IT’S ALIVE!: The Living Tombstone isn’t likely to be a band that you’ve heard on the radio, or through the conventional and traditional means of discovering new music. This is a project that we were tipped off about by our 11-year-old son, which makes a lot of sense.
TLT (as they are often known) initially became well-known by writing songs for fandoms of the likes of the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) video game franchise, and even My Little Pony. They would put those songs on YouTube and watch them catch fire. Then, as they realized that they had earned a fan base of their own, they created their own worlds. It’s a brilliant, fascinating and fresh approach, and TLT is now wildly popular with a young, online audience.
The Living Tombstone is Yoav Landau, a producer and composer originally from Israel who met musical partner Sam Haft shortly after relocating to the States through a mutual friend.
“We exchanged details, and with Sam it was interesting because after we started to talk, Sam and I started sharing stuff,” says Landau. “Sam sent me a really cool cover of a Radiohead song. I remember it was really impressive and cool, and basically we started to know what each other does. I think the first actual gig that we got to do for each other was me doing a remix for a movie project they were involved in.”
“At the time, Yoav was doing The Living Tombstone on his own and had been for about five years,” adds Haft. “I had been doing a comedy music project called Sam & Bill. My comedy music band got the opportunity to do music for the end credits of a pulpy horror film called Pool Party Massacre. Yoav and I had just met at this party and he did the production for the Sam & Bill song in the end credits of that film. That was the first time that we worked together on a music project.”
Haft would then provide backing vocals to a track for Landau called “Jump Up Superstar,” and that led to them writing their first song together, “My Ordinary Life.” To this day, that latter song is their most popular online.
“We worked together so well and understood each other’s creative intentions in a very instinctual way, and from then on we couldn’t stop writing together,” says Haft.
TLT effectively operate as a DIY entity, with the pair basically working full-time office hours on this.
“We treat this as a very structured full-time job, and in spite of the fact that now we have moved into the music industry formally instead of just being on YouTube, we still operate in that DIY fashion,” Haft says. “Other artists get very surprised at how much we do ourselves. We almost act like our own creative agency. It’s been a DIY operation since Day One, and that’s how we’re most comfortable working.”
It’s not easy to describe the TLT sound, by design. Landau is essentially an electronic music producer, but he’s bringing Middle Eastern folk music influences with him, plus pop and rock. The last thing they want is to be pigeon-holed, restricting what they can do later.
“Yoav’s influences are different to anyone else I’ve worked with,” says Haft. “That wide musical palette, and listening to a lot of folk music and reggae growing up, and interpreting that into electronic rock music in a way that I hadn’t heard it before we started working together. A lot of people that I’m used to writing with have the same influences that I do. They vary of course, but we’ve all been exposed to the same music. Even though our specific influences may be different, we’ve been swimming in the same lake and Yoav has not. That’s part of what makes your melodies really stand out.”
“I need to not ignore what people like nowadays,” adds Landau. “It’s more my job to notice the similarities of things that are odd, and see where that fits into what people listen to nowadays. Surprise them that way.”
The TLT song “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” about the game of the same name, saw them earn a massive amount of cool points from the online gaming community.
“The culture of the internet is about being there first, being the first one to make a meme about a thing,” says Landau. “In the case of FNAF, when I started to see people talking about it, it was easy to make a post with a song and lyrics about the game, see this thing catch fire, and then it goes on YouTube. It’s weird because it’s not mine, it’s someone else’s intellectual property, but Scott Cawthon [creator of FNAF] was super nice. He said, as long as you give some of the money to charity that should be OK. That’s what I did.”
Their experience with Hasbro after making music about My Little Pony wasn’t so pleasant, such is the giant, corporate nature of that toy company. After playing with other people’s worlds for a while, they created their own via the zero_one comic book and the In Sound Mind horror video game.
“A big question was, now that we have fans, what does fandom of us look like?” says Haft. “The way that we historically engaged in fandom has been engaging with story and characters, lore, the world, that kind of thing. We realized early on that we needed to have our own characters and our own world that were not just us. The Tombsonas, which is what we call those characters, arose out of that. They are a manifestation of screen names. They are aliases, they are masks, they are their own entities and identities.”
From the beginning, TLT has been an audio-visual project, not just audio. So their creations make complete sense. The In Sound Mind video game sees players journey through the damaged psyches of characters, and the psyches sing. That allows TLT to insert their zany music into a horror game. There are simply no limits here.
“The Living Tombstone is music first, even if we’re doing other kinds of content,” says Haft. “People are here for the music, and we’re just trying to create as big a universe or playground as possible where they can play with our music and engage with it.”
By god, that’s what they’ve done. And The Living Tombstone universe is only going to expand.
“We’re currently working with an incredible production designer and costume designer to create these AV-enabled LED-enhanced costumes for the Tombsonas, so we can actually perform live embodying this full set of characters. Going into the new year, one of the things we’re going to try and launch is this live concert experience and try to make it more than just us dancing around on stage to our music. There’s nothing wrong with that, but again it’s that idea of, we know what our fan base likes and we really just want to give them as much as we possibly can give them. That means costumes, full light show.”
“We want to make something just as involved, expressive and expansive from the stuff we make songs of,” adds Landau. “Otherwise it wouldn’t feel right.”
IT’S ALIVE!: For more information, go to instagram.com/livingtombstone.
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