Best known as TOBACCO, Thomas Fec is a a Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, and throughout his two decade-plus music career, Fec has used analog synthesizers and tape machines to create a boundary-pushing sound that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement and pleasure as the frontman and creative mastermind of Black Moth Super Rainbow, as a solo artist and through his production work.
2016 saw the release of Fec’s fourth TOBACCO album Sweatbox Dynasty — and since then the JOVM mainstay has been incredibly busy. TOBACCO reconvened Black Moth Super Rainbow to write and record gauzy 2018’s Panic Blooms, which was supported with tours with The Stargazer Lilies and Nine Inch Nails. Last year, Fec produced The Stargazer Lilies’ abrasive and trippy Occabot — and he collaborated with Aesop Rock in Malibu Ken, a project that released their critically applauded debut album. Additionally, TOBACCO penned the theme song to HBO’s Silicon Valley.
Earlier this year, the JOVM mainstay released his first batch of solo material since Sweatbox Dynasty, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch which featured Fec’s woozy and scuzzy take on Eric Carmen‘s Franke Previte and John DeNicola co-written smash hit “Hungry Eyes.” But as it turned out, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch may have been a bit of a preview of the JOVM mainstay’s forthcoming full-length Hot Wet & Sassy.
Slated for an October 30, 2020 release through Ghostly International, Hot Wet & Sassy reportedly oozes with anti-love, self-hate and disappointment in others — while further refining the pop impulses that have underpinned his unique sound — blown out, bass, fuzzy analog synths, drum machines and Fec’s analog gurgle and hiss. “I feel like it’s the most I’ve been able to refine what I’m doing,” says Fec. “For the past decade I’ve had this motherfxcker on my shoulder that makes me pick away at structure and melody. Purposely covering up moments because I can. That really came to a peak on Sweatbox. So I wanted the opposite this time. Write the songs without ripping them in half. I went from ‘what would the Butthole Surfers do?’ to ‘what would Cyndi Lauper do?’”
Last month, I wrote about Hot Wet & Sassy‘s second single, “Babysitter,” a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails’ mastermind and fellow Pennsylvanian Trent Reznor — and the song was a deranged and unsettling lurch between a menacingly saccharine bridge and what sounds like someone gleefully running a rusty manual lawnmower through someone’s carpet: hot hi-hats and thumping toms battle against scorching synths and gurgling and bubbling hiss and distortion paired with some of the most accessible, pop-leaning hooks of Fec’s career. “This was new for me, but I wanted to write a song that was everything I am and have been, and then like one notch further. Trent was the notch further,” adds Fec.
“Jinmenken,” Hot Wet & Sassy‘s latest single is a slow-burning and atmospheric Quiet Storm-like ballad of sorts, featuring glistening and twinkling synth arpeggios, bouncy beats, and Fec’s vocoder’ed vocals. Somewhat downcast and woozy, the track is centered around what may arguably be some of the JOVM mainstay’s most earnest songwriting of his lengthy — and often very weird — career. To my ears, the track seems to mischievously nod at 80s synth pop ballads. “It’s me trying to write a Jets song,” Fec says.
The official visualizer is prototypical Tobacco: surreal, hilarious, creepy and dystopian — and in a way that feels familiar.