Band Spotlight: Tom Angst

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Jonah Hunter, Sal Bruno, Danielle McConaghy, and Pearson Parham of Tom Angst. Will Crooks/Greenville Journal

Band: Tom Angst
Formed: Early 2017
From: Greenville
Members: Danielle McConaghy (vocals, guitar), Pearson Parham (guitar), Jonah Hunter (bass), and Sal Bruno (drums)
What they sound like: Shimmering, beguilingly melodic guitar pop with a deceptively bright sound, given the often-dark lyrical content. Think Hospitality or Frankie Cosmos, or go all the way back to The Sundays or Stereolab.
Who they like: Daddy’s Beemer, Wallpaper, Apricot Blush

Tom Angst is a great example of how theft can sometimes work out. The band formed when singer-songwriter Danielle McConaghy got tired of doing solo acoustic love songs and decided she wanted to front a band. Luckily, there was one handy, a group called Quality Time that featured guitarist Pearson Parham, bassist Jonah Hunter, and drummer Sal Bruno.

So she kind of just took them, and made a new band called Tom Angst.

“Jonah and I date, so he was my obvious choice for bass player,” McConaghy says. “Pearson and I were in choir together, and he immediately said he could play guitar. I said I still needed a drummer, and Sal said he would play for both Quality Time and our band.”

And was she worried at all about mixing a rock band with her largely acoustic songs?

“Maybe a bit,” she says, “but I didn’t care, to an extent. I just knew that I wanted to be doing more than I was doing.”

“It wasn’t much of a gamble for us,” Parham says. “We liked her songs already, and we wanted to try it out.”

Their first show was, essentially, opening for themselves, with Tom Angst taking the stage before a Quality Time gig. Playing their early shows at places like the Pablo house-show venue in Clemson and Radio Room in Greenville, the band garnered enough of a reaction that they largely learned how to be a band onstage, rather than in rehearsal.

“A lot of the tone of the band got where it needed to be because of that,” Parham says. “We ended up having a lot of shows, and I think that doing that, and practicing, helped us figure out where we needed more drive or something different.”

Tom Angst was able to pull people to its shows almost immediately, something that McConaghy says she wasn’t expecting, but she can pinpoint some possible reasons why.

“I was definitely surprised, but we had a really good support system of other musicians and places like Pablo and the Radio Room,” she says. “It made me think that maybe this could be something for real.”

She also thinks that the band’s deceptively bright, beguiling music draws people in, whether or not they’re aware of some of the heavier themes of songs like “Suicide Sucks.”

“With some of the subjects I cover, if I were to try to fit the songs with the context, it would be too much of a bummer,” she says. “I like the fact that it’s there if you want it but if you don’t, you can still hang out and have a good time. I want to talk about my feelings, but people can take what they want from it.”

Parham echoes her sentiment when he says that audiences respond to the directness of a Tom Angst performance.

“I feel like there are a lot of bands out there who have gimmicks or see someone put on a big show and they try to be like that,” he says. “But I think that Tom Angst tries to be more genuine, like we’re hanging out and expressing what we need to express yourself. The music is genuine like that and we have something to talk about.”

The band has done some limited touring around the state, but members are happy to be part of a resurgent music scene in the Upstate, despite the counsel that some older bands on the scene have given them.

“We’ve had people who have been here awhile tell us stuff like, ‘Let me give you some advice: Get the heck out of Greenville!’” Parham says with a laugh. “And we’re like, ‘What? No!’”

Wednesday, July 11, 1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect the correct band name Quality Time. The original article stated the name was Quality Control. The Journal regrets the error.  

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