By: Gracie Roberts
Tom Holroyd, also known as Comic Strips, is an electro house producer hailing from Pittsburgh, PA. At the tender age of nineteen, with his performance debut in the not-so-distant past, he’s already making his mark on the EDM community. Comic Strips bombards dance floors with sounds that are distinct, edgy, and jam-packed full of energy. Holroyd has caught the attention of multiple music blogs around the country, jumping into Hype Machine’s Top 10 chart with his remix of Skrillex’s “Ruffneck Bass” only three days after posting it online. With his deep dedication to his music, Comic Strips will continue to rise up in the electronic music scene.
Gracie Roberts, contributor for The Untz, was able to ask Tom a few questions about his experience as an up-and-coming producer. With plans for an extensive tour in November and two new EPs being released, Comic Strips couldn’t wait to get the word out about his plans for the future.
Gracie Roberts: After debuting at the young age of nineteen, how does it feel to be gaining attention at such a fast pace?
Tom Holroyd: I’m not going to lie...it’s been pretty surreal. It’s weird to reflect on what I was doing last year and think about how far the Comic Strips project has come in just one year.
GR: For anyone that hasn’t discovered you yet, how would you describe the sound of your music? What makes it special to you?
TH: To me, it is dance music with a hefty dose of bass. My main goal for my tunes is to make people move while never ceasing to keep things interesting. I keep it predominately electro house, however, I believe it’s a good thing to maintain a diverse portfolio. Thus, I dabble in dubstep and downtempo beats. I find it essential to have some variation in sets, which is a big reason I play around with those other genres. That way, I can have my original material at varied tempos, rather than having to remix other artist’s tracks. I am really into keeping my sets 90% of my own content.
GR: Comic Strips is a catchy, yet simple artist name. What’s the story behind it?
TH: That’s a pretty simple story as well! Back in the day, when I was sixteen or seventeen, I became a huge a fan of electro house music. I was looking up to the likes of MSTRKRFT, Justice, Crooker, Boyz Noize, etc. My good friend and I began DJing electro house tunes, and we played at local house parties and basements. As I got more interested in it, he became less interested, leading to the inevitable ‘break-up’ of our DJ duo. Because I was so devoted to continue producing music, I consulted with my friend about a name for my new solo project. We batted around names for a while, and suddenly, I looked to the left of my computer and a stack of comics were next to me. I said, “What about Comic Strips?” We both liked it, and so the name stuck from there.
GR: How has coming out of Pittsburgh, a city with a more low-key electronic music scene than others, affected the production and distribution of your music?
TH: As far as production, it hasn’t really affected me at all. I have never really had any local artists to look up to here and gain inspiration from, and because of that, I’m one of the few EDM producers in a city full of DJs. I have mainly found my inspiration through blogs, my previous musical endeavors and my eclectic musical taste. Since Pittsburgh is such a small city in comparison to others, it was really easy to become known locally and get the initial opening support for shows. I have been lucky enough to share the stage with MSTRKRFT, Excision, Pretty Lights, Wolfgang Gartner, Desinger Drugs, Lucky Date and more in the one year I’ve been pursuing Comic Strips. Additionally, I scored a spot at Pittsburgh’s Dayglow and played in front of a 6000-person audience—a huge highlight of the year. If I lived in L.A. or New York, it would have been a lot more difficult for me to get my name out. So, overall, I’m really grateful to be doing this out of Pittsburgh.
GR: What was your musical background like while growing up? Did you have any advanced knowledge of a specific instrument?
TH: I have been playing guitar for about six years now. I started out like most—I bought a guitar when I was thirteen, started a ‘band’ and thought I was going to be a rock star by sixteen. Also, I will always remember my love for playing the recorder during the 2nd grade.
GR: You have two new EP’s coming out soon. What can fans expect from these? How do they compare to your first EP, That’s My Sh!!?
TH: They are actually totally different from That’s My Sh!!. A big reason for that is because the way I produce has changed in some big ways. Around the time I produced That’s My Sh!!, I feel like I didn’t focus enough attention on mixing my tunes. Now, I have learned the value in taking my time and building a quality product. I spent a long time on both EPs, carefully mixing and mastering them, and always focusing intensely on the details and subtleties. I believe both EPs sound more developed and have a higher quality sound. One of my new EPs, Party Zone, actually just came out on the 14th on Bazooka Records (home to Zedd, Spencer & Hill, Far Too Loud, and Porter Robinson) via Beatport.
I’m really excited about Party Zone. The first track, “Party Zone”, features old school disco samples that dance around gritty bass lines. The second track, “TurboViolet”, is an interesting mixture between heavy bass and upbeat chord progressions. It got instant support from Spencer & Hill, which I was really stoked to see. Can’t wait to see how this EP develops and spreads!
GR: I hear that you have recently confirmed an Australian tour through Vamp Records coming up in November. What are you most looking forward to during this tour?
TH: Yep! I’m really excited about this tour - once again, it’s another one of those surreal things that I can’t believe is happening. I have five things I am looking forward to, which I’ll list out.
1: I’m excited to actually be able to play in clubs and not worry about being kicked out after my set due to my age. 2: I hear Australian crowds are rowdy as hell. 3: I have been chatting it up with a lot of people from down there, and it’s going to be nice to finally get to meet them. 4: It will be my first time out of the country. 5: Last, but not least, it will be my first tour ever...so why not do it in a place I have always wanted to go?
GR: Music festivals are extremely popular events for the electronic music community. Are there any specific festivals that you dream of performing at in the future?
TH: I would love to play at EDC, Ultra, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Cream Fields in Australia and Pukklepop in Belgium.
GR: Which DJs/producers have inspired you in your own music production? Who has been a musical ‘idol’ for you?
TH: The root of all of it is MSTRKRFT. They were the first electro house group I really got into and also the first electro house DJ set I was able to see live. So those cats are definitely my number one. Other names include The Bloody Beetroots, Justice, Far Too Loud, Designer Drugs, among many more.
GR: A few of your remixes have gained massive popularity, such as Skrillex’s “Ruffneck Bass” and Cosmic Sand’s “Back to the Moonlight Sonata”. What inspired you to remix these tracks, and how do they compare to your original material?
TH: For the Skrillex remix, it was sort of a product of boredom, but I also wanted to have “Ruffneck Bass” in my set but have my own twist on it. To be honest, I wasn’t even going to release it, but once I finished it, I was super happy with the result and couldn’t resist. For the Cosmic Sand remix, it was an official remix, meaning I was sought out by the label and asked to remix the track. I am a huge fan of Beethoven and classical music in general, so remixing “Back to the Moonlight Sonata” was really fun for me. Compared to original material, I always like producing originals better because they’re built up from scratch, but remixing a song I really like is a blast. It’s definitely a nice change of pace.
GR: Where do you see yourself ten years from now, and what steps do you need to take to get there?
TH: Wow, ten years from now means I’ll be 29! Hopefully by then, I will have gained some serious ground in the scene and become quite well known in the EDM community. There are so many different avenues one can take with music, from film scores and video game soundtracks to being a mastering engineer. I would love to see myself go down a path dabbling in the mastering side of music. As far as the steps needed to get there, I suppose I just need to keep on doing my thing with the same vigor I have these days!
GR: Do you have any advice for other young, aspiring electronic music producers out there?
TH: I remember when I started to get into producing. I was really into reading interviews from popular producers/DJs. In one interview, the artist was asked a similar question, and he said something like, “It’s important to work every angle of DJing as hard as you can, whether it’s producing, promoting, networking, or selling merch. Give it all 100% and don’t skimp on anything”. I definitely took those words to heart and have tried my best to put them into action. In my own words, producing is a lot of work and is a serious commitment. Have patience and refine your skills in the studio, soak in all the information you can about producing, performing, and promotion. Get familiar with every direction this scene has to offer. If you are making a good product and putting in 100%, all the great perks of this music scene will come in time.
The functionality you are trying to use is for members only. Would you like to sign in?