Published on September 13th, 2018

KING TUFF by Olivia Bee

Say their names together, and Father John Misty and King Tuff sound like a “Lord of the Rings” tribute. In fact, they’re pseudonymous singer-songwriters and Sub Pop label mates who inhabit a different artistic world than the one J.R.R. Tolkien filled with Hobbits and Orcs.

Father John Misty is the nom de plume of Josh Tillman. From 2008 until 2012 Tillman was the drummer in Fleet Foxes, after which he re-emerged on his own as Father John Misty — whose work has proved to be spacey, folkie and generally a lot of fun, with twists and turns aplenty to keep his loyal audience guessing what might happen next.

Becoming Father John Misty gave Tillman the opportunity to work on several projects at once, on his own and as a collaborator. He released “Fear Fun” in 2012 and followed that with the soundtrack to a 2013 short film, “The History of Caves,” made by his wife, Emma Elizabeth Tillman. It was around this time he also contributed to “Indicud,” a 70-minute cinematic soundscape by hip-hop omnivore Kid Cudi whose other  noteworthy collaborators included A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar and even Michael Bolton.


Not one to rest on his laurels, Father John Misty released “I Love You, Honeybear in 2015 to near-universal acclaim. His newest album, “God’s Favorite Customer,”  leads with the single, “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All,” a psych-pop anthem rendered in shades of Brian Eno — post-Roxy Music, circa “Here Come the Warm Jets.”

Tillman has also worked with Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, proving that a strong indie voice can also summon up major-chord pop greatness when called upon. Not that he expects to be asked back after telling Pitchfork last year, “If you think that pop stars are anything other than prisoners, then you are fucking kidding yourself. I know them. They are crying for help in their music.”

King Tuff, born Kyle Thomas, has said that he didn’t take all of this professional musician stuff seriously. His biography bears this out: He released his first record, “Was Dead,” in 2008 to seemingly little fanfare and decided to quit the field — unaware of the cult of adoration coalescing around his debut. Slowly and quietly, the right people were hearing King Tuff even as Kyle Thomas had moved on.

Eventually, Thomas was confronted with an artist’s dilemma: Use the unexpected interest and attention to try something completely new, or return to the well to see if there’s anything left. Thomas gave the King Tuff persona another try, and it worked. If the first album was a sleeper, the self-titled follow-up in 2012 knocked Jack White’sBlunderbuss” off the charts. Not bad for a dude who didn’t think he had it in him to stay with music. Nowadays, Thomas is celebrated for his place in a thriving musical family tree whose branches connect him to Dinosaur Jr., Witch, Ty Segall, The Go and fellow Sub Pop signees Happy Birthday — heavy hitters one and all.

2014 saw the release of “Black Moon Spell,” an acid-drenched blast of garage-punk swagger, with Segall on drums and all the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll excess one would expect from a guy named King Tuff. It’s an album that Thomas has spoken of less than fondly in retrospect. “I think I was maybe hanging onto a younger version of myself,” he told The Stranger this year. “I made the record I thought people wanted me to make.”

His new album, “The Other,” is a less bombastic affair and marks a decade of sometimes halting but undeniable progress. This onetime hawker of music on CD-Rs is now Sub Pop royalty.

So we have a King and a Father coming to town. The former will rock your pants off, steal your smokes and beers, and fog out your car. The latter will lull you into a sense of wanderlust and tranquility all at once. You can try to imagine how far-flung it will sound to have on one stage, for one night, two contributors to the collected works of Dinosaur Jr. and Beyoncé. Or you can just come out in person and hear for yourself. I mean, why not go hang with fun beardy dudes in Miami? It’s going to be a strange night of sights and sounds.

Father John Misty and special guest King Tuff perform Sept. 28 at the Fillmore Miami Beach. ~ Tim Moffatt

Clip to Evernote