12 Breakthrough Austin Bands at SXSW Music
Tomar & the FCs
Frontman Tomar Williams on the soul music that stitched together his fivepiece
Backstage at Stubb's on Valentine's Day, Tomar Williams remembered playing his first Austin gig over 30 years ago and not 500 feet from where he sat.
"We started the family band in Victoria, Texas, in a little one-car garage," he recalls of the all-sibling R&B group. "I was singing lead and playing bass guitar at the time. The first show we did in Austin was at a place called the Cave Club at Seventh and Red River around 1986 or '87."
Drummer Paul Kresowik interjects: "And maybe you're doing math in your head right now, because the first couple years of the band we didn't know how old Tomar was. He would say things like, 'When I got started in the late Seventies ...' and we were like, 'How old is this guy?!'"
The answer is a very youthful 49, which makes him the senior band member by some 15 years. The FCs began as an instrumental fivepiece inspired by the Meters and Booker T. & the MG's before linking with Williams in 2015. "As bizarre as this sounds being that three of us are white boys from Iowa, we were into soul music and we shared a lot of musical interests with Tomar," says Kresowik. "We met him at Music Lab and after the first song we were like, 'Holy shit, this guy can really sing!'"
A mix of burners and ballads, 2016 debut Heart Attack draws on Williams' formative soundtrack – Joe Tex, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke – although late-career Raphael Saadiq is a closer comparison. In the early Aughts, Tomar and his brother Salih Williams teamed up as Carnival Beats, a production duo helping to put Houston rap on the map by scoring huge hits with Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Chingo Bling, Bun B, Pimp C, and more.
"I was still playing with bands in Austin and Salih said, 'You might wanna come down and get some of this.' I convinced these people to give me a $5,000-limit credit card and bought a bunch of equipment. That's when I started laying beats. 'Barre Baby' with Big Moe was our first Billboard hit and it just snowballed after that."