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A Dirty Dozen with BRANSON HOOG from NOT A TOY – June 2020

| 24 June 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “The newest Fearless Records signing, NOT A TOY, will totally turn your head, thanks to the video for their latest slow banger “Quit Quitting.” It gives off ALL the summery vibes. The band, which traffics in smooth and swaggy rock, previously shared the video for “J Cash,” which mixes acoustic southern grit with piano and is equal parts hip-hop and western saloon. Who are NOT A TOY? We’re glad you asked. Get to know them, so you can proudly say you knew them way back then and before anyone else did!

  • NOT A TOY are a collective of four creatives — Branson Hoog [lead vocals], Jeremy Marmor [guitar], Benji Spoliansky [drums], and TJ Wessel [violin, keys].
  • They view NOT A TOY as not just a band; they are all about the lifestyle of art and creation.
  • The group’s motto: “We’re a snapshot of this generation’s tattooed youth and bedroom beatmakers. We’re just creating, and there are no rules to creation.”
  • While the group mixes different genres of music, they are also blending other art forms such as streetwear to art shows.
  • The members of this collective met in high school and cut their teeth in various projects together before launching the group in 2020.
  • NOT A TOY members are a mix of beat makers along with a classically trained violinist, while also boasting a background in graphic design and painting “to bring the art to the project.”

We get the band to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Our latest release Quit Quitting is a snapshot of the mental ups and downs of being a creative… or just of being human. During the writing of this album we went through a lot of ups and down as a group and as individuals. Quit Quitting explores all of the questions that were constantly haunting us. I think the more people hear from us the more they will listen for the amount of detail in the sounds themselves… us 4 made all of the sounds, all of the production. We are really proud of that. Now let’s see if people can guess who made which sounds…

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

We each found music through a variety of ways, most of us have been making music since we were kids. Or we were creatives of some kind. I first got introduced to the idea of cutting beats together from doing hip hop and breakdance competitions as a little kid. I LOVED finding remixes of songs but I found myself wishing I could make my own mash ups. When we all started producing years later I was able to explore my passion for putting sounds together/creating my own. No specific “ah ha” moments, just a passion for creation that slowly molded NOT A TOY.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

We have always been drawn to artists that have a sound… something that is so distinguishable you would immediately know who you were listening to. As a vocalist, I was drawn to artists that explored all the corners of their voice. I loved Bert McCraken from The Used because of his glottal stops and unique tambre. Back in the breakdance days, Missy Elliot was my favorite for the same reasons, she is such a legend. She found a way to do things with her voice that hadn’t been heard and still haven’t been re-created. Originality is the most important thing to us. No single performer, or single art form. We are inspired by musicians, sculptors, painters, dancers, actors, directors, designers, and visionaries. The one’s who make a difference do it like it hasn’t ever been done. So that’s what we create for… to help push art forward and be a part of the next generation of artists.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Jesse Rutherford, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, Dr. Dre, and Tyler the Creator.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Mike Dean is one of our favorite producers… He is the synth god. We love his ear/influence, everything from Kanye to 070 Shake. We would want to collaborate with someone we want to learn from, and if we learned anything from him we’d be well off.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I would tell them that we are a group of 4 creative producers who hate boxes. We pull from all genres, but tend to stick with hip hop beats with pop vocals, topped by orchestration from our violinist TJ. We hate being compared to other artists, so we tend to cringe regardless. No hate towards any creatives, we want to carve our own path.

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

We look at our group like a family, I am the responsible mother who holds the fam together and does the cooking, Benji is the dad who is definitely the bad influence, the loudest, and the life of the party. Jeremy is the son, quiet at first but is hands down the funniest one. TJ is the daughter mainly for his love of boxed wine. TJ is the first to whip out the guitar for some bro to bro serenading.

8. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I saw Tyler the Creator at a burger joint in LA, surprising he hadn’t heard of us (jokes).

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The lifestyle and mindset of being a creative/entrepreneur is the best. We make the rules. We make the hours, we call the shots. It’s way too much fun to be considered a job. If we weren’t musicians we would still be creatives. We do so many other art forms we would probably resort to that. Outside of music, we paint, tattoo, design clothing, print clothing, graphic design, color design, film, score yada yada yada. We will never stop creating.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

We always want to talk about the other art projects we are working on… The most recent is the clothing line we’ve been working on… not merch, streetwear. We are choosing the cuts of fabric and designing everything ourselves. No one knows yet, but I hope that becomes as big of a topic as our music.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Everything that has happened has led us to here! Every “mistake” is a lesson that we needed to learn. No regrets.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the most legendary and influential albums for us. That would have been a really cool moment to witness. I think it is still one of the most expensive records ever made… He flew all of the musicians he worked with out to a studio in Hawaii(and there were a lot of them). Apparently he didn’t really sleep fully for the 2 months they were there, just took naps and bounced from studio room to studio room. We are excited to involve more creatives in our albums as NOT A TOY grows.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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