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Artists in their own words: Joanna Tomassoni, Jeffrey Sutton, and Rachel Wolf

The No Counts

From top: James Stram; Joanna Tomssoni (left); Sam Ottinger (right); Rachel Wolf (bottom left); Jeffrey Sutton (bottom right). Photo by: Liam Conway

Who: Joanna Tomassoni, Jeffrey Sutton, and Rachel Wolf

What: Musicians in The Tumbling Wheels

Where: Mid-City

Artists’ chosen location for interview: Fair Grinds—a table in the far corner outside next to a plastic car for children and a dog bowl

Q: What’s a musical you just can’t get on board with?

RW: What was the one we saw in Peru?

JS: We saw Into the Woods in Peru for some reason.

JT: Oh no! That's my favorite musical.

RW: They made the musical into a movie, and I would have never had gone to see it, but Jeffrey and I were in Peru, and it was our last day. He was insanely sick, and we didn’t have anywhere to go.  

JS: We didn’t have a hotel anymore.

RW: There were a couple of really great horror movies we wanted to see, but every time I went up to the ticket window they’d say, ‘No, sorry. That does not have subtitles.’

When I asked, ‘What do you have that has subtitles in English?’ they said, ‘Into the Woods.’ You could almost hear the bum bum buuuuum.

JS: And it wasn’t subtitled. It was simply just all in English.

RW: So we went inside, and we hated it, which is funny because Joanna loves it.

JS: I can’t remember a single song. Except for that little kid singing, ‘There are giants in the sky.’ [Sang in a strong British accent].

I was shivering and completely sick, and I just wanted a good melody. I had been kicked out of the public park earlier that day because I was lying on the ground kind of groaning and rolling around in pain from being sick. When I was in the movie I was thinking about whether I needed to run to the bathroom every couple of minutes. It was a bad scene.

Maybe under different circumstances you might like the musical?

JS/RW: [Looking at each other]. No.

JT: You know, I can’t think of any musical I don’t like. All the ones that are coming into my head are ones I like. I grew up singing along to Cats all the time, and I've gotten the impression over the years that Cats is somewhat universally disdained. I think people are down on it maybe because of the story, but it’s perfect for kids.

It’s about cats living in an alley, right?

JT: There are dogs too.  They’re the cops. It’s kind of political. [Laughing].

Q: What’s your least favorite hygiene ritual?

JS: All of them.

JT: Sometimes I’m really tired, and I just don’t want to brush my teeth. Sometimes I don’t even do it.

RW: Flossing.

JS: I’ve actually come to love flossing. I hated it at first, but now if I don’t do it I feel weird and gross. If you don’t floss for a while and then you floss, you can actually smell it. There’s just rotting bacteria in there.

JT: I have an electric toothbrush, so I feel like that helps with the gum health.

RW: I started flossing recently. I had a lady in my pedicab who said to me, ‘I’m a dental hygienist, and your gums are really messed up. You need to go to a dentist.’

So I went to a dentist, and they told me I really needed to floss.

JS: Now your gums look great.

RW: [Giant smile].

Q: What’s something an animal has that you wish you could have?

JT: I would love to have the ability to not have to breath for a long time. I first think of that because I love being underwater, and it would be amazing to not have to come up for air. It also corresponds perfectly with singing. It’s all about breath support, which I've been working a lot in the past few months. If I could submerge for minutes or hours, that would completely change my singing.

JS: I think it would be amazing if I could puff up my body like a puffer fish whenever danger was around. No one would do anything or mess with me. I could pull that out on stage every once in awhile.

RW: I have a similar idea. I was thinking about animals with these self-defense mechanisms. There’s this frog that when it gets scared or threatened that it secretes a special goo. It’s similar to glue, so if you touch this frog, you get stuck.

JT: That might be the worse mode of self-defense. Then you have the attacker stuck to you.

RW: I just think it would be hilarious. It also would be a really socially awkward situation because someone would look at you and ask, ‘Is she glistening with goo?’ Then they would reach out to touch you, and you’ve got them. Or some creep on the subway tries to touch me…

JS: And he touches you forever.

RW: He’s caught red handed.

Q: What calendar do you remember from your childhood?

RW: I had six different Lord of The Rings calendars. Then when the year was over I cut them all up and hung the pictures all over my room. And these were six Lord of The Rings calendars from all the same year. I really loved Lord of The Rings.

JT: I also cut up a calendar and hung it around my room. I forget the name of the photographer and the dance company, but it was all beautiful photographs of contemporary ballet dancers. I cut those out and did this little design on my door that I was really proud of.

And I didn’t write anything in my calendar. It was strictly for aesthetic purposes.

RW:  We have a calendar by Kiernan Dunn, who is this great screen printer in New Orleans who runs the Community Print Shop. She does a calendar every year that she designs and prints, and it’s beautiful.

JT: Her calendars are amazing.

JS: And she made a t-shirt for our band.

RW: We want to put that calendar up.

Jeffrey, what about you? Any calendars from childhood?

JS: I think my dad had some calendars up. The only one that comes to mind is a calendar that had famous paintings of girls. Classy paintings. Impressionist paintings. That’s the only one coming to mind. I didn’t grow up with a calendar in my room. I didn’t grow up with anything on my walls. It’s really weird, and it has continued to this day. I rarely have anything on my walls.

Are your walls painted?

JS: They’re not painted. They are white, blank walls. I remember going to my friends’ places, and they’d have stuff all over their walls. I had no idea I could do that.

RW: When we first started dating, I went over to his place, and his room was just white walls, and he had two posters, but they were the same poster. It was two Sonic The Hedgehog posters. One was hung right-side up and one was hung upside down.

JS: It was the same poster, so I figured I couldn’t put both of them right-side up.

Q: How do you know that something is real or authentic?

JT: It’s definitely more of an emotion than anything else. It has to do with honesty. Performance is also a big part of music, and just because someone is performing something doesn’t mean it isn’t real or authentic.

RW: I feel like one of the only ways I can speak about what is authentic and real is when it comes to performing. In other situations, I feel like that idea of being authentic or real is completely subjective.

In the songs that I write and the way I try to sing them, I try to use clear language that is still beautiful but also succinct and aims at getting the point across without too many frills. I try to be honest when writing the songs, and I spend time thinking about the best way to express what I’m feeling. Then when I sing those songs, I have some stylistic ways that I sing, but really I’m trying to convey my emotions without too many strings attached.

It’s hard because those words are so loaded now.

JS: I know. Sometimes I’m interested in things that could be seen as frills or unnecessary, but I like them. They’re fun to play with. Every time you go on stage, you can be authentic, but it is always an act.

I’m also the one in the band who says the most snarky things and puts on silly voices, especially in person. So maybe I’m just the least authentic guy. [Laughing].

You can hear The Tumbling Wheels play this Friday, June 17 for the Singles Release Party at the United Bakery Gallery (1337 St. Bernard Ave.) Doors open at 7:00 P.M., with Shayne Sayers playing at 8:00, Duke Aeroplane at 9:00, and The Tumbling Wheels at 10:00. You can also check out their music by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The band is currently working on their first album, which you can pre order through their label’s Kickstarter page.