Total Restraint sounds like how young adulthood feels. In a raucous, eleven-track debut album, local rock group Tosser addresses anxiety, career pressure, and finding a balance between daydreams and pragmatism.
“[There’s] an age-old conflict about what you want to do and what you have to do,” says frontman Eric Zidar. “So many people I know just want to be full-time musicians or full-time artists, but they’re just stagnant and they’re depressed. They just feel so unhappy because what they want to do isn’t really possible. I mean, it is, but you might be homeless for a while.”
This new project — out February 21 — works through that conflict in real time, marking the group’s most self-assured effort yet.
While this may be Tosser’s first full-length record, Zidar and his bandmates (bassist Ryan Plummer, guitar player Victor Arce, and drummer Zeeshan Shad) are veterans of the DC rock scene. Zidar played drums as a kid growing up in Rockville, then picked up the guitar in high school. Tosser was originally a solo project that originated during Zidar’s time at Syracuse; reconnecting with old friends when moving home after graduation made Tosser the group it is today.
The band originally gained traction playing house shows, and became a key player in Washington’s DIY scene. After releasing EPs in 2017 and 2018 and opening for acts like Soccer Mommy, Tosser established its place in the District with its signature blend of hazy, lo-fi rock and dream pop.
Which makes Total Restraint an impressive tonal shift for the group. Recorded in a home studio in Brookland, the album is harder and heavier than the band’s earlier projects, due in part to the group’s newfound commitment to a collaborative writing process. “I think deep down I always wanted to play in a heavy band, but maybe couldn’t quite achieve that in the basement on my own,” Zidar says.
That steely, rugged quality that Zidar’s been pursuing shines through in lead single, “Wishful Thinking.” As gritty guitars fill the foreground and crashing drums add forceful punctuation, Zidar groans, “Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe it’s in my dreams.”
One of the last songs written for the record, “Fever Dream,” was Arce’s brainchild, ironed out and fine-tuned by the rest of the group. “Been deceived by the fever dream that I kept behind my eyes, can’t redeem what you’ve never seen and I think I’m going blind,” Zidar laments while layers of grainy guitars nearly drown him out.
“[That track’s about] just having a dream or a want, and keeping it in your head versus putting it into action,” Zidar says. “But in your head it’s everything to you.”
Tosser will play an album release show at Pie Shop at 8 PM on February 20 at 1339 H St., NE. Den-Mate and Model Home will open.