Jordan Dunn-Pilz and Daniel Alvarez are TOLEDO. Literally. Two lives united in one creative process, void of ego and fixation to personal identity and agenda. Two young men in their mid-twenties living in Brooklyn, Jordan and Daniel have been best friends since they were eleven years old. They have grown together, shifted, stretched together, literally and in an emotional sense. Two voices that were destined for each other, fated to create beauty and elegance in song, TOLEDO colors lo-fi majesty on seemingly everything they touch. From the palpable feel on the track – even the little glitches in the rhythm – everything fits in its place, and the boys just let it be. On their new EP, Jockeys of Love they have forged timeless yet modern interpretations of indie pop-music euphoria.
Glide was very excited to catch up with Jordan and Daniel and talk about the EP, their brand new recording studio, what they’ve been listening to and much, much more..
I’ve really enjoyed digging into your music recently. I feel like I heard of you guys a while back but never tuned in. Really loving everything you’ve been putting out.
Daniel: Maybe you were familiar with the rapper from Mexico who’s also named Toledo? That’s our big competition.
That could have been it. I did go through a Mexican rap phase back in the day (both laugh)
Jordan: That’s the next EP.
Do you guys record at home? Tell me about your recording process..
Jordan: We recently set up our studio to be a little more legit. In the past, we’ve done a varying degree of different things. We would record remotely, renting a cabin for a week or two. Making Jockeys of Love we were landlocked because of quarantine so we recorded it at Dan’s family home, in their attic.
Where was that?
Daniel: Newburyport, Massachusetts, where we are both from. We met there when we were eleven and eventually TOLEDO became a thing. Not when we were eleven but after a million other bands.
When did you guys start playing music together?
Daniel: Right away. Essentially we met busking on the streets. When we were young we recorded a bunch of stuff that never saw the light of day. Thank god. The amount of recorded material we have made the past ten years is ridiculous. Maybe one day we will release some demos from when we were fourteen. They’re all trash.
Ah, I bet they’re cool. Songwriter Joshua Thomas played me a recording of Adrianne Lenker and him when she was 16. Oh my god, It was so good. It’s kind of fucked up.
Jordan: Yeah that’s the thing! Our demos on GarageBand don’t sound like Alex G’s demos. They sound like fourteen-year-olds doing Jason Mraz music.
Daniel: I met Adrianne – she went to Berkeley and I also went to Berkeley (music school) – she’s a little older than me. She had the same guitar teacher that I did, this woman Abbey, who was amazing. Abbey brought Adrianne in one day to do a workshop. It was cool to sit down with Abbey and her and talk about the process Adrianne went through at Berkeley, playing classical guitar with a teacher that I also had, which was cool. Abbey also taught St. Vincent.
Something in your music that really sticks out to me is this simple and melodic guitar throughout. Dog Has Its Day feels like a song I grew up listening to, a song from my childhood.
Daniel: That’s one of my favorite compliments we’ve ever gotten.
Tell me about Dog Has Its Day.
Daniel: We honestly were kind of shocked at first that this was the song that got a huge amount of plays and support. The process was very much around impulse. That’s one thing that Jordan and I do quite well, we’re a lot better when we’re doing something in a day. Focusing on it all day and finishing it. It’s funny, we’re just riffing on genres on Dog Has Its Day, we were riffing on Blake Mills and Kurt Vile. It became this thing that people really like now, which is cool.
It’s rare to hear a band like TOLEDO that has a delivery so natural with great melodies and feel. So many people are trying to make lo-fi melodic rock but there’s no feel in it, no heart.
Jordan: The whole EP we just had a drum kit and guitar. Dan was playing drums and I was playing guitar and that’s kind of funny because Dan’s not good at drums and I’m not good at guitar. (both laugh) But it’s nice because we were just thinking about the song, the structure, the story, and the melody.
Daniel: We’re literally being cliche because we don’t know how to play our instruments.
I love that.
Daniel: We’ve done so many recordings where we’ve been like, “we need to go to a studio and get a professional drummer,” and it never has the same feel.
That totally resonates with me.
Daniel: Recording-wise – I know that was your initial question – we had a mobile set up in my parent’s attic during the pandemic. Everything was stuffed into a tiny room. I borrowed a drum kit and we had barely any mics. Now we’re back in New York in Bushwick and we got a duplex apartment. We have the whole downstairs area as a studio. Right now we’re sitting in the control room and we set up a pseudo live room. We’ve done in the past three days.
Jordan: We’re trying to keep the same energy of impulsiveness, Dan and I having fun and fooling around, but with better equipment.
That’s so exciting! Congrats. You guys live together?
That’s awesome. I’m sure it comes with its challenges but that’s the dream to live and co-habitat with your creative partner.
Jordan: It is sweet. Talking about Adrianne Lenker, I was listening to Big Thief’s Song Exploder session, and she was talking about James (drummer), saying that they are so in tune with each other because they go on runs together and their rhythms are synced up. Dan, I certainly don’t go on runs together.
Daniel: We drink together. (Tommy laughs)
Jordan: We gravitate towards the same tempos and stuff because we spend so much time together since we were 11.
How old are you guys now?
Daniel: 25 and 26.
That’s a good run. TOLEDO’s music feels very therapeutic and calming. I’m wondering is it therapeutic for you guys to play?
Daniel: I think the writing process for us is very therapeutic. The thing we care about and prioritize the most is usually the writing. One of the big things for us writing-wise are the moments where we are together and I’m writing music and Jordan is writing lyrics. Those moments become very meditative. After that, I have a tendency – once a project is released – that I can’t listen to it anymore.
Jordan: The nice thing is that once a song is out in the world it feels like I’ve had that conversation I need to have or got a feeling off my chest. If we didn’t write songs about a break up I might still be pent up about it.
Daniel: That’s kind of the way we communicate with each other in a weird way. We’re not usually sitting down and being like, how did this break up make you feel? It’s usually Jordan writing lyrics to a song and me being able to interpret them and then understand the situation in that way.
Jordan: And there’s a beautiful thing… watching a song become a part of somebody else’s life and they’re interpretation of it. You don’t feel so alone in your processes and your thoughts.
Daniel: We’ll have a song that is heavily about something Jordan is going through and I feel like I am able to pull things from the song, and then be able to relate them to my life. Since we spend almost everyday together we are sharing a lot of the same experiences. One of the things we’ve always talked about with TOLEDO was that TOLEDO is one entity. We try to do that with production, a lot of the singing we just double each other instead of traditional doubling yourself. More like I’ll sing it and Jordan will try and mimic my voice or vise versa.
I love that. I love when a vocal just feels thicker. That is very cool.
Jordan: It’s cool for us. It takes any sense of ego out of it. It becomes more about serving the melody. We do that a lot, find ways to simplify things, and make sure people are getting the rhythm and the melody.
Daniel: When you listen to an Adrianne Lenker album, I am thinking wow, this is not a double vocal. I love her voice, it’s so beautiful. Sometimes people say that stuff to us which is nice, but I more want them to say, I love the vibe, it’s a cool vibe.
Jordan: I’m excited to find ways to have people say, “I love the vibe and I love their voices.” (all laugh)
You guys have already achieved that. Jockeys of Love has the vibe, it has the melody and the potent lyrics. It’s all there. I love the contrast between “Needer” and “You Won’t.” Tell me about “You Wont.”
Jordan: That was a voice memo. There was a guitar part from like six months ago. Sometimes we’ll fish through voice memos and find a guitar part or melody and try to bring it back.
Daniel: That was literally the case on the whole EP. It’s Alive was based off a chorus from a shoegaze song we wrote. Sunday Funday’s riff was based on a voice memo of an out-of-tune piano. You Won’t was a big one of those and I feel like it was our proudest production on the EP.
It’s truly a brilliant album and I’m super excited for TOLEDO and your future as recording and touring artists.
What’s in your tape deck?
Jordan: We’ve very recently started collecting records. We just got Mac Demarco’s This Old Dog.
That’s a great record.
Daniel: It’s so good. We’ll get records that we know and love. We also go through the dollar bins and get cool finds like the greatest country hits of the ’70s or something. We put the record on and speed it up. We’ll literally have a whole night where we listen to sped-up country albums from the ’60s and ’70s. I honestly think that’s going to be one of the big inspirations for our new stuff.
Photo by James Lynch