Few album covers capture a sound as well as King Tuff did on his self-titled disc in May: A demonic bat clutches a Gibson guitar in one claw, a wizard’s wand in the other, with “King Tuff” scrawled across the creature’s chest in a font that merges “Puff, the Magic Dragon” with The Dark Crystal.
Which is all to say, it’s good, old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll as performed by your lovable stoner cousin.
King Tuff is the brainchild of Kyle Thomas, who’s been involved in a handful of projects over the past half decade, including Happy Birthday, Feathers and Witch (which also featured Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis). Only in the last few years has Thomas fully dedicated himself to his solo work.
“King Tuff is the thing I’ve done all along, even since I was a teenager,” he said. “Those other projects have been fun, but I would always come back to it. I’m focusing on this from now on.”
In 2008, Thomas released Was Dead, King Tuff’s proper debut, and he followed that this summer with a stellar, self-titled record that beat the dreaded sophomore slump.
“It has a quality that none of my other recordings have ever quite achieved,” he said. “The main difference was working with a producer, as opposed to recording everything myself. It added more stress and torture … but I guess it was worth it.”
For the disc, Thomas expanded upon the more garage-heavy Was Dead, going from scuzzy, lo-fi ditties to pure rock anthems.
“It’s been a long time between the two albums and my style has definitely grown,” Thomas said. “I can’t say what the sound will be in the future, but for me, it’s all about songwriting. As long as it’s a good song, I’ll play and record it.”
Next year, Thomas plans to record a third album, although it may not hit shelves until 2013’s end. Until then, he’ll enjoy his victory lap.
“I knew it was a solid album,” he said. “You just make the best thing you can and hope people don’t tear you apart too bad.”