Berlin-based duo TONI&MASH are on a mission to create 80s inspired, electro-pop bangers. They recently released their debut single ‘LTGFU’ through Black Diamonds Records this summer which stands for “‘Love to Get Fucked Up” – a direct and self-explanatory tune designed to fill the coolest of dance floors.
With influences ranging from Abra to Patti Smith and Grace Jones to The Sugababes, they’ve been active on the DIY music collective circuit in Berlin for the last few years. In addition to TONI&MASH, the duo are involved in a multitude of projects, including directing, shooting and editing videos for themselves and other artists in Berlin’s hip hop and R&B scene.
We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with TONI&MASH to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced their songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to their track ‘LTGFU’ at the end of this post.
1. Abra – Rose
I (Toni) remember the first time I heard Rose – I was so enthralled by the 808 drum combo with Abra’s catchy and emotional hooks. I must have listened to this album 20 times over in the first week I got it. It came out in 2015, a time when I was still developing my full badassness, I remember hearing her vulnerability and rawness in what very often women have been scolded for; expressing her needs and desires so openly. Well done Abra, big ups for being a voice for young women navigating mad lusts and relationships in this world, an creating a beautiful record at the same time. I still return back to ‘Rose’ every few months, the sign of a great album!
Toni showed me (Mash) this album and it was right up my ally – of course! Dramatic melodies, over layering vocals and 80´s sounds in nu-r&b form – that is what dreams are made of! I´m especially in love with her lyrical style and surprising melodies. I strongly relate to every songs message. This album has a fierce female energy while being boss-ass and not too sweet or girlish. A lot of the songs seem to talk about power dynamics in relationships and as a psychologically interested person, that totally hits the sweet spot for me. Songs about feeling and relationships that are hermetic and not completely on the nose are hard to write and lovely to listen to. Although all the songs have a similar style they are all very distinct and individually beautiful. Whenever we do a TONI&MASH related mix, we make sure there is one track of Abra in there, since she is such a musical influence to us.
2. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
The first album that TONI&MASH ever bonded over. Knowing each other for only one week and on set for an Ämsi Maasname video shoot, this album came on and before the first chorus even hit to ‘Wildfire’ we were both singing every lyric, word for word. And from that the beginnings of a beautiful musical friendship was born! It was a record I (Toni) also fell in love with at uni, just a year or two before moving to Berlin. It manages to overlap that wonderful bridge between pop and electronic dance music with tracks like ‘Hold On’. Sampha’s hypnotic and somewhat UK homesick inducing accent hold the perfect singalong, ass shaking session together. ‘Pharaohs’ also dropping a mega strong vibe on this record. Feel like this album really represents what was happening with the UK pop/dance music cross over in 2011/12. We still love it until this day. A formative album for many.
I (Mash) remember the look on Toni´s face when this German girl knew all the lyrics to all the songs of this great album and that I was very proud of making an impression on her. When this album came out, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t crazy about it. It seemed so ground breaking at the time. The beats, the lyrics, the melodies, the content – it all felt so new and fresh and never heard before. Although I am not such a big fan of instrumentals, I even loved the songs without lyrics, which has to be a good sign. I especially loved all the collaborations – that was also always my dream, was I to make music on my own – a loooot of collaborations since they spark the most inspiration for me. My two favourite songs are definitely ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Hold On’.
3. OutKast – Aquemini
Toni and Mash found out early, that they both are big OutKast fans. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are musical geniuses – period! At a time where most American rap seemed to be gangsta rap and very repetitive, OutKast managed to produce rap music that was beautiful, deep, conscious, without being preachy or boring. While east coast and the west coast were comparing dick sizes and rapping about money and bitches, the south reinvented the game and managed to do so by leaving those topics out and making sociocritical music that was still cool. And even when they rap about having sex with groupies in ‘Mamacita’ they stay respectful and make sure it’s consensual.
Songs like “Da Art of Story Telling” show off their excellent skills in exactly that – the art of storytelling. I love the fact that they are a duo, just like us. Coming from a background of 80´s music, punk and rap, I always got inspired by their quick change of flows and the non-chalant switch from rapping to singing to rapping. We love to make that shift in our own music as much as possible. Favourite tracks are ‘Aquemini, ‘SpottiOttieDopaliscious’, and ‘Liberation’ featuring Cee-Lo and Erykah Badu, but every song on this album is a banger and good to bang to.
4. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Omg, I think this album changed my life and how I look at music (for the better). I love everything about Frank Ocean. His voice, the fact that he´s openly gay in a scene that’s still very dominated by male toxicity and that he came from a songwriting background and then started making music for himself.
The first song I ever heard of him was ‘Thinkin Bout You’ and I just melted. Never has a song portrayed the feeling of longing for someone more accurately. Songs like ‘Super Rich Kids’, ‘Sweet Life’ and ‘Crack Rock’ are outstanding in storytelling and are sharp observations of society by a woke mind. I was listening to nothing but this album when it came out and I showed it to everyone who didn’t jump up the tree quick enough.
I also loved the fact that almost none of the songs had the traditional “song-form” of verse-hook-verse-hook-bridge, etc. Songs like ‘Pyramids’ which is almost 10 minutes long seemed bold and like he just really made the piece of art he wanted to make. So what it´s like two different songs in one? It´s like a dark nu-r&b musical track and it all makes sense. ‘Bad Religion’ is also an all time favourite of course, speaking to anyone with a broken heart. I can´t tell which song is my favourite, I don’t want to diss the others!
5. M.I.A. – Arular
This album came out when I was 18 years old and going out every weekend. I grew up in a smaller city than Berlin in NRW and I knew the DJ of my main club and would always ask for songs and he would play them for me because i´d always be the first person on the dance floor and break the ice. M.I.A. was always on top of the list. Usually I went for ‘Bucky Done Gun’ or ‘Galang’ and totally lost it. She was such an icon to me!
A badass woman that produced her own music, invented a whole new style and was successful without getting her obviously sexy body naked. She always produced her own videos (in which she also appeared without make-up), made art and was multi-dimensional talented while at the same time being very outspoken politically, never taking comfort in her stardom, always out using her voice to do good and change the status quo which is depriving so many people from leading good lives. I obsessed about her and sucked up any information I could get. I was so excited to see the documentary about her last year!
This album just blew my mind, I had never heard music like that. ‘Pull up the people’ and ‘Sunshowers’, are definitely favourites – I also love the music video to ‘Sunshowers’ which touched my heart and showed me that women in pop don’t always have to get their tits out to sell their music.
Thanks to TONI&MASH for sharing their favourites with us. Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.