How to Dress Well previews new music at The Independent

How-To-Dress-Well2Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Mike Frash

“Call Your Mom!” became a phrase of humorous repetition throughout the How To Dress Well show at The Independent August 26 — And it wasn’t Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well, who was yelling it.

Krell made the unfortunate mistake of admitting he forgot to call his Mom the day prior for her birthday due to the stresses of touring. This disclosure led to a semi-mob response as the crowd demanded that Krell call his Mom mid-show. All this is from a guy that croons “Dear Momma didn’t you tell me everything was gonna be right” in the song “When I Was In Trouble” — he clearly felt guilty.

And one female audience member kept coming back to the funny hook as she yelled “Call your Mom!!!” at opportune moments another half dozen times. Krell smiled each time it was bellowed, so it’s possible the gal giving Tom shit was a close acquaintance. The rowdy lady in the audience proclaimed one other word throughout the show: “Minna!”


Minna Choi helped Krell produce the strings for his most recent album Total Loss, and for the second time she was performing live piano for How To Dress Well.

Krell usually defers to a fully electronic backing for concerts, save for his striking two-microphone singing. His right mic has a clean, true sound, while his left mic projects a heavy echo effect — and Krell has mastered the back and forth timing between his one and two mic, allowing him to replicate processed studio sounds in a live environment. Aaron Read controlled the electronics per usual while adding live violin and synthesizer play.

How To Dress Well’s biggest hit, “& It Was U”, was mashed up by Minna’s layering of “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby as a keyboard melody. (You know, the Tupac “Changes” song.) How To Dress Well’s addition of live instrumentals is a welcome move — something Krell hopefully will evolve once his looming second LP is released.

One of the most noteworthy qualities of Tom Krell as a lead presence is his ability to bounce back and forth between engaged, spontaneous crowd banter and the way he falls into a trance while performing, channeling pain and projecting his inner passions without distraction. The only other contemporary performer that pulls off this “Jekyll & Hyde,” bipolar mastery is Jessie Ware.


There is most definitely loads of heartache in Krell’s lyrics — the set ender “Set It Right” includes a lengthy list of family and friends whom have passed on. Between songs that often include huge bass-wall drops, Krell seems happy, smiling and radiating positivity. But Krell can also get a bit serious (and honest) during his mid-song banter, as he did with the first new song of the night “Let You Know”. Tom said, “This song is about feeling a lot of pain from the past, and trying to reckon that.”

Krell announced he has been holed up in Berlin making a new album in recent months, and he confessed that it’s “…great to play new music. We’ve been playing the same stuff for a while.” Someone in the crowd — not the “Call Your Mom!” chick — asked when the record would be coming out. In perfect timeless fashion, Krell stated, “June or April.”

The second unreleased “future” song of the night is called “Bad Shit Outweighs the Gladness”. At least, that’s what Krell said it’s called on his computer at the moment. He explained it came about as a product of his Grandmother’s very recent death, and how his Mom has now moved into a matriarch position for his family. Then Krell shifted to the point that he wants to have a baby, and how his friends have the most beautiful toddler. So this new song is about how his mom is a “Future Grandma.” Pretty heady.

The evening encored with one more new song. It was a dancy 80’s dance-pop track that is synth heavy and is a tonally upbeat departure from How To Dress Well’s typical sound. And as Krell was about to begin the final song of the night, what else would make sense but one more comical “Call Your Mom!!!”






  1. It was a fantastic concert. I think it was the same woman who yelled “Marry me, Tom!” when he said that he was really wanting to have a child, after spending time with his friends’ baby.


  1. […] How To Dress Well // Sam Heller The Independent // 8.26.13 […]

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