Story and Photos: Cory Weaver
There’s always a positive and negative takeaway when leaving a band, project or relationship. You find out who you really are—the good and the bad.
From Foxing to Drangus to his solo project Electric David, Tom Pini is a major cog in the St. Louis music scene—and he’s only 28. His departure from Foxing is well documented, and both the band and Pini have moved on—so, lets deep dive into his current projects.
“I believe what makes Drangus unique in St. Louis is our cocktail of influences. Being the primary songwriter and producer, I take my influences from all kinds of music. I love pop, soul, R&B, hip hop, jazz, funk, house, alternative, indie, and rock.”
Drangus was a solo project started eight years ago shortly after Pini’s departure from Foxing. For the better part of those eight years, Drangus transformed into a three piece with Anthony Patten (bass), Keith Bowman (drums) and Pini. The trio was also joined by frequent collaborators, trumpeter Khamali Cuffie-Moore and saxophonist, Matthew Leininger. With Drangus growing, Pini did too.
“There’s always a positive and negative takeaway when leaving a band, project or relationship. You find out who you really are—the good and the bad. Hopefully in a close to equal proportion. Otherwise, you find yourself in a pity party. Unfortunately, you might just stay there indefinitely and never learn the lesson and grow, or worse, repeat it again. There’s always room to grow.”
But now, Anthony Patten has left the band. That not-so-easy feeling of change and possibly pulling the plug was upon Pini once again.
“Things were definitely up in the air for several weeks regarding the future of Drangus. It certainly stirs up old feelings too. Change, generally speaking, is a familiar experience. It’s often uncomfortable but also necessary and plays an integral part of our journey.”
Losing Drangus after their melodic, pulsating and emotion invoking EP, Love, Dust to Dust would leave an unbearable cavity to fill in the fabric of the scene here.
“We love him (Patten) and it was hard to see such an important piece of the project depart, but ultimately Keith and I agreed it was worth continuing writing, recording and performing as Drangus. We’ve also gotten a lot of support from friends, family, and the St. Louis music community at large, encouraging us to keep the project alive so we’ll keep things going!”
There’s a lot of movement that comes with bands, especially those on a local level that are hurdling the real-life sideways figure eight of jobs, family, creative differences and in Drangus’ case, basic training.
“We are taking a break at this time while Keith (Bowman) is at basic training and I am putting out a new record as Electric David. It’s really funky and upbeat, and I think people will dig it. We are throwing an album release show at the High Low in Grand Center on Friday, October 8th, with my friends and roommates, Che and Zha, who are both amazing and talented hip-hop and R&B artists.”
Let’s treat our local artists more like superstars because they are incredibly talented and we are so blessed to have them.
Pini shot on location at the Angad Arts Hotel in Grand Center
With Drangus on a hiatus and his new album as Electric David, there’s a lot to process about a scene in flux. The post-pandemic physical landscape has changed with the closing of the Atomic Cowboy and the Bootleg, the Monocle and the Ready Room. All of these venues were a refuge that local bands thrived in. But, Pini sees it differently: “I am already seeing exciting new avenues of expression after the loss of some of our favorite venues in St. Louis. Music culture is like water. It’s persistent.”
He added, “You can put up a roof and lock the doors but it will still end up in the streets and eventually the basements too. Shout out to Kaleb Kirby, a.k.a. DJ Limewire Prime, for putting on Rollerama STL throughout the summer. It’s a pop-up roller disco with a sound system and live performances too. It’s so cool!”
While it seems that local musicians are left to pick up the pieces and sort their way through the debris in the pandemic recovery effort, collaboration is key in re-enforcing a strong but fractured scene.
“We love to collaborate with and feature some of the amazing players in this city. Horn players like David Gomez, Jawwaad Spann, Matt Leininger and Brady Lewis all take our music to the next level,” he said. I do feel like it’s important for the people living in and around St. Louis to be aware of the blues and jazz pulse in our city. It’s a part of our history and there’s a lot to learn from it.”
Drangus’ 2019 release, Love, Dust to Dust and Electric David’s 2020 Single,
“Through the Door”
Being a staple of the scene, a collaborator and making label-worthy music is an Atlassian endeavor. Back in a decade’s long heyday from the mid-’90s to 2005, the local scene was better-supported on the airwaves than it is now.
“Radio in St. Louis could play a greater role in supporting the local scene by having a monthly or weekly local artist spotlight,” Pini said. “KDHX and STL public radio do a good job at this, but other stations could help pick up the slack. There’s been a lot of talk about Kanye and Drake’s new albums but how about that new Looprat, Syna So Pro, or 18andcounting? Let’s treat our local artists more like superstars because they are incredibly talented and we are so blessed to have them.”
KPNT also airs the Local Show on Sunday nights at 9 p.m., but a kinder time slot would be more meaningful.
For Pini, his approach has always been people-centric, instilling a sense of place in his music—perhaps even making it transcendent. But his growth as bandmate has gravitated him toward stardom as a force, and it’s what makes Drangus, Electric David and him special.
“I’m a DJ too so my focus is ultimately on giving the audience something to take away from listening,” he said. “This could be a vibe, feeling, emotion, or the call to dance. Being the producer and mixer of our music gives us a unique advantage too because there’s no pressure on studio time or having to communicate a vision to someone else. We do it all ourselves.”