Clap your hands say yeah for the next entry in our “Ticketfly Talent” series, which shines a spotlight on the many folks at the ‘fly who make and play music outside of work. We’ve got loads of musicians, DJs, singers, and other artists of all types who are Flyers by day and rock stars by night (though we tend to think they’re rock stars 24/7). They’re awesome, and we want the world to know.
Today we’re sitting down with Thomas Frongillo, Sales Lead Gen Specialist, as well as a music producer, songwriter, and guitarist who tours SF with his act, Blackout Make Out. Here, he explains what it means to be a “bedroom producer,” how he talks to his audience, and why he’s regularly up at 2am on school nights.
Ticketfly: So, Thomas. You’re part of a new wave of electro producers making music right from home, no fancy studio space required. What’s your creative process like and be honest, are you making music in your pajamas?
Thomas: I’m a “bedroom producer,” and I don’t own pajamas so I’ll let you work that out. Bedroom producing is a newer thing that’s come up out of professional tools being available through software so you can make professionally produced music at home. Drum machines, synthesizers, etc. are all plug-ins that I have right on my computer. I do everything from scratch: create the songs, edit them, post-production, etc. I play with different sounds and styles, and edit over and over to get clear, punchy sounds and the right levels. Here’s a funny thing about producing in your bedroom by your window—at the 0:06 mark on this track, my mic picked up the sound of a car alarm down the street.
Making music is really an obsession for me—I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12, and it doesn’t feel right when a few days have gone by and I haven’t had a guitar in my hands. I crave it. It keeps me focused and grounded. On weeknights I can focus on that, instead of going out and spending money and getting drunk. I look at doing my best work as a responsibility—I don’t want to put a bunch of crap music out into the world.
TF: You also play a lot of live shows, during which you play dual roles of DJ and musician. What’s it like using machines in front of a living, breathing audience?
Thomas: Playing live is a different mindset from playing around at home. Before a show, I arrange all the stuff I’m working on into a set that has a good flow and comes across as tight and solid. The sets are always changing because what sounds great at 2am on one Saturday doesn’t always sound good a few days later. I rehearse, usually from 1-3am on a weeknight at home. I want to know the set inside and out.
In a live show, I use a program called Ableton Live, which lets you play samples and backing tracks, so I can play guitar and sing live, but still have drum beats and other sounds that I’ve previously recorded coming through. Sometimes I have the computer speak to the crowd for me—I’ll have it say, “We are Blackout Make Out,” “Blackout Make Out loves you,” “Spend your monies at our merch booth,” haha. I never was a fan of artists stopping and telling the crowd what the song was about. I’d rather the audience create their own meanings.
TF: What influences or inspires your music?
Thomas: Everyday life and day-to-day feelings. The relationships between self and the world, relationships with the people I love. I’m an emotional person, I’ve always had that awareness. When emotions are triggered I like to put them on paper and let it manifest into something. I’ll also pick up on particular elements (a bass line, a high note) from songs I hear from all kinds of artists and I’ll want to do something with it. I also draw inspiration from what’s going on in the world, like viral videos (have you seen “My Uber’s over there” from last fall? That plays in my live set, have a listen at 2:08).
TF: How does your personal passion help you in your day job on the Ticketfly sales team?
Thomas: You deal with a lot of different people and personalities when you’re a musician. Talented people can be difficult people. Having been on stage myself, I have a perspective on all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that our venue and promoter partners have to deal with—they have a lot on their plates. I’ve learned not to be stingy with compliments and gratitude. I thank everyone who works on any of the shows I play. I treat everyone as an equal partner—I learn what they have to do, learn their names, etc. It’s all about relationships. These are all good traits for a salesman, and also for being a good co-worker to my fellow Flyers.
TF: We can’t let you go without knowing: Where did the name Blackout Make Out come from?
Thomas: This was about three years ago, and the power was going out a bunch in San Francisco at the time. It would happen at the bars, and they’d stay open by lighting the place up with candles, which was one of the coolest thing I’d ever seen. It would be totally quiet out on the streets and the bars would be pouring drinks by candlelight. Really beautiful. And that’s where the name came from. I did a big push on social media to get the word out about the launch of Blackout Make Out—and I lucked out because that name was available for every account I opened! Hopefully, people will think of me whenever the power goes out in the future.
Love music and tech? Check out careers at Ticketfly.