Tioga Share Synth Layered Fluorescent Track, “Imaginary Friend”

photo credit: Carol Simpson

TIOGA is a modern indie rock band, born in Philadelphia, with roots extending to New York City. The quartet, composed of Greg Adams (lead vocals), Derrick Dieso (guitar), Austin Paragas (bass & vocals), and Henri Tyler Brooks (drums & vocals), has established their signature blend of new wave indie rock and synth-pop. TIOGA’s sound has grown to embrace goth-pop tendencies and a whole lotta synth, drawing influences from the new wave indie rockers of the early aughts as well as contemporaries.

“I’m really not there…” Self-isolation, anxiety, and existential dread: all themes you don’t usually expect to hear addressed over a pulsing synth. “Imaginary Friend” wrestles with the struggle of trying to live in the present, when you’re stuck living in your own head. Desperation and pain peek through the lyrics The song’s response is both emotional and physical; the lyrics bring desperation and pain to the forefront, while the beat makes it hard to not let yourself loose. Influenced by MGMT’s goth-pop sound on their latest effort as well as other synth-heavy stalwarts (The Killers, Empire of the Sun, Blood Orange), TIOGA’s track is an immersive journey into your own mind and insecurities.

We got the chance to interview them about how quarantine has affected the creative process, their inspirations, and more. Read below.

First things first, how are you all doing? How has quarantine been treating you?

All things considered, we’re doing pretty well for having been locked down away from each other in different places. We’re blessed to be healthy when we know that many have not been as lucky and there’s a lot of work to do. Musically, we’ve been able to continue to collaborate remotely especially since we’ve lived in different places for about three years now. Otherwise, we’ve kept up with each other’s dinner menus, had virtual happy hours, and at one point challenged each other to a grill-off. We’re split up between neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Philly suburbs, and Brooklyn, so we’re fortunately all in the same time zone and in decent reach of each other.

What are some of the main ways you guys have seen your sound evolve?

We’ve grown to embrace sounds that we previously shied away from — like prominent synths — whether it be our ability to play everything live or get used to new music tech. We’re always experimenting with ways to add to and reimagine our core sound. “Imaginary Friend” makes use of a combination of vocal parts intended to be supplemented by live audience involvement and synthesizer loops. Some of our most recent songwriting sessions have included sampling ambient noise and using everyday objects and sounds as instruments. We’re always trying to incorporate new things into our songwriting and production.

Can you share a bit about the creative process behind “Imaginary Friend”? Any key references?

The core musical idea that we built “Imaginary Friend” around came from a jam session where Greg tried to recreate an older demo by ear. It didn’t work, but we ended up with the main synth chords and something feeling really special to us. From there, the beat and other rhythmic elements came quickly as well as these group harmonies in the chorus. Lyrically, it tackles being stuck in your own head when you’re trying to live in the present. It seems to be a pervasive problem for people our age, and we certainly don’t have it figured out. Blood Orange, Empire of the Sun, and The Killers immediately come to mind when we play this song.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Above all, good people. Seeing activists across the country really take the reigns has been humbling and incredibly motivating. On a person to person scale, we’ve been connecting with artists weekly on a little series on our Instagram that we call “Fast Tracks,” where we talk with artists we love and learn more about their writing processes and influences. It’s amazing to get to talk artist to artist, and kinda replicates that feeling of connecting backstage before a gig.

Other forms of art have been inspiring too; it feels like there has been a renaissance of creativity while people have really let their talents shine. Folks that do multimedia design, and especially those Instagram comic strips, have been keeping us feeling light. On a less serious note, Greg’s dinners (feasts, even?) have been incredibly inspiring. He’s always sharing his creations in the group chat and making us hungry.

How do you want your music to make your listeners feel during these weird times?

Originally, “Imaginary Friend” was written as a way of trying to navigate through an anxious time pre-COVID, and so the cathartic nature of the track has helped the song evolve now that we’re in pivotal times. We want listeners to be able to “dance out” whatever they’re dealing with the way we did when we were working on this song. There’s certainly a lot of things people are feeling and dealing with these days. The song is a few minutes of transporting yourself to your favorite moments, your home away from home, or your favorite venue, and just grooving it out. We’re hoping it can reignite those feelings of nostalgia.

Is “Imaginary Friend” any indication of the direction new music is headed in?

It is the natural progression towards a sound we’ve always strived to foster and hone, which would be very rhythm-forward material that people respond to and interact with live. In a perfect world, our listeners could see themselves in the lyrics and empathize with the issues we tackle in the song. So, this track definitely feels like exactly where we’re supposed to be right now and has the key ingredients to where we’re going to take our music.

Are there any plans to tie in a visual side to “Imaginary Friend”?

Yes! We’ve already released a live acoustic session through Moon Village (really cool NYC folks!) that included a version of “Imaginary Friend.” That was weirdly enough the last thing we did as a band before being locked down in our respective places. But besides that, we’ve teamed up with a new creative house our friends started, called Visuulizer (@visuulizer), that paired us with an animator named YA SIN SKY (@jusmirac), who helped us make a really cool lyric video for the track. We’re hoping to continue to collaborate with other artists and build a world around our music together.

I know a lot is in the air right now and it’s difficult to plan, but do you have any upcoming goals/plans you’d like to share?

We have another single ready to come out in October of this year (wink wink)! Following that, we have an EP that reimagines that second single and “Imaginary Friend” ready to roll out. Past that, we’re hoping to finish writing and recording our second full length into 2021. Oh! And we’ve got this semi-crazy idea to shoot a live session on a roof in NYC, so we’re working through the kinks for that and hopefully we’ll be able to bring that to life.

Avid writer based in NYC