Fresh off a four-show stint at CMJ earlier this month, Houston-based band The Tontons is generating plenty of buzz with a sound that manages to be both high-energy and sultry — the latter vibes coming straight from Asli Omar, the band's frontwoman. Omar and bandmates Tom Nguyen and Justin and Adam Martinez have been playing together since 2007, crafting their own unique blend of infectious, soulful pop-rock. The quartet makes a stop in the District tomorrow night for a free show at P.O.V. at the W Hotel. We snagged a few minutes with Omar to talk about the band, her icons, and how she manages to look so amazing even after spending hours in a tour van.
CMJ is always a crazy week for bands. How was your experience in NYC this time?
"I can't speak for the band, but I went to college in Brooklyn at Pratt, [so] going to New York is a lot like going home. Having said that, CMJ is a bit surreal. It's this sub-world of amazing talent that you feel privileged to be a part of. We played four times this year, and all of the shows were a lot of fun."
How would you describe The Tontons' sound to someone who hasn't heard it before?
"We have never really set out to have a particular sound. So, we usually just tell people to listen to our music and decide for themselves. [Editor's note: You can do that here.]
How did you all come together as a group?
"It was a really organic process. Houston has a really small music scene, especially when we first got together, and we all just kind of found each other."
We really dig your style! How would you describe your fashion sense?
"Eclectic. I have the luxury of getting to travel a lot and that's a heavy influence. I buy a lot of pieces on the road and really have an ever-changing sense of style, depending on where I am and the climate. Overall, I feel it's important to be true to who you are. The one truth, no matter where you go, is that confidence is key."
"I always pack basics and go to thrift stores for the more artistic pieces. When you have to pack one small suitcase for the month, you learn that versatile looks are key. On our first tour, I packed way too much. Every day, you are in the van for hours, playing in different venues, and you can only do limited laundry with almost no dry cleaning. Black, cotton, and/or denim are your best options. Sometimes you find new favorites on the road, and sometimes you lose your favorites on the road. I once lost a entire suitcase with all my favorite clothes on tour. Never again."
Your hair and skin are amazing. How do you stick to a beauty routine when you're on the road?
"Water! Also, it takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete a good skin regimen and I do it religiously. I've done it in gas stations at 3:00 a.m. before. Hair is trickier — you have to know the limits of your hair. I went extreme once and shaved my head bald and started from scratch. When all else fails, embrace head wraps and hats. Because some days, that's your best option."
Best beauty secret you've picked up while traveling/recording/performing?
"Explore every city you visit. The best finds are where you least expect them. Take time to relax. Travel is very stressful, so just let go when you can. Don't try to impress anyone when you are recording. Sweatpants are acceptable."
Any icons you look to for inspiration, both musically and stylistically?
"Musically, any female singer who is honest inspires me. It can be a hard industry for women who hold true to themselves. As far as style is concerned, I would have to say my mom. I still wear a lot of her clothes on and off the road. She traveled a lot, so she bought durable, fashionable clothes that still work for me. Some things are worth the investment."
Is this your first time in Washington?
"It's not our first time visiting D.C., but it is our first time playing [here]. We're really excited. We've heard lots of great things about P.O.V."
Are you doing anything interesting while you're here, other than your show?
"Honestly, D.C. is such an interesting city that it seems almost impossible to avoid doing something cool there. We're just really excited about seeing the city again. Got any recommendations?"
What's next for you guys?
"We've got a couple weeks of tour left to get home. Once home, we are playing Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin with some of our favorite musicians...should be a good time. We just released a new single and are getting ready to release a new album. [This] has been a busy year, but a very fun one."
See The Tontons play at P.O.V. at the W Hotel tomorrow, October 22, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free; RSVP via email.