Meet: Melbourne singer-songwriter/ producer Tom Day, ahead of his collaborative EP with Monsoonsiren

I sat here thinking what I should write for the introductory paragraph to this contribution. I was going to write something clever about how some composers don’t give the listener any insight into their personality, but Tom Day does. Then I thought I might  write about how some music only fits the mood, whereas Tom’s music creates and lifts the mood. I couldn’t decide. Tom Day’s work is probably both things I think; insightful and uplifting. What do you reckon?

Tom is taking some time off to “baby sit” his parents farm and I got a chance to annoy him with some questions.

What is the Tom Day story? Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m about to turn 26, I’m in the process of writing my PhD thesis on new medications for the treatment of cancer and with any free time I get, I write music. Music production is my way of relaxing and detaching myself from everyday life.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a farm roughly an hour and a half away from Melbourne in an area called the Mornington Peninsula. I lived there until I turned 18, after which I moved to the city to start university. My parent’s house borders a national park and is close by to the local ocean beaches. I feel this has influenced the way I produce today. I try to get back down here as much as possible during the year to visit my friends and family.

How did you get started with music and composition? Is music in the family or did you pick it up in spite of them?

There are no real musicians in our family, my sisters and I used to play drums back in primary school. When I got to the high school years, I came across the software ‘FL Studio’, which I used to learn the basics of production. I loved the idea of creating whole tracks on your own and having that control over each element.

Over the years I networked, read tutorials, kept writing new songs and slowly became more comfortable in the software.

Are you formally trained on the keyboard? Why did you choose to play keyboard over another instrument?

I have never had any formal training on piano or any other instrument. Its one of my biggest regrets. I’ve always had melodies/chord progressions swirling around in my mind but have never made a strong enough link between my mind and fingers to play them comfortably.

I find piano to be the most powerful tool in conveying emotion and creating that imagery that comes with music. The slightest keystroke can have such a dramatic effect on the story being told which I find incredible.

Who were your main musical influences growing up?

There really wasn’t a prominent ‘influence’ when it came to music. Subconsciously, I found myself being drawn to movie soundtracks. I remember getting the Lion King OST for Christmas one year. Also some of the early electronic artists such as Moby, Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers were being blasted from my sister’s rooms when I was growing up.

Walk us through your typical song writing process. Does your song writing follow a pattern or is every piece put together differently?

Each song starts with me sitting at my keyboard and playing random melodies that may represent a mood that I’m in at the time. Once I come up with the basic progression, ill either go and record or use some of the field recordings that I’ve recorded in the past to layer into the keys. I usually pick sounds, which I feel represent the mood that the melody is generating. From there, it’s just layering, layering and more layering. The percussion is usually done in the later stages of development as I feel it’s my weakest strength (hence I try to avoid it).

You’re just about to release an EP with Monsoonsiren (Nathan Menon). How did you two come to collaborate?

Nathan randomly contacted me on Facebook and linked me to his work. I had a quick listen and knew straight away that I wanted to write something with him. A couple of weeks later we had finished “Conversations” and decided that we should write more together. A couple of months down the line and we have written and completed a 5 track EP.

Monsoonsiren is in India and you’re in Melbourne, has the distance made working together difficult? How have you gone about it?

Not at all, the best thing I find with Nathan is that we seem to have a mutual understanding on the sounds we are trying to write. Ill write the foundations of a new song, send them over to him and within a week we have the rough copy squared away. We really didn’t stress about perfecting each verse/line. We kept it as raw and ‘from the heart’ as possible.

What’s your favourite track on the forthcoming EP and why?

Hard to say since they all offer something different. The opening track “Love Is Rare” was the first track we wrote for the EP and its one I always return to listen to. I guess it’s a favourite due to it being the most uplifting / cinematic track on there.

You’re music was used in Nathan Kaso’s “Miniature Melbourne” short film. How did that come about?

Nathan got in touch after being shown my tracks by a mate from work. He told me about the project and which track he was keen to use. Once I knew what footage he was using, I went for an adventure around Melbourne to record some fitting soundscapes. After that it was simply a case of laying in the track and syncing up the soundscapes to the footage. It was great fun!

Do you want to do more music for film?

Absolutely! I’m hoping to slowly build up a portfolio of video work that I can hopefully use to line up future projects. I think my music is better suited when you have the visual aspect present.

You’ve recently become involved with the ‘Zero Through Nine’ collective, tell us about them, your role there, and how you came to be involved.

ZTN was founded by a couple of friends who wanted to represent artists in Australia who were writing less traditional forms of electronic music. The great thing about the group is that there is no hierarchy; everyone just contributes to the one goal of releasing new and interesting music. We aim to promote new Australian music and do limited 10 and 12” vinyl pressings.

You’re studying for a PhD, what gets in the way, the music or the thesis?

It’s been tough juggling the two. Music has sat on the backburner ever since I started producing. My aim once this thesis is handed in, is to give music a bit more attention to see where it leads. If I crash and burn, I can always return to the science world with my tail between my legs.

Is the future scientific or musical for you?

Hard to say! I’m just taking each day as it comes. It’s hard to commit to one area because they are both volatile industries. Ideally I’d like to balance the two fields but I guess ill just have to wait and see what the future holds.

Other than the EP release what is next for you musically?

I’d love to develop an audio/visual show based around an ‘imaginary soundtrack’. I’m going to start deconstructing my songs into individual layers so I can construct a ‘score’ on stage. Also I’m collaborating with a local director to make a music video for “Dreams” which I’m excited about.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?

Moby – Play

What was the most recent album you’ve bought?

I picked up a few recently:

Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter

Ludovico Einaudi – In A Time Lapse

Desolate – Invisible Insurrection

Do you think you’ll ever make it to Sheffield?

I’d love to! Especially if it could be on the back of music. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the world due to the full time study. I hope to get some travel under my belt now that things are starting to wind down in the chemistry world.

The Tom Day/Monsoonsiren EP will have it’s digital release on Bandcamp, July 25th.

Tom’s website

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