The Pistola Press

A Philadelphia music blog

Toy Soldiers Interview

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Philadelphia’s Toy Soldiers are a unique bunch. Their music has a folky, bluesy style to it with a touch of soul. The live shows are one big celebration especially this past Saturday. The band celebrated the release of their debut album Whisper Down The Lane at The Fire. Toy Soldiers will play a handful of dates around the Philadelphia area. Ron Gallo, one of the founding members of the band, dropped by for a quick conversation.
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How did all of you come together? I know a few of you weren’t there in the beginning. How long did it take for you to become the band you are today?

The title Whisper Down the Lane is sort of symbolic of how this records and this band came to be, it was literally me seeking out friends who I had endless amounts of musical respect and trust in and just basically telling them, “come into the studio, take a listen, write parts, lay them down”.  Oddly enough it was my first time meeting some of the people in the band the day that they came into the studio. These people being Vinchelle Woods and Josiah Wise (the back-up singers).  The way I came to meet them and got them involved was through Kate Foust, who was hands down the first person that came to mind when it came to having singers.  I knew I wanted her voice all over this record and I knew she was a great writer so I asked her to do all of the backup vocal arrangements and choose her ensemble as well. Dan King was a long-time unofficial member of Toy Soldiers; our bands used to play together all the time and he would come up and take a solo on “Myself: Repeated”, so when album time came he was unquestionably the lead guitarist.  Pete Veloski, the trumpet player, had recorded on previous Toy Soldiers tracks and through both Pete and Dan we contacted Noah Skaroff to play sax.  Along with his great sax playing came this great sense of interest, enthusiasm and just downright brilliance that has made Noah a crucial member of this band.  Zach Poyatt who played the role of multi-instrumentalist on the album (mainly the keys) was a friend since sophomore year of college, our bands played together for years and I see zach as total musical genius, so he sort of pounded through every track somehow playing perfect parts in all of them.  The rest is practically history.  Garrett had always come to shows and was a great friend to all of us, he has such a vibrant personality and just brings large amounts of positivity to the table so she started banging on a tambourine, then got a baby drumset and washboard.  Tom Cladek replaced the original drummer around the time of finishing the record, he was recommended to us by a friend of Kate and Vinchelle from UArts.

Where’d the name, Toy Soldiers, come from? Did you have a fascination with the little green and green army guys?

The name toy soldiers came from a painting in the Philadelphia art museum.  There wasn’t anything particularly interesting about it but it caught my eye.  It was a painting of a kid holding some small toy soldiers and it was titled “Toy Soldiers.”  It had a ring to it so I remembered it as a good name for a band, especially a band that I didn’t think would one day become a serious thing, as we started off as a joke duo.  Then!… a few days later these two guys came into my work and told me I looked like the subject of this painting they saw at an exhibit recently, and it happened to be a different painting but it had the same title and also was a kid holding toy soldiers. The resemblance wasn’t present in the first one I saw but could see what they were saying in the second one.  For reference the painting is by Antonio Mancini.  Weird connections but that’s where it all came from.

What was the recording process like for the first record? Was it a collective writing process? Did anyone/group of people in particular help you guys out a lot?

The recording process was like a group efforted Jackson Pollock painting. Everyone came in and casted their strokes, freely and with grace.  The writing process has recently become more collaborative but for the record the songs were written in my room with a guitar or in the basement.  Sort of I would write a song, bring it to the band they’d learn it rework it and polish it then it was done.  The Fire (Derek Dorsey, Dan McShane and Dino Leonetti) made this record possible.  They lent us their space, Dino one of the sound guys there engineered and produced the record and they really made it all happen.

This past summer you spent about two weeks on the road. How was your guys first experience on the road? Anything crazy happen? I’ve heard a few stories…”jay” walking?

Our first road experience had to have been the best a first road experience could be.  It was a share of ups and downs but entirely a success.  We encountered amazing hospitality, which has probably spoiled us, great shows and responses and all around just a fun trip.  All of the downsides of the trip we’re like teases, they could have been potentially bad but we’re quickly and efficiently solved.  For example, Garrett got arrested in Lower East Side Manhattan two minutes before our set for illegally parallel parking his herd of rabid antelope (who happened to be minors) in a bus only lane.  They couldn’t tow them (obviously) so he spent a hot minute in a cell, missed the set that night, but magically appeared an hour later and went completely charge-free because of his charm and neighborliness and rubarbian team spirit.

What’s your favorite city that you played in?

I think collectively our favorite city was Burlington, VT.  Just wade through Lake Champlain and you’ll see what we mean.

Would you rather have an owl follow you around 24/7, that randomly dives and attacks you or to break your arm everyday, each day you break it a different time and way, at night it heals only for it to happen again..?

Hands down, be followed by the owl.  First because owls are vunderful goot, perdy creatures.  Secondly, I’m sure we could find a way to incorporate the “hoo’s” into a song. Thirdly, we could all use some wisdom at times.  And lastly and most importantly they will sleep the entire day away so attack would only happen at night, where due to their HUGE pinnas, if we happened to be playing the show the sound would be unbearable and we would keep them in their place with our music.

What are your plans for the next 6 months? I see that you have a good amount of shows coming up around Philly. Any plans to travel outside of the city?

The next six months will be a process of letting the album grow, just like any child.  We’re going to play as much as possible and try and weasel our way onto some really great shows.  Do Philly once or twice a month and try and spread outwards into the surrounding cities.  In January, we’re going to do a two week southern tour.  And when we return, a few of us will have graduated, so probably start working on album number two, and maintain a steady, constant growing pace because we can’t stop, won’t stop, can’t stop, won’t stop.

Listen to “When I Tripped Into You”

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Written by Colin Kerrigan

September 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I love Toy Soldiers. They sound literally like they’ve been playing together for years and Whisper Down The Lane has such a unique and honest sound that you really don’t see from many bands.
    Can’t wait for them to start touring for this album 🙂

    Geena

    May 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm

  2. Whisper Down the Lane is definitely worth the investment. This article couldn’t have pinpointed Toy Soldier’s talent better. I love how they have eight members yet, their music doesn’t seem jumbled and out of order. I really hope to seem them live at some point, because I feel like just their presence probably makes for great entertainment. Their sound is eclectic with a well contracted rock/blues/folk sound, and at the same time it is something new!

    Nat D

    May 23, 2010 at 12:36 pm

  3. […] Whisper Down the Lane, was like “a group efforted Jackson Pollock painting,” as Gallo mused at the time. The album was released in the spring of 2010. By late summer of the same year, only Gallo […]


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