Tawny Newsome and Bethany Thomas’ friendship was born in the Chicago music scene and has transcended 15 years of singing together. On October 9, 2020, they will share their debut(ish) album Material Flats with the world via Tawny’s imprint Fine Alpinist Records. Their self-described “windy, Black girl desert-punk record” was a completely DIY project, written this summer amidst protest, fire and unrest.
The pair started performing together as the backing-vocalists-for-hire for every cover / tribute / bar band in Chicago. While they backed up a lot of dudes off and on for three years, they also became formidable arrangers and honed an impossibly seamless vocal blend. Meanwhile, Bethany pursued a legit career in musical theater, headlining regional houses like Court Theater, Milwaukee Rep and Chicago Shakespeare and Tawny joined The Second City, touring the country doing sketch and improv.
2016 saw them team up again and share the spotlight on the big, eerie record Four Lost Souls with UK punk rocker Jon Langford (The Mekons, The Waco Brothers). They recorded it days after Trump had been elected with producer Norbert Putnam in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was a weird time. Now, four years later, it’s even weirder.
Material Flats was recorded and engineered in Tawny’s home studio in the Mojave desert with friends Nate Urbansky (drums) and Patrick Martin (guitar, bass, vocals on “Carry Something”). They co-produced it with Chicago mixmaster Packy Lundholm who also plays keys, effects, banjo and guitar solo on “Bubbly” and “Dinosaur (Desert Edit).” The album also features guest appearances from friends including Ted Leo, who performs vocals and guitar solo on “Carry Something.”
Making the album was a longtime dream immediately turned clear and attainable goal once Tawny and Bethany said “fuck it” and seized the opportunity to set it up for themselves. Blending garage-punk, soulfully sung folk, and influences as diverse as Talking Heads, The Pixies, Bonnie Raitt and Billy Preston, they finally made something entirely their own.
ABOUT TAWNY NEWSOME & BETHANY THOMAS
Tawny Newsome lives in LA, where she mainly works as an actor in comedies like Space Force (Netflix), and Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access) as well as appearing in Season 2 of The Twilight Zone. Her original songwriting podcast, The Supergroup (Earwolf/Stitcher) let her bridge the divide between her two loves, comedy and music. In it, she documented the process of writing and producing original tracks with musicians like Open Mike Eagle, Erick Slick (Dr. Dog), Katelyn Tarver, and comedians like Marc Evan Jackson and Sasheer Zamata.
Bethany Thomas hustles in Chicago where she’s been seen at Steppenwolf, The Second City, and the legendary Green Mill, or somewhere fronting a David Bowie tribute band, doing a Gershwin opera, dueting with alt-country gem Robbie Fulks, or playing Billie Holiday at a midwestern dinner theater. Her solo EP First and debut full-length album BT/She/Her are varied, genre shifting works that have captivated the Chicago indie scene.