,” an amalgamation of both heartbreak dream pop and electro-psychedelic, with a hint of essence to his NC roots. With a grimey, performance-based look that compliments the song’s honest and earnest sound and lyrics, it’s safe to say that Tomahawk Baby has found his stride in crafting the sound & look that is true to his core.
I had a moment to talk with Tomahawk Baby about his beginnings, his unique sound and where he’s ultimately headed.
Firstly, ‘Tomahawk Baby,’ from where did that name originate?
Ultimately, it’s meaningless – I was playing in a band out here in LA with some friends and we needed a name after booking a couple shows. At one of the rehearsals, we were all just throwing out ideas. It took me a few tries, I’m sure there were a few epic misfires before it, but I was into this stream of thought that it should be just a few short words that otherwise never would go together, but definitely look or sound cool together. “TOMAHAWK BABY (?)” I was immediately gassed, like, ‘Damn, I can’t believe I just thought of that & said it out loud’. All of the others were pretty adamantly dismissive, as if to say, ‘that literally means nothing, those words don’t go together.’ But I was already sold on the idea and in my own head was thinking, “Bet. I’ll save that one for a rainy day if I ever decide to make a solo project.” About a year later, I released my first self-produced Tomahawk Baby single, “Lonely By Association.” (The official video is out there on Youtube if you’re curious).
Who is Tomahawk Baby? How did you get here?
First of all, I’m Evan Mathews & I’m from Gastonia, North Carolina. After spending 21 wonderful years there, I moved to sunny California with a duffel bag and an acoustic guitar right after college, on some real naive, rock & roll fantasy type shit. I landed an audio engineering internship at a studio (rehearsing & recording headquarters of LA’s The Internet) off Hollywood & Highland in less than a month of being here, so that first move in the city was like a headfirst dive. I lived at that studio, literally. They let me rent out the apartment unit that was connected to it for something criminally lower than what I should’ve been paying (God bless Syd & the rest of the Internet – I thank you every day & you surely brought some comfort to my worried & confused mother). One of my first recording sessions at the studio was with the singer/songwriter/shredder MALIA. We hit it off and became fast friends, bonding over acoustic guitars & N-64s. We also quickly found out that the other intern, Xavier McHugh, was one of us. The three of us would laugh all day & record music all night at that studio, when the rooms weren’t being used. As MALIA found out that I was a guitar player first & engineer second, I was invited to do some tracking on the EP she was making. She also found out that X was a Berklee-trained drummer who was absolutely lights out. As the recordings took shape, she started to book some shows in the neighborhood & we thought – who better to accompany her, than the two people who helped her record. It’s been close to seven years now & we’re all three still as close as ever; laughing & recording on a weekly basis, if not daily.
Secondly Tomahawk Baby is essentially the sum of me & any of my friends, family, or collaborators. I’ll crank out a few demos a week in my room just to keep busy & kill time or boredom. Once I have an idea that sticks with me (singing it over & over while I pace throughout the day) I’ll email it to anybody on my list of about 5 people whose opinions I value & trust. Fortunately all of those people are brilliant, and artists in their own right. Sometimes I’ll be met with mixed reactions – mostly encouraging, but every once in a while I’ll be blessed with a response along the lines of, ‘send me the stems, I’ll see what I can do with it!’ Each & every Tomahawk Baby release so far, has made its way to streaming services via the unwavering support of those friends who truly believe in me & what I’m trying to say or sound like.
If you had only two sentences, how would you summarize your sound?
This is so much harder to answer than it should be! So I’ll use my last sentence to describe it as moody (each release is reflective of what I’m into or how I’m feeling when the demo was conceived), fluid (each release is seemingly very different to the ones that precede it, to me at least) and honest (they’re all just journal entries set to instruments played by myself, my brothers, or my friends).
The latest single you released is called “Talking to Myself.” What was the writing/thought process for that like?
That was a really fun one for me that came so quickly. I was in a very transformative stage in my life. My living situation at the time had taken an unexpected turn, so I found myself crashing at my close friends’ spot in Torrance, CA (Marco, Rafa, & Alex: you know how much I love y’all!). I was sort of picked up and wrung out, unlike any other time in my life before. I wasn’t leaning on my vices of choice then. I was in a strange, seemingly foreign place mentally. I still have the cell phone video recording taken the day I wrote it on Marco’s couch in 2017, complete with unfinished lyric ideas and a dreary, three-chord loop coming out of my guitar amp. “…gettin’ on & gettin’ over, feelin’ oh so sober. Lonely from October to September, I remember why – I’m Talking To Myself…” It was really me asking myself if I was prepared for any of these changes life was throwing at me, because although I have an unbelievable support system, of which I’m immeasurably grateful for – ultimately I’m all I got.
What are your top 3 favorite albums of all time, and why?
Jackson Browne’s Self-titled, debut album. It’s my mother’s favorite, so I heard it a lot as a kid & to this day, it puts me right back in her home whenever I listen to it. It also has taken on a whole new meaning, living in LA. Like the song ‘From Silver Lake’. Growing up in Gastonia, NC, I truly thought the Silver Lake was just like a fantasy. Now I drive past Silver Lake to go get my groceries. Life’s a trip.
“Curtains” by John Frusciante. RHCP catches a lot of flack, and rightfully so. But the dynamic between John Frusciante and his guitar is something special that I have yet to find anywhere else. His solo work is so unapologetic, I have so much respect for the way he presents his songs. They’re sad, scary, funny, refreshing and each one is heavy as a ton of bricks. He is quite likely my biggest musical influence, make of that what you will.
Last one is kind of a universal/cliche answer but Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” has zero skips.
What are currently your most played tracks?
Aside from those staples of albums that I mentioned, the ones that stick with me regardless of circumstances, I go through crazy hot & cold phases where I become infatuated with a song or two at time and absolutely run them into the ground. Right now they are, “The Cow” by Westside Gunn & Conway The Machine, “Sun Also Rises” by The Mount, and “Bags” by Clairo. Unapologetic bars, southern gospel/soul & sad girl bedroom pop all hit me in the exact same spot.
Another song of yours, “Luna,” is short, sweet and different from “Talking to Myself.” What’s the story behind that song?
“You drove up all by yourself, just to see me play some songs with my friends…”
That’s really just another journal entry. I was playing a show with my friends in Hollywood (the last show we played before the pandemic!) and there was one person in particular who had made the solo journey (probably around 2 hours one way) just to see us. I didn’t know it until we chatted about it afterwards & I couldn’t believe that anyone would do that. It’s hard enough to try to get the people closest to you to come for free, so to have basically a stranger pay their own money and drive a way’s away just to experience something with you was pretty mind-blowing to me. Couldn’t help but write about it.
Can you tease us with a bit of what the future looks like for Tomahawk Baby? What kind of stuff are you working on and what should us fans hope for?
Right now, I’m working with my best friend and bandmate (unrelated to Tomahawk Baby), MALIA, to try & finish up an album for her. She’s my closest & longest friend that I’ve made since moving to LA in 2013 and I was somehow lucky enough to help produce her first two EP’s (‘MALIA’ self-titled, & ‘Letting Go’) & to be her go-to stage right guitar/bass player since 2013. I’m also sitting on some really cool Tomahawk Baby songs & videos (both solo & featured with friends) that I’m super excited to share. It’s all very DIY, and aside from knowing MALIA, I have zero social capital or clout, so any views or streams that I get are from people who know me as Evan and are curious about what I’ve been up to. I’m stoked for all that to inevitably change and have my releases reach as many people as they possibly can. ‘Your next work is your best work!’ I’m so proud of everything I’ve put out as Tomahawk Baby over the last five years, because each release means so much to me & I really feel like I’m progressing as a producer, writer, singer, and human. So that little adage is what kind of keeps my pilot light lit when I feel creatively exhausted. Long Live Tomahawk Baby, Baby!