If you’re already over this summer’s infatuation with “Despacito,” look forward to The Tontons playing live this Saturday for the annual Heights White Linen Night along 19th Street. The Houston group, declared by Bun B “the best band in Houston,” quickly gained notoriety for their eclectic pop-rock style that made them a household name in the Houston indie scene.
Started in 2008, the group’s distinct sound takes shape as an unlikely mixture of rock, pop and even a dash of retro jazz, pushing their name outside the citys limits to put Houston on the indie map. The Tontons soon appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone, to name a few, with performances at Afropunk Brooklyn and Free Press Summer Fest under their belts.
Leader Asli Omar’s soulful and sultry vocals are as sweet as her onstage persona. It’s mesmerizing to watch her connect through dancing, swaying her waist and tracing the air with her flowing hands, giving us Billie Holiday feels. But her vocal strength doesn’t overpower talented bassist, Tom Nguyen, and brothers extraordinaire, Adam and Justin Martinez, responsible for the guitar and drums, respectively.
The band released a new single earlier this spring, rightfully titled “Lush.” The track’s playful guitar hooks with Omar’s vocals is signature Tontons, with an added layer of freshness. You can see this on an installment of Shaking Through, a web series following up-and-coming bands, that takes us into the studio with added commentary from the band and from sound engineers on the production of the single. For example, they worked to distort Martinez’s guitar—a worthwhile effort that gave their sound a new edge unseen in their previous 2014 album, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love. “Lush” sounds like the soundtrack to an odd dream without the scary monsters. It’s fun and danceable with a chill, alternative rock touch.
What I truly love about The Tontons is their ability to evolve without completely abandoning their essence. Since their first 2008 EP, Sea and Stars, the alternative rock sound, laced heavily with intricate guitar solos contrasts nicely with Omar’s ethereal voice remains their signature combination. Then, in their later 2009 self-titled debut album, they added Spanish guitar influences in tracks like “Leon” and “1816,” giving a southwest dive-bar flair while paying homage to Houston’s Latinx community.
But don't take my word for it: With the hope of a new album in the works and no other tour dates in sight, your only chance of catching them is at 7 p.m. at Southern Goods.
The Tontons at White Linen Night at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 5. More information via the Facebook event here.