Speak Into My Good Eye

Breaking Rad: Totoake…Mysterious Guitar Wizardry From A Bedroom In Santa Cruz

Chris Rotolo December 16, 2013 Breaking Rad, Features No Comments


A few weeks back there was a mysterious e-mail that appeared in my inbox from an artist named Totoake.  It was different from the flood that normally fills my storage system, not fit to a cookie-cutter template purchased by a public relations company, but short, simple, and embedded with a soundcloud link leading to a page as sparsely-detailed as the introductory correspondence…my interest was piqued.

The page included a pair of singles freshly uploaded and displayed only days prior and while spinning the first of these compositions, “Anyways (Ladada)”, the warm wave of sultry psychedelia that rolled through my speakers and washed over the bit of Pop-Rock presented was more than intriguing.

Thus, a trek through the limitless interwebs was in order to churn up more on Totoake and the soothing tendencies conjured by his fret-board manipulations.  With the six-string maestro’s second single “Warm Sunny Day” as my soundtrack I had officially  returned with NOTHING!!! Nothing but a scant Impose Magazine piece that left more questions than answers.  It was impressive really; to remain an enigmatic artist of interest during the internet age is unheard of…which is why I was forced to reach out on behalf of SIMGE to unearth the story of Totoake.

Behind the stage moniker Totoake is a Santa Cruz, CA-based axe wielder named Elisha Kim.  With a virgin slate waiting to be filled, I left the door open for this artist to be as false or accurate in his backstory as he deemed fit.  He chose the route of honesty over the creation myth, a respectable decision indeed.

From childhood, this now 20-year old recording artist was drawn to the electric guitar, to the rock-band lifestyle, which struck Kim as “mystical and appealing.”  With the heart of a rock-star beating within him, he was ultimately shoved unwillingly toward classical training, eight years of classical guitar lessons to be precise.

“Though I continued the lessons, I grew a certain disdain for all things classical,” explained Totoake via email, “which is about the time when I bought my first electric guitar. The electric guitar, for me, has always carried a sense of freedom and rebellion. I would escape into my room to play for hours, countless times until the wee hours of the morning, ending up going to sleep at 5 a.m. and still going to school the next morning.”

Though the thought of dabbling in classical music turned his stomach, the true turning point in Totoake’s tale came when Kim found the Blues.

“When I discovered the Blues that my life honestly changed.  I can still remember the first track I listened to that shaped the way I think about music now, and it was “Boom! Boom!” by John Lee Hooker. The blues to me just epitomized this idea of freedom; freedom of speech and soul and expression; this idea and/or notion that you didn’t have to just play a certain piece or movement note for note the entire way through. That the song could be different each time you played it; that you, as an artist, had the ability and the creative responsibility to add your own personal flare and touch upon each song you played.”

“After that it was game over. I would spend basically the next two years of my life listening to old Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters tunes. Basically all things blues. This lent a hand in catalyzing my songwriting. I just wanted something to have that was purely mine. I think I grew tired of playing other people’s songs and the idea of writing my own seemed very possible but still very euphoric to me.”

Delirious from self-inflcited sleep deprivation and engulfed by a swell of triumph, Totoake emerged from his inaugural, life-affirming, writing session with a prideful piece of minimalist sun-bathed Indie-Rock and the confidence to pursue more of it.

“I think minimalism is a subconscious effort. Sometimes when you add too much, it muddies up the water and keeps the listener from hearing what’s important…the basis and emotion of the song. I take it as my responsibility to add only what I need and nothing else, and there’s something very honest about that.”

Currently Kim is prepping a debut EP titled Metaphysique, which both of the songs above will be included upon, as well as his latest release, “Make It Work”, which you can stream below. Stay tuned for more on Totoake.

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About The Author

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May of 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in both Journalism/Professional Writing and Communication Studies. He's held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet’s Arts & Entertainment section as well as Consequence of Sound (http://consequenceofsound.net).

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