Local musician Lethargic Phoenix talks influences, lockdown and New Music Nights

Local musician Tom Huntley, known by the stage name Lethargic Phoenix, may not be the most successful act to come out of the area (he’s no Disclosure) but what he lacks in success he makes up for in quality. Building up a small but consistent body of work on Soundcloud, he’s also given a few memorable performances at New Music Nights in 2017. Now, three years later, he talks to me about life under lockdown, as well as his key musical influences. 

As sick of hearing about it (and living it), as we all are, lockdown is still affecting our lives, in most ways for the worst. But one positive is that it can do wonders for productivity. It’s no different for Huntley. “I’m working remotely on a few songs with a couple of local guys (shout out to Moody Cat records)” he says of his lockdown activity. “There’s a lot of stuff to iron out and put together but the ball is rolling.” Outside of music, he adds that he’s also working on some short stories, “for better or worse.” 

Musically, Huntley is influenced primarily by the “bold, infectious melodies” of Super Furry Animals and the “inescapable presence” of the Beatles; the former being his favourite band and the latter a ubiquitous influence which permeates almost all popular music. I can certainly hear both these influences in his folky melodies and colourful lyrics, especially in his latest track ‘Heisenberg,’ dropped on Soundcloud a few days ago. 

On the more technical production-side of things, he cites “the fusion of the electronic and the organic as practiced by Mount Kimbie” as well as “Regina Spektor’s creative vocal choices,” (the first time he heard Spektor was “a watershed moment” for him as a musician). Finally, he cites Yoni Wolf and Conor Oberest as lyrical influences – the former for his “warts-and-all honesty” and the latter for his “ability to distil universal feelings and invite the listener to consider his perspective.”

Some major moments of his career (“a loose term” he admits) have been his performances at New Music Nights, an event which showcases young and upcoming acts in the local area. The concerts are intimate, providing a platform for musicians to showcase their work to a small but appreciative local audience. Indeed, Huntley cites “positive comments” as a good “post-performance . . . barometer,” something that’s only possible for up-and-coming musicians.  

Finally, we touch on the highlights of Huntley’s musical endeavours so far. He talks about being thanked by a South African couple for doing a Rodriguez cover because it reminded them of home (“that was cool”), as well as doing a long song, ‘scribbler’s punchline,’ which, he feels, “justifies its runtime.” Indeed, despite being over eight minutes long, the song doesn’t meander or drag in the way many similar songs do; none of it feels wasted or unnecessary. 

Not everyone achieves cataclysmic success in the world of music, especially this early in life. Nonetheless, Huntley’s body of work is definitely worth a listen. “I suppose I am concerned with bridging the gaps I feel can’t be accessed outside of music, at least for me,” he says. With his work on Soundcloud, he goes a ways to achieving just that. 

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