Out of Tune #1: Thomas Fec

Get to know the mastermind Behind Black Moth Super Rainbow and TOBACCO

I listen to a lot of music. In any moment that I’m not in class, sleeping, or reading, I try to have music playing. As a result, I’ve listened to a lot of weird and unique artists. So, I’m starting a new series called “Out of Tune” where I’ll introduce some of those artists. I hope that introducing you to someone new and weird can make you into a fan!

This first artist will take us into the world of electronic music. His sound is characterized by heavily affected vocals, distorted drums, and sweeping synths. He rejects the term, but the only word I can really use to describe his music is psychedelic. Heavy bass lines mingle with robotic vocals and otherworldly synths as a bit crushed drum kit keeps time. As the creative force behind psych-pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, hip-hop duo Malibu Ken, and his solo work as TOBACCO, Thomas Fec’s music has wormed its way into my head, and is my newest obsession. Something about the fuzzy synths. Something about the disgusting bass riffs. Something about the groove that Fec has infused within all his music just tickles my brain.

Fec’s beginnings with Black Moth Super Rainbow

Thomas Fec was born in Pennsylvania on February 6, 1980. His first foray into the music industry came in the early 2000s through his psychedelic pop band, Black Moth Super Rainbow. Fec would continue working with BMSR until 2018, releasing a total of 8 albums. Bright and cheery synths contrasted with heavy distortion characterize BMSR’s music. Despite the weird instrumentals, a traditional pop structure and production style makes the music approachable. Their third album, Dandelion Gum, is my personal favorite, and a great starting place to jump into Fec’s work.

Black Moth Super Rainbow

Going solo

Along with Black Moth Super Rainbow, Fec has an extensive solo career under the stage name TOBACCO. The Rolling Stone called his first album, Fucked Up Friends (2008), “the best stoner rock album of the year.” This first album featured Aesop Rock, sowing the seeds for a collaboration that would come nearly 10 years later.


what makes him sound like that?

Over his career, Fec has developed a sort of signature sound. Fec’s work relies heavily on vocoded vocals and a synth sound that evokes wheels spinning up and the motors of remote controlled drones. In his work, understanding the vocals takes a back seat to the texture that the vocals provide, giving most of his music an uncanny and otherworldly feeling. Fans of the show Silicon Valley may recognize his song “Stretch Your Face,” as that song was the show’s intro theme. As a solo artist, TOBACCO has released 6 albums, with my favorites being Manic Meat and Fucked Up Friends 3.

Collaboration with Aesop Rock

In 2019, Aesop Rock and TOBACCO collaborated again, forming a hip hop duo known as Malibu Ken. Their first album– also called Malibu Ken– was described by Pitchfork as “radiating demented whimsy” and I cannot agree any more. Broadly speaking, TOBACCO’s work is characterized by a sense of playfulness. Merging this playfulness with Aesop Rock’s signature humor, wordplay, and wit proved to be a fantastic blend. The project paints the picture of a disgusting, drug-addicted, miserable man who has no hope for the world or his future. The contrast between this subject matter and the playfulness of both Aesop Rock and TOBACCO leads to a project that I would call the best that Fec has to offer. It stands out boldly from the rest of the hip hop world, and I really hope this project is not just a one-off effort from Rock and Fec.

Malibu Ken

There you have it! An introduction to one of the most intriguing sounds I’ve encountered recently. Check out TOBACCO, check out Black Moth Super Rainbow, and give Malibu Ken a listen! Linked here is a playlist to some of my favorite songs from Fec. Enjoy!

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