INTERVIEW: Tony Bullets

Western New York native Evan Hughey musician goes by the moniker Tony Bullets. Their debut, Homesick, is a collection of springy lo-fi pop songs with sharp beats and messy melodies. Bubbling with reverb and shimmering wit, these are intimate vignettes of when the definition “home” in flux. Initially released last year, Homesick was recently released on cassette. We talked to Hughey about their influences, home, and their favorite cereal-music pairing.

C+S: What’s the origin of the Tony Bullets moniker?

TB: It actually started as a dumb joke between friends and kind of snowballed. Initially we were hanging around drinking one night and started making up gang nicknames for ourselves and that’s what I came up with. I illustrated a lot back then and I liked it so much that I started working on a comic about a character by that name. It was kind of a sci-fi mystery thing that I never finished. Eventually I just started using the name myself. I used to change my moniker every time I released a project. I went through a bunch of artist names that I thought were deeper than they were before that, my friends convinced me to keep this one. They’re dope.

C+S: With your interest in comics, do you see Tony Bullets developing into an alter-ego?

TB: You know I’ve actually been playing with how to merge the visual art and the music. I have a few ideas that are in their infancy but at the moment nothing concrete. I’d say there’s definitely the possibility though, I love the idea of an alter-ego haha.

C+S: Who or what are your influences? Did you latch on to any particular influence for Homesick?

TB: Some of my favorite albums are by The Gorillaz, Thundercat, Tame Impala, Connan Mockasin, Tyler, The Creator, Mac Demarco, and MGMT just to name a few. I really like alternative pop stuff. Sickly guitars, driving baselines, and funky drums I guess. While I was making Homesick I was listening to a lot of Melody’s Echo Chamber and psychedelic pop rock. I’m not sure if that comes through on the album or not though. I wouldn’t say I latched onto any influence in particular.

C+S: Your earlier music has a sound that is immediately different from the tracks heard on Homesick, which could be characterized as electronic. What was the catalyst for transitioning to writing lo-fi pop-oriented music?

TB: Yeah! I don’t really use my Souncloud [sic] much lately, but it was basically a place for me to test out that transition.I made an album a while back called Planetarium under the name Vulpes Vulpes, it was 18 tracks and everything on it except 2 songs were non-vocal electronic instrumentals. Almost everything that I made before this album was rap or electronic music. So when I started writing Homesick I only knew a handful chords and tabs on guitar and didn’t really sing, but I wanted to be better at those things. It was really me trying to stretch myself a bit.

Tony Bullets – Homesick

C+S: A lot of the tracks on Homesick do carry over those percussion influences from rap, it sounds like the melodies were built off the programmed drums, or was it vice versa?

TB: The first things that went in to most of these songs were actually the guitar chords or melodies, but the drums were really essential to me finding a rhythm for the lyrics and vocal melodies, so they typically came next. I guess that is probably a carryover from rapping over instrumentals, I usually like to have chords and drums in place before I start writing. It’s important to me that the beat has a feeling that the lyrics respond to. I think that relationship has definitely evolved over time though.

C+S: Did you find it difficult writing music with an instrument you weren’t familiar with?

TB: Truth is, when I wrote these I couldn’t even play most of them. At the shows we play them like they’re rock songs, but they really were beats when I made them. The guitar in many places is sampled from successful 4 bar recordings and whatnot. Being able to play them live now is a huge triumph in my book, and mostly due to the encouragement of my friends. They are very very dope.

C+S: The songs on Homesick were written during an inconsistent time in your life where you were frequently moving and you’re now currently living in the Boston area. Where is home for Tony Bullets?

TB:My hometown is Elmira, NY. I really love it there, it’s a relatively small town divided by a river, and if you ever feel you have to get out and go for a hike it’s never too far in any direction. I miss it a lot, I just feel like I need the experience of travel and exploration before I go back one day. The album was less about a place and more about getting back to a state of mind. It was about rediscovering my center and not really being sure if I ever knew what that was. Maybe that sounds kind of bleak, but to me, it’s like a hopeful awareness. Boston, however, has been very good to me, I’ve met some amazing people, and we believe in each other, and we push each other, and right now that’s all I’m looking for.

tony bullets
Tony Bullets via Facebook

C+S: Any new music in the works? You’ve been performing live shows with a band, have there been any collaborations going on with them on new Tony Bullets material?

TB: Yeah, lots of stuff is in the works right now! It’s a really exciting time for me as far as new content. I don’t want to say too much because it changes as it grows, but this one is very much a marriage of the early electronic stuff and Homesick. You can expect a single and more details by the end of February. As far as collaborations go, we talk about it all of the time, it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll see something of the sort this year!

C+S: Pair your favorite cereal with a record/song or vice versa.

TB:Current Fave Record: Andy Shauf – The Party; Cereal Pair: Honey Bunches Of Oats