I dare you to go see Tomar and the FCs and not move your body. I’m convinced that’s impossible. This musical storm raises the roof and sets it on fire, night after night on stages across Austin.
Tomar, lead vocalist for the band, and Paul Kresowik, drummer for the FCs, shared their story with me. They talked about their love of music, how the group came together, and what’s on the horizon for this sublime talent in the Austin music scene.
At any Tomar and the FCs show, crowds morph into a swaying, heart-pumping dance party. Tomar leads the willing masses into motion with boundless energy and original songs about true love, heartbreak, passion, and yearning. Austin audiences are buying it.
To quote Futurama’s Fry, “Shut up and take my money!” These 2018 Black Fret nominees exude sheer joy, showcase innate talent, and perform as though their lives depend on it.
I was late to the party. But once I caught a show, there was no turning back. It took all of three minutes to convert me into a die-hard fan of Tomar’s oh-so muscular, yet oh-so soulful vocals and the FCs’ funky beats.
The group came together in 2015. When they holed up in a Music Lab studio and played together, Austin had no idea what force of groove was about to be let loose. From the first song they played together, Tomar and the band members all felt the elusive “it.”
Luckily for us, they jumped right into writing songs and performing live.
One of seven children, Tomar Williams grew up in a household where music was a fundamental part of daily life. His meet-cute story of starting his own personal journey with music happened when he was around nine years old. His older sister sang in a band that rehearsed at the house, and one day the members left the instruments there after practicing. Tomar and his three brothers jumped in. Tomar picked up the drumsticks and started playing. “My brothers were freaking out because here I was, this kid,” Tomar says.
Keeping it in the Family
Tomar’s brothers also showed musical promise. So the boys’ father, a jazz saxophone player, thought it would be fun to form a family band. In the early days, the boys were sometimes reluctant to stop playing and go rehearse. Tomar tells of hiding in the bushes while his dad drove around in his gold station wagon, rounding the boys up to rehearse. About 30 minutes in, though, all of the Williams boys would be fully engaged. Before long, the brothers would show up early for rehearsal.
They started playing with their father around the Chitlin’ Circuit, but Mr. Williams soon realized the boys were ready to soar without him on stage. Tomar, his brothers, and eventually two of his sisters carried on as a band, Sixx A.M. Even back then, people noticed something special.
Sixx A.M. started playing at major venues in Austin like the original Antone’s, Liberty Lunch, Steamboat’s, and The Continental Club. The group opened for Austin legends, including W.C. Clark and Lou Ann Barton. Tomar attributes the band’s early success to its full-on performing, rather than merely singing their songs, injecting the showmanship he still excels at today. His dancing and storytelling is what brings songs to life.
Tomar then played with Hot Buttered Rhythm, Funky London, and other bands. Sometimes, he would juggle five different bands at the same time. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he and his brother, Salih, made a brief but successful foray into hip hop and music producing. With their Carnival Beats production company, working with Big Moe and Mike Jones, they achieved recognition on Billboard and MTV. At the end of the day, though, hip hop’s cutthroat nature was not Tomar and his brother’s vibe.
They returned to the music they grew up with, soul and funk. In 2012, they joined Latasha Lee and the Black Ties, a band with more international than local fans. Lee was already a hit on YouTube. Tomar was the music director, keyboard player, and a backup singer for Lee. Lee’s saxophone player, Nicholas Bouklas, would soon introduce Tomar to the FCs, a band that had been playing together for a few years, but hadn’t really booked any gigs.
Chemistry in a Music Lab
It’s true that Tomar met the FCs in Austin. Before drummer Paul Kresowik moved here, he was practicing in a band with bassist Mitch Fischels and keyboardist David Earl in Iowa. When Kresowik arrived in Austin, he soon lured the two other musicians to join him. About the time they moved down and started jamming again, they met guitarist Andy Tenberg at Sahara Lounge. They worked on getting their sound tight and soon started looking for a vocalist.
Cue Nicholas Bouklas, the horn player who brought Tomar and the FCs together in 2015. The band had a room at the Music Lab, and Bouklas invited Tomar to sit in, no pressure. Kresowik described the session with a bit of awe. “Right from the first song, it was clear we had found someone special with Tomar. His voice and approach perfectly suited what we were doing in the FCs. I think he felt the same way, too.”
The band members looked at Tomar with that eureka twinkle, as they finished the set. The Music Lab, serving Austin musicians since 2000, is normally so full of talented musicians obsessing over, practicing, or recording their own music that they rarely have time to notice other bands. But after the first set with the FCs, Tomar opened the door to a group of musicians standing there, demanding to know who was singing.
The FCs took these uncommon kudos in stride, but Tomar knew this was not normal. “I went home and told my wife, ‘I think this is it.’ I knew this was the one.”
Tomar and the FCs started gaining recognition almost right away. They dug in with a focus on writing good, original material. Tomar explained, “We were throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”
The band quickly put together its first EP, “Day by Day.” They booked shows at Sahara Lounge and Stay Gold. Then C-Boy’s Heart and Soul, The Continental Club, and Antone’s. Then they started what Kresowik describes as a one-year “magical residency” at The White Horse, playing before The Soul Supporters.
“We owe the White Horse a great deal, as that allowed us to hone our skills,” Tomar told me. The venue also introduced the group to the east side crowd. Things starting moving even faster, as local radio stations and papers started calling. They also started touring, hitting it hard on the weekends: heading to Houston often, and sometimes Dallas or San Antonio.
KUTX featured Tomar and the FCs as Artist of the Month in January 2017, and NPR chose the band to film a Tiny Desk Concert. Tomar told the band early on they’d play at ACL in 2016. The band laughed, but Tomar was only off by a year. They released their first full-length album, “Heart Attack,” in November 2016.
Kresowik added, “We’re finishing up the second record and working on new music. You can expect 2019 to be a year of new sounds from Tomar and the FCs.”
The group headlined River Revival Fest in New Braunfels this year. They are not simply opening doors; they are kicking them in.
Coming Soon to a Dance Floor Near You
With hard work and blinding talent, this music reminds me of childhood and my traveling days when I’d go out dancing multiple nights a week. That’s not to dismiss the band as a throwback; they are original and fresh.
Tomar knows it takes originality and perseverance to gain recognition and move forward. He laughed as he acknowledged the incredibly high bar here in Austin, “In the shadows of Stevie Ray and Willie and all the greats, you can’t move to Austin and be a slacker anymore. There are some bad cats here who’ll eat your lunch.”
To learn more about Tomar and the FCs, visit their website.
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