|Birth name||Toby Driver|
|Born||29 September 1978|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, graphic artist|
|Instruments||Guitar, bass guitar, double bass, keyboards, clarinet, cello, percussion, vocals, various|
|Associated acts||maudlin of the Well, Kayo Dot, Spoonion, Tartar Lamb, Gregor Samsa, Secret Chiefs 3, Vaura|
Driver creates the majority of the album artwork associated with these bands, performs the majority of the lead vocals, and has written and arranged most of the music for both bands. Although several members of motW continued on when the band dissolved and reformed as Kayo Dot, Driver is the only remaining member of the original line-up of maudlin of the Well who is still active with Kayo Dot.
Biography and early work
Toby Driver was born in 1978, in Meriden, Connecticut and currently resides in New York City. During his high school years, he recorded several albums under the moniker "Spoonion" using tape recorders and a karaoke machine. He later released his favorite cuts of these albums online as collections.
He attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where he formed the band maudlin of the Well, and where they recorded their debut album. During this time, he also studied under composer and jazz legend, Yusef Lateef.
Style and musicianship
As evident in the bands and projects to which Driver has contributed, he generally utilizes unconventional styles of song-writing and song structure. Many songs he writes use odd time signatures, range from ten to twenty minutes in length, divert from typical riff-based structure, and employ elements of many musical genres outside of traditional rock and heavy metal, often shifting between these styles within the same song. Songs often incorporate musical qualities suited to styles as diverse as death metal, minimalism, chamber music, post-rock and jazz, while seldom completely conforming to any one specific genre. Driver has repeatedly denied any connection of his music to jazz, minimalism or improv. His work is strictly composed and rehearsed thoroughly, and the songs seldom see any changes after being recorded.
Driver’s vocals are accordingly diverse in range and style. Driver uses a normal singing voice, screams, shouts, occasionally uses death vocals (not to be confused with band member Jason Byron who contributes vocals in early motW also), as well as occasionally singing falsetto and using spoken word (see Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye and Hubardo for an example of all the styles listed above).
A multi-instrumentalist, Toby Driver is credited on various albums as playing the following instruments:
- guitar (acoustic and electric)
- 12-string guitar
- baritone guitar
- double bass
- various keyboards including piano, organ and synthesizer
- laptop mellotron
Driver was a founding member of maudlin of the Well in 1996. They disbanded in 2003, and Driver went on to form Kayo Dot that same year, using the songs for what would have been motW’s fourth album for Kayo Dot’s first album, Choirs of the Eye. Kayo Dot has since experienced various line-up changes, with Driver remaining a core member. In 2009, due to fan requests and contributions, Driver, along with Terran Olson who was also still playing with Kayo Dot, reformed maudlin of the Well to record the digital album Part the Second, reuniting with guitarists Greg Massi, Josh Seipp-Williams, and drummer Sam Gutterman. The album contained five newly released songs, some of which were composed—partially at least—in the early days of the band (as far back as 1997), with lyrics co-written by Jason Byron and Toby Driver.
Driver has also released an official solo album on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records label, and has appeared as a guest musician and/or vocalist on several other projects. He also formed the side project Tartar Lamb with Mia Matsumiya in 2007, which was expanded into Tartar Lamb II (featuring other members of Kayo Dot, along with composer and clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman in 2010. He currently records and tours actively with Kayo Dot, and very occasionally plays shows with Tartar Lamb. In rare occurrences he also plays live shows as a solo act, with different band line-ups.
Driver also currently plays bass in experimental metal band Vaura, who released their debut album Selenelion, in 2012 through Wierd Records and their second album, The Missing, in 2013 via Profound Lore Records.
In addition, since 2009, Driver has been regularly touring and recording as the bassist for Trey Spruance's band, Secret Chiefs 3 (a spin-off of the band Mr. Bungle), and appears on SC3's 2013 album, Book of Souls: Folio A.
In 2012, Driver launched a kickstarter.com campaign to fund a new composition to accompany a dance film. Tentatively entitled Ichneumonidae, the piece is performed by a small ensemble that includes Secret Chiefs 3 and Estradasphere violinist, Timba Harris, and percussionist Russell Greenberg, who also appeared on Kayo Dot's Stained Glass. Ichneumonidae's audio portion has been completed, although the film to accompany it is still forthcoming. The film's release is expected by spring 2014.
Driver has also recorded with Asva, Tusk, and Gregor Samsa, has remixed for Pyramids, Candiria, and Bloody Panda, has recently recorded a soundtrack for a short film entitled The Pod (directed by Eric Pennycoff), and regularly performs around New York City with local musicians.
As Spoonion 1
- Community of Sinners
- Chiffon Gob
- Acoustic Sex
- According to the Law
- Dreaming Winter Awake
As Spoonion 2
- On the Thoughts and Principles of Dragons
- A Tree and Its Fruit
- Space Music
- How to Find God
- Opposition Day
- The Secret Violence of Poison
With maudlin of the Well
- Through Languid Veins (demo, 1996)
- Begat of the Haunted Oak: An Acorn (demo, 1997)
- Odes to Darksome Spring (demo, 1997)
- For My Wife (demo, 1998)
- My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible (1999)
- Bath (2001)
- Leaving Your Body Map (2001)
- The Secret Song (single, 2001)
- Part the Second (2009)
With Kayo Dot
- Choirs of the Eye (2003)
- Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue (2006)
- Don’t Touch Dead Animals (2006) (split LP with Bloody Panda)
- Blue Lambency Downward (2008)
- Champions of Sound 2008 (2009) (split double 7" with Pelican, Stove Bredsky, and Zozobra)
- Toying With The Insanities Vol. 1 (2009) (Candiria Remix album)
- Coyote (2010)
- Stained Glass EP (2010)
- Gamma Knife (2012)
- Hubardo (2013)
- Coffins on Io (2014)
- In the L..L..Library Loft (2005)
- The Pod OST (2013)
- Ichneumonidae (2014)
With Tartar Lamb
- 60 Metonymies (2007)
With Tartar Lamb II
- Polyimage of Known Exits (2011)
- Selenelion (2012)
- The Missing (2013)
- Tusk – The Resisting Dreamer (2007) (vocals)
- Gregor Samsa – Rest (2007) (clarinet, guitar)
- Pyramids – Pyramids (2008) (remix of “The Echo of Something Lovely”)
- Gregor Samsa - Over Air (2009) (clarinet, vibraphone)
- Asva - Presence of Absences (2011) (vocals)
- Bloody Panda - Summon: Invocation (2011) (remix of "Hashira")
- Official Kayo Dot website.
- Toby Driver's solo works and blog.
- MySpace page of Kayo Dot.
- Myspace site of Toby Driver.
- Interview with Toby Driver, January 2009, on SputnikMusic.com
- Interview with Toby Driver on indieworkshop.com
- Interview with Toby Driver on UrbanGuitar.com
- Interview with Toby Driver on Prog-Sphere.com