Interview // Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys
Interview // Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys

Interview // Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys

Harmony: Describe your band for a new listener and how long have you been a group?

Mary Widow: I often like to say our band is like if the Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show was real. We sort of, kind of twist through many genres. So, we might have one song that sounds like a psychedelic country song on a runaway train and then we might have the next song sound like Portishead dropped a bunch of acid, and then the next song might be a really fun dancey tune, and the next song is a coven of witches that are going to sacrifice you in the woods. So, we kind of follow whatever vibe for each song. It’s hard to pin us down to a genre but I would say that we are a rock band above and beyond any genre. Walter Sickert: What was the second Question? Harmony: How long have you been a group? Walter Sickert: Oh, a hundred thousand years by now. I think it’s one hundred thousand. Mary Widow: Since like 2008? Walter Sickert: For a long time! It started off it was a figment of my imagination, the whole thing, I was like is it people? Is it toys? Is it wind-up toys? All of a sudden, over the years I found my family and it was magical. There’s this whole community of artists and dancers and performers who came into my life and it’s like the best thing ever. Everybody’s welcome, “everybody come with us, come, come, cooooommmmeee!”

Harmony: What do you want people to take away from your music?

Mary Widow: I think for me, and I think Walter and I agree on this, music is magic. I know for myself when I am performing, I am tapped into that sort of groovy rock and roll energy, and there’s nothing better than being in that groove with the band and then sharing that energy and giving it back and forth with the audience. And mostly I feel that live. But even in our recordings, the fact that somebody listens to our music in their home and has their own emotions about it, people have gotten our lyrics tattooed on them. And the first time that I ever saw somebody got a lyric that I sang tattooed on them, I cried. So, I think I’m straying from what your question was. Walter Sickert: Widow wraps it up, I think, for both of us, too. It’s important and I think people feel it and they get it right away. When you’re in the room with us or you listen to the right song for you that we’ve made. And what it is, is everybody is invited to this magic floating table of love. Everybody’s invited. It’s like in the lunchroom, like, where am I going to sit? Where am I? Oh, I’m this way, I’m that way, I’m different, I’m this. It’s like the whole point of us is, like, we make every kind of music because we’re every kind of people and we love every kind of people, and we want everybody to be safe and have fun and have a place to express themselves. And that’s, like, the number one thing for us. And I think when someone says they feel that way at one of our shows, or they hear a song and it made them feel not alone, that’s what it means to me. That’s my favorite. Mary Widow: Yeah. 100%. And before I joined the band in 2014/2015, they were my good friends, and we were in the same art community, and we had performed together a bunch. And going to a Toys show as a friend and fan was just the most fun and wonderful experience. And then having now been a part of the band for as equal amount of time as the band has existed, being in the room at a Toys show is an experience. Religious, psychedelic, sexual, whatever. That’s something I am really proud of about our band, is that when you come to a Toys show, you are coming to an event. And whether we’re just the eight of us crammed on a tiny stage in a bar or whether it’s us putting on a full-scale play or somewhere in between, there’s a magic and a love and an energy that is at a Toys show that is rare, and I’m really proud of it.

Harmony: What is your band’s relationship to movies and film?

Walter Sickert: I think for all of us, movies and music are mixed together in a way that you can’t really separate. When I play and when I write and when I sing and whatever. When I’m composing, I always have an image in my mind, like a story, a film, and I’m always writing from that kind of point of view of seeing something here and then turning that coming, bringing that through my hands and then making a sound that has something to do with what I’m seeing in my mind. So, music and film for me has always been like that. I think that’s the same for sure. Mary Widow: And we have done several years of live scoring of these silent films at a theater that we really enjoy in New Hampshire. So that was a sort of Halloween-time tradition. So, there would be a live screening of the film and we would be providing for live with our music. So that’s really cool.

Harmony: What was the experience of being in the film Beautiful Was the Fight like?

Mary Widow: Like, wow. Seeing that at the premiere was so meaningful for me. The film, at least in the edit that we saw, I don’t know if it’s still there, opens with my voice. And I was like, “oh, my God.” And the Toys are featured quite heavily. Walter and Edrie are interviewed a fair amount in the film, and live footage of us is in there a lot. And it made me so proud. I’m going to get emotional for a second, but my father was a musician and he passed away in 2020. And immediately, as soon as I got into my car, I started sobbing because I wish that I could show him this film, because, number one, he would be so proud. He loved our band, and he would come to shows. But seeing this love letter that Dave has created for women and non-binary musicians in Boston is so crucial, and I’m so thrilled that it will be playing at festivals all around. And it made me remember being a teenager. And the experience of finding an artist that you’re like, this artist is for me. This artist exists for me. And the fact that we may get to be that for some young person, especially a young person in the LGBTQIA plus community, or a young person of color, it’s really so touching and so meaningful for me. So I’m so proud of it, and I can’t wait for it to get larger distribution. Walter Sickert: Such an important film, and I hope everybody sees it. Because what it does is exactly what Widow said. And being a part of it is an honor to be a part of it. So, everybody needs to see it. I think they should. Mandatorily show it everywhere. Everywhere. Build it, project it everywhere! Mary Widow: National holiday.

Harmony: What is the process like when you make a music video? 

Walter Sickert: Yeah, it’s my favorite thing to do ever. I love making music videos. We’ve started kind of like doing this new formula for the band, which is the newest thing we’ve decided to do with our singles, which is to write a song we love and then do a video right away. We did Goth Beach last year. Super proud of the video. Everybody is so talented in it. It’s so fun and it’s like a dream come true that that video exists. We want to do the next thing. So basically, I’m just going off a bucket list of all the videos I want to make before I kick it. First was like, oh, I’ve always loved Rock Lobster. I love The Addams Family, and I love The Munsters. We have a beach party. Goth Beach. Mary Widow: Boom. Walter Sickert: We did that. And then we’re know we always want to do a rococo party. That’s just fucking wild excuse for us to have giant fucking wigs on and all kinds of shit and big fucking fancy stuff. And so that’s what we did was Keep My Head. So, without giving too much away because I want people to go check it out. There’s a whole fun thing. But we were like, what can we do? What can we do? What can we do? We came up with another Keep My Head, which is kind of like, we need a dance. Widow, the choreography master, who did the choreography for Goth Beach, came up with another dance for Keep My Head, which was fucking amazing. Mary Widow: Thank you. Walter Sickert: So, there we go. We’re doing that. We’re all rococofied, and then there’s quite a graphic scene with Kate and all kinds of stuff. And so that doesn’t explain the process. At all. Mary Widow: We have the idea, and then we get together with our production team. Keep My Head was my first-time assistant directing video I had choreographed for Goth Beach. On my own life. I have made short film and I have acted in film, and so I have a little bit of experience in that world. And so, we meet on Zoom with our production team for Keep My Head. We met once a week pretty consistently, and Sam and I would reach out to the dancers, and she was coordinating props and locations and this, that, and the other thing. And Sam Krueger, our know in giving us feedback on thoughts of shots and this, that, and the other. And we had a set builder, Al Ford, who’s amazing. And so, we would just meet every single week, this idea here, this idea there. Walter would come up with something completely crazy, and I would say, no. Here’s what we can do. So that’s been the structure. And then shooting, we put the call out to our talented friends and see who’s available, who wants to I get my core group of dancers, we do rehearsals, and then the extras we pull from the extended toy- verse. Friends and fans and family and folks that want to come be part of a thing for a day. Walter Sickert: Absolutely. And that’s the thing. I mean, like, Boston and around everywhere is so full of talented people that are artists. And for me, my goal, our goal, is to involve as many of those people in these projects as we can, and to keep making parties that we can have everybody come to and have a voice in. And so, when that happens, it’s so easy. You just need a camera, you need everybody to be excited, and you need to let people do their thing and explore themselves. I always say at the beginning of a shoot, there’s no wrong answer. Mary Widow: That’s not true. Yes, already there are sometimes wrong answers. And everyone does need to listen to directions. Walter Sickert: See, that’s my Widow. She’s there making the rules happen because I need that kind of thing.

The music video for Keep My Head debuts on July 22nd


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