Tono and The Finance Company
Characters can be people who stand out from the crowd, or symbols of writing systems. They can be found in the pages of comic books and on the screens of Cartoon Network-addicted children with absent parents and televisions for babysitters. They can also be found in almost every one of Anthonie Tonnons’ songs.
Going under the musical moniker of Tono, the ex-Dunedin musician crafts songs full of lyrical tales containing people and situations that seem familiar, yet turned fantastical and captivating through the literate and witty scope of his lexicon and imagery. Whether attesting to the transformative power of the very real Marion Bates in “Marion Bates Realty”, or the relationship problems of a hypothetical Susan with her shitty hypothetical boyfriend, Tono weaves a lyrical journey that’s not only easy to identify with and care about, but is refreshing for a country where not forgetting our roots is apparently the most important thing we could be told all summer.
And this penchant for effective story writing isn’t an accident. According to Tono, who describes himself as a “very conscious person”, he usually has a plan and works hard at an idea until it is fully realised and fully acceptable to his own scrutiny. “I love hearing phrases and lines in songs that I have never heard in music before. When Julian Casablancas [of The Strokes] sang ‘meet me in the bathroom/that’s what she said’ I was so amazed, I had never heard a statement like that in a song before. That’s what I try and do with my songs”. His debut album, Up Here For Dancing, is full of such statements and lines. My favourite concerns the difficulty of the removal of skinny jeans in certain romantic situations: “You have to pull at the ankles darling/it won’t happen if you’re in a rush”, something I think many people can attest to.
Tono may be based in Auckland, but Dunedin is still definitely home for this up-and-coming artist, who recently opened for international act Beirut in Auckland and Wellington, describing it as “the place I first fell in love, where I had my first fights” and where he first started writing music. Amazingly though, his last headlining show in Dunedin was two years ago at Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers. And while some of New Zealand’s musical acts are finding it difficult for a variety of reasons to include Dunedin in their national tours, securing a Dunedin date on his album release tour, which also includes Whangnui, Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, was very important to him. “After our last show [in Dunedin] I didn’t want to have another proper gig until the live show had evolved into something I can be really proud of, and I had the ability to put on an amazing show.”
This amazing show is his headlining gig at new venue The National on May 5, and features not only Tono but recent Flying Nun signees from Christchurch T54, the reuniting local favourites Brown, and a debut performance from Baby Brother, all presented by Radio One. Now shorn of guitar-playing responsibilities on the live front, Tono has taken on the mantle of sauntering and swooning front man, mic in hand and love on the lips, in a persona that has been described as “cross between Morissey and shy Jarvis Cocker meets Nick Cave”, and what is assured to weave and create a magical evening for all lucky enough to experience it.
But what’s next for the man who has captivated the land with his magnificent prose? As the refrain to the eponymous track on his magnificent album states over and over until the end, “America, America”. With the talent he possesses, I think Tono may be able to sing his way over there and into their hearts sooner rather than later, but until then it’s “Down Here For Dancing” and come May 5, dance we shall.