TV ME, piloted by Thomas McConnell, have been around for a few years now, delighting everyone who encounters their warmly melodic and trippy pop songs. Often ably assisted by Adam Dixon on bass and Frankie Tibbles on keys, their songs are pure sun-warmed trips into 60’s psychedelia, dream pop and wistful melodicism. Every song seems driven by crashing waves of nostalgia, specifically childhood memories, old computers and reconstituted pop culture, ensuring their music flows with familiarity and that warm and cosy something we know and love.
Latest release Data Was Callin’ (out now on Kaleidoscope) is McConnell fine-tuning his art of composition and atmosphere. It is a beautifully immersive and fun song that seems all shiny and new while possessing a strong link to the past; there’s something recognisable among the fresh sounds and funk groove. Frankie Tibbles, taking on lead vocals, absolutely nails the easy 70’s groove, her voice sweeping in and around the lush guitar and electronics. “Magnificent Advertisement” could have been beamed straight from 10cc at their peak, a mood and vibe perfectly captured and preserved from the ‘golden age of songwriting’.
Prior to TV ME, McConnell recorded as Tom Low releasing the EP Phone in 2016, recorded entirely on his phone. These songs were delicate and intricate with an underlying humour and lightness of touch. Most impressive was McConnell‘s creativity and originality and his ear for a catchy hook. The seeds for TV ME were being sown; melody and structure were there and the harmonious backing vocals and shimmering pallette of sounds established the sweet pop McConnell has become known for.
Following a support stint with fellow melodic popster and Mercury prize nominated composer and performer C Duncan, McConnell went back into the studio and began an intense period of composing. Teaming up with Tibbles on keys and Dixon on bass, their 2017 debut release “Peppercorn Boy” emerged on Deltasonic, a winsome and perky track about those grainy yet evocative memories of childhood. The song was instantly catchy and bittersweet, the pop sheen obscuring a deeper and more wistful quality. Airplay on BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC 6 Music followed and TV ME started to garner attention.
“Space Geno“, a brilliant slice of quaint English psych-pop, was released the same year backed with the striking “Melodica” which further enhanced their reputation as a band to take notice of. McConnell‘s songwriting was coming to the fore and his ability to consistently produce sublime pop was starting to mirror the likes of The Kinks‘ Ray Davies and XTC‘s Andy Partridge. Thanks to some additional mixing and production from Bill Ryder-Jones, “Space Geno” enjoyed a measure of mainstream success and much-deserved critical recognition.
A Broadcast from TV ME explored more conceptual territory, each track existing beside and within the other, creating a narrative whole. The EP plays as if part of a live set, each song flowing and nestling next to the other. Beatles comparisons are inevitable, certainly their late 60’s psychedelic period, as well as similarities to Irish power-pop band Pugwash. There’s a winsome, dreamy quality to opener “Stitches”, the sounds swirling with Beach Boys-like melodies. “Mountain Biplane” is as evocative as the title, instrumental “Day” features a theremin while EP standout “Opal Fruits” is a charging, spacey and trippy swirler featuring some lovely vocoder action lending a gorgeous, melodic and textured vibe to the track.
2018’s Circuits demonstrates how McConnell has mastered the fine art of creating the classic pop and gentle psychedelia of the 60s and early 70s. The musical splendour of Circuits is luxurious and so rich in effortless craft that the immersion is dizzying. Using a myriad of reference points from the 1960s and 1970s, the ‘golden age’ of songwriting, McConnell weaves fresh and fun uptempo pop songs invoking the spirit of ELO, The Beatles and 10cc. It’s just great pop music that never dulls, retaining the optimistic sheen of dreamy pop that proves just what an superb tunesmith McConnell really is.
Thomas McConnell is the master of lush and beguiling pop. With each release he further demonstrates his instinctive song-crafting skills. The songs he writes are so catchy, so warmly immersive that they stay with you, living in that happy part of your brain that renders colours brighter, sounds sweeter and life just that little bit more enjoyable. TV ME don’t so much as invite you on their kaleidoscopic journey but grab you by the hand, haul you along, laughing, glowing and spiraling a fine mist of neon-glitter. It’s an intoxicating and heady mix of sound and vision that leaves you grinning and light-headed. The world needs TV ME more now than ever.
Thomas very kindly answered some questions for The Jupiter Room and compiled an ace playlist of favourites, influences and songs from TV ME for you to listen to while you enjoy his Q&A:
You record as TV ME, what is the sound and ethos behind this?
TV ME is an attempt at all of favourite music combined. Always aiming to be catchy as well as surreal…
Do you compose quickly or do you spend hours tweaking and finessing your tunes?
I used to write quickly but these current tunes have been years in the making. Some of the demos are years old and it hasn’t always been an enjoyable process. This is partially due to changing tastes but also because of the unreliable nature of music and the people around it. After this batch is finally complete, I won’t be working this way again and will have much stricter time limits…
Tell us about your studio setup. Do you use hardware, soft synths, DAW or a combination? Does this differ to your live rig?
I currently study at Abbey Road Institute so at the moment I mostly use their setup. They have some amazing gear including a C75 desk, Neve and TG preamps, Arturia synths, Roland synths and so much more. My home setup isn’t quite Abbey Road level yet… I mostly use Logic but sometimes incorporate my Tascam cassette recorder. I have a couple of old toy Casio and Yamaha keyboards that I use quite frequently. Live is pretty much my home rig but loaded into Mainstage…
Describe your music in three words.
Imaginative, surreal, catchy
What are you listening to currently? What or who should we be checking out?
I really love BC Camplight’s album from last year. Also enjoying Billie Eilish and just stumbled upon Wooze who have a really good EP out. I had a strange realisation recently – how good is “Happy Together” by The Turtles? I know it’s hardly unknown but I’d never appreciated it…
You have a new album in the works, can you tell us about it?
I have 2 in fact. Who knows what will happen with them but there’s one that’s more song-based and one that’s more of a piece…
What’s your favourite sound?
The Beatles making any sound. Also, the first moment you hear a chorus-ing, doubling or warping of speed of an instrument or vocal.
Tell us about the mix you’ve done for The Jupiter Room.
“TV ME’s Jupibox” is a few of my all time favourites with a few new discoveries. Also, the new TV ME single just happened to fall in as well…
What’s next for TV ME?
We just released a new single, “Data Was Callin’” which was the first to feature Frankie on lead vocals so probably more singles this year…
If you could make music history, how would you do it?
Going back in time and being the fifth Beatle would have been fun…