Centre Stage: Tom Sheldon Trio


Reuben Virk interviews Tom Sheldon, Will Jones and Riko Puusepp of the Tom Sheldon Trio about everything from Battle of the Bands to new music

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Image by Luke Snell

By Reuben Virk

Muse - Firstly, the vague question: Could you introduce yourselves and maybe give us some context about your band and your experience at Battle of the Bands?
Tom - So my name’s Tom, our band is called the Tom Sheldon TRIO (very on the nose), formed in January/February time. It was not really for any specific goal, although Battle of the Bands was coming up, so we thought “let’s just go for it”. It was more us really enjoying playing with each other and wanting to explore it more.
Will - I’m Will, and we all knew each other beforehand through BandSoc. I am the drummer and Riko is the bassist, and then Tom plays guitar and sings for us!

Muse - How did you go about diving into the music scene at the University of York specifically?
Will - I just turned up to one of the BandSoc events. I think it was the first ‘Meet and Jam’, just because I knew I wanted to play in a band. That’s where I met Riko and we started up a conversation.
Riko - Yeah, it was a really busy one. So this is my third year now, so I’ve been to plenty of ‘Meet and Jams’ and ‘Battle of the Bands’ with BandSoc before, and it was by far the busiest this year, it was insane, you had to be there on the dot if you wanted a slot! It’s a lot easier to play now because people have their own established bands. You can just go around to someone and ask “Hey, can I play with you?”, it can be quite hectic but worth it. I had met Tom beforehand, but none of us played together until we were all together, earlier in January/February time.

Muse - Do you have any advice for those looking to do the same i.e. starting a band at University?
Tom - Just play, play, play as much as possible with whoever you can play with, and it will help you figure out what kind of styles you like playing with, what kind of musicians you work well with, and what instruments you really enjoy playing. Don’t limit yourself to one instrument. For example, if you play a bit of bass and a bit of drums, try to join a band for each. Just get yourself as involved as possible, come to as many ‘Meet and Jams’ as possible, immerse yourself with as much music as you can.

Muse - As a rock band, we’d like to know, what’s your favourite thing about performing rock music?
Riko - It’s the energy. It is as simple as that really! My favourite thing is Will Jones on the drums personally. Nothing makes me smile more and lose time as much as this guy playing drums because I just get lost in it.
Tom - Yeah it is easy to get intrigued by what Will is cooking up on the drums!
Riko - I am also in another funk band called ‘Gents and Ginger’ and both bands are different in terms of energy  and what we bring, but with rock it is just so much fun. You can jump around, have a good time, be silly with it and the crowd loves it. That is the thing about rock, it is all about the energy and the passion!

Muse - Have you written any original songs? If so, what does the song writing/producing process look like for you guys?
Will - As far as writing for the TRIO goes, it is just a group effort. Tom will usually come up with a riff, and we will sort of go from there, workshop it and see what bassline and beats work. At the moment we get most of our ideas from jamming, that is our process, seeing what sticks!
Tom - What I find helps me the most when writing tracks for the TRIO is having an initial idea that I make a demo for, putting in a template bassline or drums, to get a feel for what the song sounds like, then I’ll show it to Rico and Will and ask their opinions. They will let me know what they like or do not like, and then they can make the parts their own. It is nice to see an evolution between the demo that I come up with, and what the final product is. It really is amazing because I get their creative input, and it is really rewarding to see us put it all together. It is really exciting that each member can put their own unique spin on things. That is what is so exciting about playing with other live musicians.

Muse - For Battle of the Bands, how do you choose your setlist?
Tom - Good question. I always think in terms of energy levels, thinking “How can I change the energy of the set throughout, to make each song as effective as possible?” My general rule of the thumb is: the first two songs always have to be absolutely fiery and exciting, almost like we’re exploding onto the stage, it really gets the crowd going. You can then start to bring it down a little bit, the middle of the set is where you can have more relaxing, chilled out music, everyone is now happy and enjoying it. What you can do during the lull - the lowest energy point of the set, usually the middle of the set – is you can slide in something completely unexpected, perhaps a new song - just something crazy - because it gets people to think “What’s this? What’s happening?”. Once you’ve reached that point you can just keep building it up, and then you pick the songs that are really well-received to finish on. They are always so rewarding to play. ‘Good Times Never Last’ and ‘Sins’ are our current go-to for finishing sets, we all love the outro of the ‘Sins’ - it gets a wild reaction from the crowd.

Muse - Linking to the previous question, what’s each of your favourite songs to perform live and why?
Tom - Such a good question! I am going to have to say ‘Don’t Help’ is my all-time favourite to perform, usually the opener for our set. The energy is there and the verse sections are always tight and it just feels natural now. It gets us all very hyped!
Will - I have to agree. I think it might even beat ‘Good Times’ which I have a solo in. It is definitely up there but I think I prefer the outro to ‘Don’t Help’, it feels like a drum break anyway!
Riko - I like ‘Sins’ because it is quite different, with the chromatic stuff, it has a great groove to it, and the ending always puts a smile on my face. These are all out on our Spotify page Tom Sheldon Trio if you wanted to listen!

Muse - For those of us wanting to get into the rock genre a bit more, who would you say are your greatest inspirations for your band’s musical sound?
Riko - Cover-wise we have done Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath and the Queens of the Stone Age. We all listen to music like this. Recently we have been listening to The Extreme, a cool funk-rock band from the 80s and 90s.
Tom - I would say my main influence at the moment is Marcus King, he is really fantastic. His first three albums have incredible guitar playing on them, mixing together jazz and rock with some other stuff. It is the direction I have been wanting to take with my playing. Playing jazz music can be a bit scary due to its complexity, but I am taking more inspiration from it recently.
Riko - Back when I was getting into the grips of learning the guitar, Yngwie Malmsteen really pushed me, more metal, neo-classical genre. I was also such a Metallica head, I always have been and still am!
Will - Being a drummer, definitely Led Zeppelin. I have also come to the realisation that I play a lot of grooves, and Bonham, just everything really! That is because when I first started drumming and getting into rock music, I started with Zeppelin. I think we are all inspired a lot by Hendrix.
Tom - I think our main ones are: Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Marcus King and Eric Gayles.

Muse - Two broad questions to finish up. Firstly, what is your opinion on the music scene in York as a city, gig wise?
Riko - I love it so much. I have been in York for three years now, so I have seen bits and bobs here and there, but there are some really cool, niche bands out there, whether part of BandSoc or not, there is just such a wide range of genres despite how small the city is. You can find the heaviest death metal, or the folk, jazzy stuff. York really replenishes those who are into a wide range of genres, there is such a variety.
Will - In terms of the music scene, it is quite divided because different venues create their own unique vibes. You can find somewhere small and jazz-inspired, and there are so many small venues that it is quite easy to find what you like. I do really love it. [The] Fulford Arms is definitely a go-to.
Tom - Yeah, [The] Fulford Arms, The Crescent, Micklegate Social, there is always so much to do, and so many opportunities to play. Everyone in York is so inclusive and supportive, I have never seen a band discourage any venue, or just in general not being loving and helpful. It really does make all the difference.

Muse - Finally, what’s next for the band?
Tom - We have about six or seven gigs coming up in the next couple of months, three of which will be in York, and then some other cities - notably Scarborough on May 4 - which we are very excited for. We have another single coming out soon called ‘One More Day’ which we are thrilled about, so keep an eye out on our social media for that. You can find us @TomSheldonTrio on all social media platforms and Spotify. Our next gig in York is on April 29 with Ghostship, Trent and the Crickets and ROBO at The Fulford Arms which we are really excited for, it will be a fantastic evening. There is more stuff in the works, but we are not going to give anything away just yet!