Cartwheels, baby tigers and rock and roll

The Carps bring their unique music stylings to Western

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Carps

Describing The Carps’ sound is like trying to describe Prince’s style in one word. It’s John Legend’s voice paired with Death From Above 1979. It’s “punk rock on a trip, with a gun to young soul’s head.”

“[Our sound is] references to things that you know and other things you don’t, none of which really make any sense,” Jahmal Tonge, lead singer/drummer, says.

Made up of Tonge and bassist Neil White, The Carps have been raising eyebrows and turning heads with their unique, off-the-wall music.

On-stage, the pair whip out impressive multi-tasking skills. Tonge belts out soulful tunes while drumming like a mad man, as White coolly rocks the hard bass riffs and plays electro loops on a laptop.

Having only released a five-song EP, Young and Passionate Days of Carperdia, this past February, The Carps have accomplished more in a few months than most obscure bands have done in a year.

After playing at the North By Northeast Music Festival and making their first MuchMusic video appearance with “From Compton to Scarboro,” the band has been recently added to the V-Fest lineup in Toronto with The Smashing Pumpkins, The Killers and Metric. Just yesterday, The Carps marked their entry onto Western ground and rocked The Spoke for the MIT frosh.

The Carps’ funky style and on-stage R&B-rock battles are creating a buzz but Tonge remains level-headed.

“It’s odd the way everyone else sees indie bands. The guys in Tokyo Police Club were still working at Value Village right up until a few months ago. We don’t see anything grand, just another series of events. It’s only our job to write music and play it at shows wherever that may be.”

The Carps are not only reinventing punk rock but also the racial stereotypes associated with rock music in general. With Tonge being African-American and White being Sri-Lankan, the pair draws upon a host of diverse influences contributing to their distinct sound.

“Race is of prime importance to people in all sectors of the music industry. I was watching a Sean Paul interview the other day, and he himself attributes a large part of his success to the colour of his skin,” White says. “Being in The Carps has allowed me to identify the roots of the music that I love to play and that I have enjoyed growing up.”

Tonge adds, “Go to and read the message boards. Black kids love punk rock. They hate when you touch their hair. And most of us still like hip-hop and the food our mother makes.”

Infusing hip-hop into rock music is a daunting task, especially if the initiator believes “hip-hop is dead.”

“There is a form of hip-hop that exists today, but it’s not what hip-hop was,” Tonge explains. “Rock music has benefited from a solid name change here and there...stadium rock then punk to grunge, etc. Hip-hop needs to change its name. Is it right to say T.I. is on the same level, making the same music as Grandmaster Flash? Or that Jay-Z is doing the same thing as Slick Rick? You know, [rock] grew, and it needed to become something else.

“I think it’s disrespectful to call it hip-hop.... If you think what you are doing is that important, call it something else. Let’s move on and make music for the future.”

Until then, The Carps will continue their attempt at world domination " or at least continue their on-stage antics for growing crowds.

“The hardest part is handing out sparklers and other Dollarama party favours while Jahmal holds down the fort " and, oh yeah, doing the cartwheels,” White says.

Tonge adds, “We are speaking to someone from the Mumbai Zoo about baby tigers. It’s a hassle trying to get them to sharpen their teeth before shipment. I want them to be able to tear flesh right out of the box.”

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