Interview: Numb Tongues
These Toronto funky punkers are on the cusp of releasing their debut EP.
Toronto funk punkers Numb Tongues joined together in early 2015 when lead vocalist Jonah Grinberg created the band at the end of high school. After a series of lineup changes, the newly formed alt-rockers are currently made up of Jonah Grinberg on vocals, Corey Ryan on drums, Tristan Lipton on guitar, and Max Wilson on bass. "Luckily, this is the most stable the band has ever been," Grinberg said.
As for the name, Grinberg prefers to keep that a secret. "Some questions are best left unanswered."
The musicians take influence from a variety of sounds and styles, specifically referencing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Talking Heads and Prince.
"Our sound is very based in funk, dance music and alternative rock with elements of jazz, hip hop, ska and R&B," said Grinberg.
"It took us a while to evolve into who we are now, but it’s been a very organic process and much more solidified now that we have a core lineup."
Grinberg says the cartoon chameleon at the face of the band is representative of what Numb Tongues hopes to achieve.
"Somehow we always end up coming back to chameleons as an image theme for us," said Grinberg. "It first came from a lyric in one of our older songs that says “There’s not one cage that can keep me confined ‘cause I’m a chameleon." There’s something about their ability to adapt to their surroundings and change colours whenever need be that has always been a running theme for this band. For our last single “Same Thing”, Corey came up with the idea to split the art in two halves, day and night, and having a chameleon with an antenna separating it in the middle. Almost as if the chameleon is acting as the radio, because people are constantly listening to the radio no matter what time of day."
The band's first performance was at a Toronto bar called Jankie's Place.
"Our first show as Numb Tongues was back in 2015, so Max and Tristan hadn’t even joined the band yet," said Grinberg. "We had a bunch of our friends and some family members come out to see us, and we played the only six songs we had written at that point- ones that we don’t play live anymore. Also a cover of “All Star” by Smash Mouth as an encore."
The alt-rockers have varied backgrounds in the performing arts.
"I had been acting and singing in musical theatre since I was in elementary school, Corey’s been drumming for well over ten years and went to Rosedale School for the Arts for high school," said Grinberg. "Max has been playing in bands for years and is finishing up his last courses at Humber, Tristan has performed in several musicals- he sings in a barbershop quartet, and was in a band before ours called Trees with Tongues. Clearly, Tristan can’t get the tongues away from him."
Releasing their latest single “Same Thing”, didn't go as well as they had hoped.
"Honestly, as proud as we are of the single and the video we made, the release could’ve been planned better," said Grinberg. "It was weird because we announced the release right as everything started to close down, but we also didn’t do as good a job preparing for the release beforehand to ensure more traction, and it would’ve helped out had we also been able to play the release show we had booked. It really motivated us to make sure that our next releases will be a million times better executed. That being said, it’s still such an amazing feeling to hear people tell us how much they love “Same Thing” and we still love playing that song."
The band are close to releasing their first EP.
"We finished an EP last year that we’re going to be releasing over the coming months, and we’re also in the middle of planning some music videos," said Grinberg. "Our goal is that they'll sound and look better than anything we’ve put out so far, and that we’ll attract more eyes and ears to our music than we ever have before. We also started writing material for what will eventually become our first full-length album."
When it comes to long-term goals, Numb Tongues are focusing on holding out until the end of the pandemic, so they can get back to performing live.
"We want this pandemic to end so we can get back to playing shows," said Grinberg. "There’s nothing like the feeling of playing in front a packed room of people, and every day the pandemic is a further reminder of that. We want to tour and play shows outside of Toronto, and then eventually outside of Ontario, and then eventually outside of Canada. We’re not in it solely for the money, but eventually our dreams are to be able to make a living writing and recording songs and playing shows. It would be a dream come true to play with artists we grew up listening to."
(Postponed due to COVID-19.)