Indie Mixtape 20: King Tuff Is One With Nature On ‘Smalltown Stardust’

When seeking inspiration for his sixth album Smalltown Stardust, King Tuff — aka musician Kyle Thomas — turned to nature. But not like how Björk just made an entire album dedicated to mushrooms. Rather, Thomas looked to the spiritual side of nature. “If you were to ask me what my religion is I would say three things: Music, Art, and Nature. Those are the things I’ve dedicated my life to and which bring me the purest of joy,” he says.

The influence of the outdoors is more than tangible on the surface of Smalltown Stardust — just take album titles like the opener “Love Letters To Plants” or “Pebbles In A Stream.” But the inspiration also runs deep; the music evokes images of blizzards, lush mountaintops, and the distinct forlorn feeling that comes with a rainy day. Each song is mystical and entrancing, perfect for a meditative walk through the woods or as means of escaping a city’s concrete jungle.

To celebrate the upcoming release of Smalltown Stardust, Thomas sits down with Uproxx to talk sleeping in a treehouse, wearing capes, and Stevie Wonder in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Watermelony, gnomish, maple-like, chompable.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

As a jolly fellow who’s music brought joy to many and whom also had an unquenchable thirst for orange juice.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

I played in Athens Greece once and it blew my dang mind. You can’t turn a dang corner without bumping into something ancient. There were all these fat and lazy street dogs lounging about everywhere, they were everybody’s dogs, that’s why they were so fat because everyone was constantly feeding them. So I played a show amidst all this ancient sh*t for all these legendary dogs and a couple really nice people too.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Probably my dad, for turning me onto Hendrix at a young age, then taking me to punk and metal shows as a teen, and just being my biggest fan and supporter in general.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

I’d like to combine parts of all my favorite meals into one meal… steak from Brazil, ice cream from France, bagels from Montreal, tomatoes from New Jersey, and my mom’s stuffed cabbage.

What album do you know every word to?

Every Beatles album and Green Day’s Dookie.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

Too many! Bob Dylan on his most recent tour, AC/DC at Dodger Stadium, The Strokes at Pearl Street in September 2001, Sun Ra Arkestra led by Marshall Allen… I could go on.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

Capes. I can’t explain it, but I feel so free when I wear a cape.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

I just love that Ringo Starr takes weird pictures of his feet and puts them on IG.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

“Pomp And Circumstance.”

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Types of arched doorways.

What album makes for the perfect gift?

Probably Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder. He’s just the best there ever was. He’s the top for me. If you don’t like Stevie, I’m sorry, there’s probably something really wrong with you.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

On-time I slept in a very small treehouse meant for a child, not a 6-foot-tall man. My feet were comically dangling out of the little doorway all night.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

My favorite tattoo is a tiny outline in green of the state of Vermont on my middle finger.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?

Pretty much anything without autotune, sorry I’m old.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Given me a hug when I really needed it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

I never had a lot of confidence in my looks so I would tell myself that I’m actually hot as hell.

What’s the last show you went to?

Rough Francis absolutely ripped on New Year’s Eve.

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

Jerry McGuire.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

I can almost play “Auld Lang Syne” on the saxophone.

Smalltown Stardust is out 1/27 via Sub Pop. Pre-order it here.