WOUB Soundwaves: Toecutter at The Union

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – WOUB captured an electrifying performance by Athens-based experimental rockers Toecutter at The Union just weeks before the band played the prestigious 2023 Nelsonville Music Festival.

Emerging in late 2021, the band’s lineup boasts Ethan Bartman (guitar, vocals), Eben Tobar (vocals, guitar), Matt Waite (bass), and Joel Nadler (drums). Toecutter effortlessly straddles the line between idiosyncratic Nuggets-style garage rock and the conceptually daring realm of avant-garde punk.

“Toecutter” may ring a bell, at least if you are a fan of George Miller’s Mad Max films – he’s the Road Warrior’s brutal antagonist.

“Yeah, Toecutter is the ‘bad guy,’ but his name also sounds funny and weird,” said Bartman. “It’s also Australian police slang for criminals who exclusively commit crimes against other criminals. We didn’t know that at first, but now we do.”

The band feels a kind of psychic kinship with the concept of criminal “toecutters” since all music (and all art, really) could be said to be amalgamations of various pre-existing influences.

“We kind of have this motto: ‘why cover a song when you could just rip it off?’” Bartman said. “So ‘toecutter’ kind of works that way too – for us, it’s about ‘creative stealing,’ but it’s not really stealing. It’s more like borrowing – toecutters are known to borrow from other borrowers.”

The group’s name has also led to minor confusion – Toecutter – Thumbuster is a song by “double drummer delight” San Francisco-based rockers Thee Oh Sees.

“Now everybody’s like ‘Oh you must love Thee Oh Sees!’ – well we do like them, but that’s not why,” Bartman said. “We’re just really big George Miller fans – [we love] all of his movies. BabeBabe: Pig in the CityHappy Feet is incredible.”

An image of the band Toecutter performing at The Union in Athens, OH for WOUB's Soundwaves. The band has four members and there are two vocalists/guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer.

Toecutter’s Soundwaves session

Toecutter’s set begins with their take on the timeless “songs about losers” theme, showcased through the gritty-yet-sinuous bass-driven rhythm of their forthcoming track, Allergic to Growth.

Following that, the group delves into John Yoder, an “Amish murder ballad” from their 2023 Sardines EP. The song rides on an almost thrashy barrage conjured up by Nadler, providing a solid foundation for Bartman’s edgy slide guitar work.

Toecutter concludes their performance with the grungey Speed Buggy, another unreleased gem and their second venture into crafting a song about an Amish criminal.

Keep tabs on Toecutter on Instagram, and hear their music on their bandcamp page and on Spotify