Dryjacket’s Ian Foley on The Terrors of Going Solo With Tonks

As the bassist of Dryjacket, Ian Foley is fearless. He’s a master of driving indie rock, and a veteran touring musician comfortable playing in large venues for sold out crowds. With his solo project Tonks, he feels far more alone and exposed.

“I don’t get nervous at all on stage with Dryjacket, but as soon as I got up there for the first time in front of a bunch of people [as Tonks] I was like, ‘wow, you can’t rely on anyone else—if you mess up, that’s it,’” Foley tells BTRtoday over the phone. “It’s just super vulnerable and a lot scarier.”

Facing down the nerves is worth it to get his music in front of people. When the New Jersey substitute teacher isn’t in the classroom he’s 100 percent devoted to music.

Since 2014, Dryjacket has several EPs and an LP via Hopeless records. Touring with Yellowcard in 2016, they performed in sold-out 2,000 seat halls.

Dryjacket’s fast-paced songs with shout-along lyrics and fuzzed-out guitars are crowd-pleasers for indie rock fans packed into ballrooms and theaters. Foley’s music with Tonks is, however, acoustic/indie, teetering on the edge of classic folk. It requires a more intimate setting and calmer, more contemplative mood.

Though Foley is still going strong with Dryjacket, he needed to create his own project. A longtime fan of acoustic music who grew up listening to artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Foley was driven to explore quieter, more delicate sounds.

Tonks, “Giles Corey”

His debut album, Windows Down & Ding, was released in November. It’s a simple beauty, with melodic acoustic guitar fingerpicking supporting soothing melancholic vocals. Though songs like “Paris” and “Giles Corey” dwell on past loves and heartbreaking letdowns, Foley says he’s actually a very happy person.

“It’s not sad on purpose, that was some of the feedback, [but] I’m not a sad person,” Foley says. “The record definitely has a lot of elements of time and change [and] I think a lot of not knowing what the next step is… a lot of that came through on the record.”

Though he’s embracing the solo acoustic path, he says he could change his tune at the drop of a hat. The potential for sudden change is embedded in the project’s name. That’s why he named the project Tonks, after the Harry Potter witch Nymphadora Tonks.

“She changes a lot, so my thought was I wanted to call it [Tonks] so if I decided to switch gears at any point and do something completely different then no one should be surprised,” he says. “It can turn into anything down the road.”

The name is the only Harry Potter-influenced on the project, at least so far. Still, he admits that the album artwork for Windows Down & Dying reflects a magical and dark world. The black and white illustration features two dark figures in a canoe on a lake set deep in some moonlit woods in the moon You can barely make out a small silhouette of a castle in the distance. Could that be Hogwarts? Foley doesn’t say.

He plans to do a full North American tour for Tonks this year—dates will be announced later this month. In the meantime, hear Windows Down & Dying and the entire interview with Ian Foley on this week’s The Music Meetup.