By Samuel Stevens
Release Date: August 7, 2020
Genre: Pop, Hip-Hop, Rock
Label: Fearless Records
The Colorado based Not A Toy is not a band, but is a collective of four creatives consisting of vocalist Branson Hoog, guitarist Jeremy Marmor, drummer Benji Spoliansky, and multi-instrumentalist TJ Wessel on violin and the keys. The collective was formed out of the ashes of their former project, Shatterproof. Hoog, Marmor, Spoliansky, and Wessel also make their own merchandise, artwork, and videos for Not A Toy. The EP was entirely produced by the band, with Spoliansky over seeing it all. Not A Toy does not fit into the mold of one particular genre and this is evident on the collective’s debut seven track EP. While the EP sways within pop, hip-hop, and rock genres, sub-genres, and elements, don’t be fooled. While this collection of music showcases more pop, hip-hop, and rock elements, the band doesn’t allow genre to define them in any way. Anything is possible when they let the music take them wherever it wants to go.
The four members of Not A Toy met while still in high school and they performed in various projects with one another before launching Not A Toy earlier this year. Which started with the release of their debut lead single, “J Cash.” Wessel was classically trained on the violin from a young age, and additionally as a multi-instrumentalist added a various few other instruments to the EP, adding to the EP’s production and the overall sound. Not only does Marmor act as the collective’s guitarist, he also creates all the beats you hear on the EP. Spoliansky holds everything together as the collective’s drummer, and acted as the overseeing producer during the recording process of their debut EP. Finally, Hoog handles vocals and majority of the lyrics. Hoog also has a background in graphic design and painting, a tool that’s useful to have when creating the collective’s merch, videos, and artwork. Hoog also plays guitar and piano, which he provides to some of the songs on the EP.
Not A Toy opens with the impressive opening number, “Demise.” The four of them are very passionate about songwriting and add all different types of ingredients to their songs. This is evident with the layered tune with little things placed here and there throughout the track, including the nice, unexpected use of violin near the end of track. The lead single, “J Cash,” follows “Demise” with a very unique vibe on a track. The track is lead by an acoustic guitar riff, the kick and snare of the drums intertwine with the twangy acoustic guitar. Before the track turns towards an electronic explosion and change to a melodic electric guitar riff. The band were in a dingy basement when they found out they were getting signed to Fearless Records. The lyrics on “J Cash” are true, but they’re also projecting where the collective is going. “J Cash” is a bit of a cocky song and the band felt like they’ve made it, even though the four of them were still sitting in the dingy basement when they wrote the single.
The EP’s second single, “Quit Quitting,” takes you on a journey that tangles both alternative rock and pop in this striking and dreamy tune. “Quit Quitting” is about the insecure side of the changes in the lives of Hoog, Marmor, Spoliansky, and Wessel at the current junctures of their lives. It’s all about asking questions as well as the answers being about their journey so far, and the grind from where they started. The third single, “Antidote,” is another dreamy full on pop track with hip-hop elements, that showcases a strong infectious melody that is coupled with a deep and menacing bass line. The EP ends with the slow and calm track, “Drive Slow.” This final track showcases the collective’s soft side and it’s swarming with slow melodic instruments and an expected synth hook directly in the middle.