has a sound,
one can add
‘From Indian Lakes’ to it,
which sits front row,
It’s a sunny day in New York and from reportage from family and friends in Los Angeles, where Tohm Ifergan, drummer for the band, From Indian Lakes is, it’s an even hotter day. While he’s enjoying a morning, I’m enjoying an afternoon, and it is between these two time zones that we speak about coffee and its intersection in his life as a musician as the new Absent Sounds album released on October 7th.
As the album for me is a journey into the somewhere of things, I found that, that place is indeed within, way within. So, I approach my interview with Tohm this way, seeking for a little more intimacy into the process and method of two of his crafts.
C: May I start with the obvious. Did you have coffee this morning?
T: I did have coffee. While I was waiting [for you] a pour-over, washed from Ethiopia.
C: So you make coffee at home?
T: I’m naturally a barista. When I’m home, I’m working at Portola Coffee.
C: Oh, oh, what a pleasant revealing. This changes the whole game. There’s a lot for us to talk about
T: Yes, I play drums for the band. And, the band sells Portola Coffee while on the road. We started doing that this year. We have our own labels that say this coffee is From Indian Lakes. It’s a series of single origins I personally chose. It’s been really positive and great for Portola to have their product nationwide.
C: And, in such a wonderful context such as music.
T: Being musicians who are on the road we drink a lot of coffee so having access to great coffee is important.
C: Do you make coffee for your band mates while you’re on the road?
T: I bring a lot of stuff with me. He laughs. It used to be just me really into coffee. I taught my band mate Chris Kellogg how to do manual brewing, he’s into it, but not as intense as I am.
C: What do you have?
T: We got a couple of pour-over setups, a V60, a kettle, an industrial grinder and a cold brew system. I’ll do a batch of cold brew overnight. I shoot for 12 hours but when traveling, its hard to do it, our tour manager will be like, ‘lets go,’ and I’m like I just need an hour or more for this coffee.
C: What does a band do on the road to make good coffee?
T: When we were on tour with Anberlin, the drummer Nate, he’s huge on coffee, and they had an awesome tour bus and outlets, so we did pour overs there, hung out and made coffee.
When you’re in the tour life, well, most musicians love coffee, at least one guy in every band loves coffee. It’s as a good as having a great meal.
C: Ah, a thought just came up, it makes me think of the Parisian croissant, its so good and just nothing like it.
T: Yea. And, as a consumer before being a barista, it can get expensive. You’re going to spend $4-$5. And, I thought, I should just bring my gear and make on the road – for everyone.
C: Do you visit other coffee shops while you’re on the road?T: Oh yea, we still go to shops. We’ll let them know we’re into coffee and show them what we have and they’ll trade with us. I don’t know if my band mates know this but I keep all the wrappers.
C: They do now. Ha! How do you decide what becomes part of the offerings that From Indian Lakes provides?
T: Cost is a factor. I also want to make sure the coffee is approachable, accessible and really awesome. I want to showcase different regions and their coffees. Coffee is seasonal, so if we just got a great in season coffee, we would cup them and push for it and Portola is awesome about making coffee available for us.
C: Is there a type of coffee you prefer?
T: Ethiopian coffees are my favorite, they are forward, bright and colorful and super tasty. African coffees coupled with Brazilians and Bolivians are nice.
C: Are you cupping the coffees as well?
T: Yes, I cup for the brand. Our bags are plain and simple. Some fans arenot super hardcore about it. We’ll tell the region, how it’s processed and how that affects coffee and some fans will geek out with me.
C: Do you have a default coffee order?
T: I work with a lot of Ethiopians. I’m not Ethiopian’d out, but I like to try whatever is in harvest. I’m usually going for a pour over. If at a coffee shop while on the road, the last thing I want is a pour over. I really crave drinks like a cortado, cappuccino or a flat white.
C: I love flat whites. And, the proportions matter!
T: Yes. Sometimes I’m made fun of because I’ll watch the barista, how he steams milk, how he pours so that I can get a vibe from him. I’m not judging at all, but it helps me to know what to order, since I only have one chance to get something at this shop; cortado, Gibraltar, macchiato or an espresso, I love an espresso. The rest of the guys I’d say their go-to is cold brew, its highly caffeinated, smooth and tasty.
C: Speaking of smooth, the sounds on this record Absent Sounds, can we talk about it? Its quiet, persistent and contemplative, I feel like I’m on a slow journey, building up to an adventure inward. Can you talk about where the sound comes from?
T: There are five of us, Joey Vannuchi writes and records pretty much of everything. Its difficult to speculate but growing up in Yosemite Valley and on a 40 acre house with the field, all he had was his music and the woods, so being there in Indian Lakes was a big inspiration for him scenically and sonically.
You can tell from the writing, like you said, I feel that, I feel more of like he’s coming into his own and he’s being taking away from the woods and into the real world and we see how its affecting him.
C: Since he’s writing the music, how do you achieve playing someone else’s music while making being in the band still personal for you?
T: A lot of people assume every band is the same and that it’s a judicial process, like herem here, There’s Joey, Rick and Justin who grew up in the Yosemite area. And, Chris and I joined later, he’s from L.A. and I’m from Chicago.
C: For me this made a lot of sense. Joey is so talented. When I hear how he’s writing and what he’s thinking it compliments what he’s writing so perfectly. I think that’s what makes music better. We get inspiration from him. We’ll be in the studio like a producer and director and help him realize it with guitar lines and percussion.
I want to make the best music possible and Joey allows us to have that.
C: How did you know this band was a right fit for you – was it like dialing in espresso? He laughs.
T: Its funny to say. When you’re in a band its a relationship with four other people, it’s a chemistry and how you work together. It made natural sense to be part of it. Everyday that we play for people, its exhilarating and the music comes to life, its those moments you work for and those connections with the fans that you want.
C: Competition season is coming for coffee culture. Does coffee and music play together for you.?
T: Funny. A barista was recently debating if to have music or not in his competition music. It was a whimsical and classical tune and I listened to him talk and it was uplifting, the music had a big part of that. I think that music and coffee, they’ve always been connected in so many ways being part of the coffee shops and the experience. When I think about music creatively, it’s totally evolving.
I think with coffee and music, you get that first sip, that first reaction – that first reaction of a song but the best part of it is when you continue to drink the cup, the flavors and complexities. You get an appreciation for the craft of that song – that cup that coffee. Coffee and music are always evolving and theres different genres of music, but not so much with coffee. People are trying to find new ways to experience music and I think coffee is the same. Personally I couldn’t go a day without either.
C: When you’re in the coffee shop, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
I like rap and hip-hop which is now part of the shop at Portola. Music creates mood and I tend to strive – it’s sad and cliché – to dive in with like Bon Iver. Its the isolation and allowing a person to be with their coffee that I like, coffee is social and personal.
C: Indeed it is. In the early mornings, those type of sounds allow me to go in, and music like yours allow me to go way out, out in the fields somewhere, and I know that’s where I’m going to find something, I don’t always know exactly what it is, but that’s the fun part, the journey. Lastly, what can you share about the idea of coffee and craft.
T: Craft in any field is storytelling. Whether you’re making hummus you want the best tahini and chickpeas. The goal is to have higher conversations about what we love. Ultimately as long as I’m making someone happy and if they think that’s hipster, well then hey cool. But for so long people didn’t realize coffee was a cherry, a fruit. And for so long the world has been drinking a cooked flavor. Now, that roasting lighter is occurring, people are like whoa, what is this?
C: Ahhh and that’s the key. The revolution is taste. It’s a slow process of changing the world.
T: True. He laughs. And, now, I have to go make coffee.
Or, did he mean, change the world?