Toenut was a 1990s alternative rock and roll band, based in Atlanta, GA and signed to the Mute Records label. The band churned out three records, the last under the new name of "Tyro", and toured the US and UK between 1995-2000. A handful of music videos were also produced, several directed by the indie-legend Norwood Cheek.
The story begins back in the summer of 1991. Skipper Hartley moved from the Computer Science and mathematics program at Emory University to a short-term position in a research laboratory in Naples, Italy. In Atlanta, Hartley and fellow guitarist Richie Edelson had planted the seeds of the 'Nut in the moist confines of a rehearsal cubicle. By the following January, they were working Atlanta clubs with a slow-morphing line-up that included Katie Walters singing timidly offstage and the notorious Elephants Gerald tweaking a battery of tape recorders and Dictaphones, a bricolage of gear that hardly suggested the sampler stylings that would become the band's trademark. Hartley's old bandmate Chris Collins was shipped in from Columbia, South Carolina, to play bass, and several drummers came and went. Toenut broke onto the Atlanta music scene and college radio rotations, and established a reputation of interesting and innovative music-making. The Point, a small music venue in Little Five Points, became their main stamping ground.
In 1993, a ragtag iteration of Toenut straggled into Clint Steele's Atlanta studio to record their first single, "Heyward"/"Information," released on the wee Half Baked Records. By then, the band had such a rabid following in the Southeast that national attention was imminent. The 7" landed on the plate of ruthless indie starmaker Kramer, who invited the band to his Noise New Jersey studio to make a full-length demo. At Noise, the band met their production svengali, Steve Watson, who helped hone the Toenut sound and has continued to work with them through the recording of their debut LP.
In the summer of 1994, Mute Records got their paws on Steve's handiwork and began the feverish pursuit of Toenut for their roster. But the band had become something of an indie Alan Parsons Project, with a swirl of personnel. Although semi-temp sideman Jeff Sullivan, whose day job was Drivin N Cryin, kept the beat on all the band's studio projects prior to their signing, the Toenut camp continued to search for a full-time drummer. Adroit stickman Colin English (the band's sixth drummer) emerged from the Atlanta scene and answered the call, joining just in time for the Mute signing. With a few modifications, the demo from Noise New Jersey was released by Mute in the summer of '95 as the debut LP, Information. In-the-know US periodical, Alternative Press, described it this way: "..riveting, broken rhythm structures and urgent exploratory songs, the savvy quintet make a big noise on their debut album."
CMJ charts, MTV spins, international exposure, and a spattering of singles followed. Most notable among them was "Danger! Humans Approach," which was recorded at the modern-day Muscle Shoals Easley Studios. The track found a coveted spot in John Peel's legendary BBC rotation. Influential UK magazine NME also responded: "Toenut should be your worst nightmare; instead, they're a dream come true."
After resigning his post as Operations Manager with Spoleto Festival, former high school mate Eric Holowacz joined the band as multi-media stage producer and cigar-chomping manager. A small office was established in Midtown Atlanta, and touring activity covered the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast between 1995-1997. Tour support and musical escapades ensued, usually with fellow-Southerners, Man or Astro-man?. During this time, in support of 'Information' Holowacz created a concert-length stage show which utilized two 16mm film projections and two 35mm still slide projections simultaneously.
Toenut's second cd, 'Two in the Piñata', followed as the next Mute release. It represented a maturation as songwriters and continued the production ethic of dual-guitar assault, samples and electronic flourishes, with a layer of enchantment provided by Walters' vocals. Sadly, 'piñata' also became a souvenir of the band's recent loss. On April 5, 1997, bassist Chris Collins was killed in an automobile accident as he drove to a show in Athens, Georgia. Chris' many friends have lost a brother and a musician of indescribable merit. 'Two in the Piñata' is Chris' last recording and, in many ways, the most complete statement of his bottomless creativity, inventiveness, and complex sense of humor. He was proud of this record.
Following that tragedy, Toenut changed its name to tyro and released 'Audiocards' which ventured fully into production wizardry and the complex musical patters of the Hartley-Walters collaboration. This time also marked a departure for Toenut members, as Edelson and English joined forces with Man or Astro-man? and ran off to join their circus. Holowacz moved to the South Carolina coast to become executive director of the Arts Council of Beaufort County, and now lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand. Hartley and Walters, now married, continue to make music in Atlanta. Edelson is based in Los Angeles, where he works in the music and video production industry.
- Toenut Information Mute Records 1995
- Toenut Two in the Piñata Mute Records 1997
- Tyro Audiocards Mute Records 2000