MUSIC: DOWNTOWN DUCHAMPIANS

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"Marcel Duchamp came up with this idea that we can't ultimately know which way the planet is going or what's right or wrong," says tomandandy co-founder Tom Hadju. "Rather than criticize stuff and think about it too much, we just go

out there and do it. That's why we're in so many markets and why we work in so many different styles."

Indeed, though they don't use a urinal for a fountain, Hadju and partner Andy Milburn really get around in an art-is-everywhere Duchampian style. Tomandandy, which is almost a decade old now, and something of a downtown New York institution, has its musical fingers in a plethora of popcultural pies. Their recent commercials work includes Chemical Brothers-style big beat music for Doritos, Daft Punk-like neo-house for Miller Lite, and garage-y grunge for Mitsubishi. In film, the company has contributed music to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, Roger Avary's Killing Zoe and, most recently, Mark Pellington's Arlington Road.

Tomandandy has also shaped the sound on countless CD tracks, from Soul Coughing remixes to Laurie Anderson's Bright Red ("Poison"). They've also created music for Gucci and Halston fashion shows. And in keeping with their philosophy of everchanging brand expansion, the duo has even dabbled in art, collaborating with Jenny Holzer on an installation at the Whitney Museum, and with Catalan performance art troupe La Fura dels Baus at the 1992 Seville World Exhibition. At the moment, the company is working on an exhibition of virtual interactive instruments for Chicago's Field Museum.

Hadju and partner Andy Milburn met as graduate students at Princeton's electronic music department. "Everyone in the class was supposed to make a presentation of all the music they really liked," recalls Hadju. "The first person came up and played Stravinsky, Cage and Stockhausen. The second played Berio, Xenakis and Ligeti. Then Andy stood up and played the Butthole Surfers."

Eschewing the traditional composer route, as well as any dreams they may have had to become rock stars ("The one greatest thing we've ever failed at," says Hadju), the duo founded tomandandy in 1989. Hadju and Milburn initially brought their vast, postmodern musical taste to the task of making music for the MTV Music Video awards. "MTV typically hired weird student animators, but the music they used on these video segments was rock 'n' roll," recalls Milburn. "Right away, we dragged in bizarre Eastern European art music and club music they weren't even playing on MTV."

Nine years later, the company has become known for its savvy awareness of the latest musical genres and its ability to create esoteric sounds. In its New York and Los Angeles offices, tomandandy employs approximately 30 "overachievers," according to Hadju, the majority of them musicians specialized in everything from dance to classical music. There's even someone on the payroll whose full-time job it is to scour the world for the latest music.

"When it comes to techno, they're geniuses," says Cliff Freeman & Partners executive creative director David Angelo, who has worked with tomandandy on campaigns for Cherry Coke, Reebok, Prodigy, Clusters cereal and Lexus. Angelo hired the company to create a big-beat track for a Fanta worldwide campaign. "These are people who live and breathe this music. They're not simply people who don't know the music you want but can copy something. I loved the Fanta piece the moment I heard it. That's a first for me. I was blown away."

Tomandandy are "very good at understanding the tonal nuances of a commercial and the soul of a brand," says Messner Vetere partner Michael Lee, who's worked with them on MCI, Club Med, Volvo and Intel. They always come up with the right sound for Volvo, "whether it's Elgar with a 50-piece orchestra or very aggressive driving music," Lee adds. "They know how to interpret."

And none other than David Byrne enthuses that "tomandandy has created a sleek orange futuristic bohemian cyber factory where people get paid to play."

Tomandandy's continued fresh results for clients may be a result of an emphasis on teamwork and constant switching among projects. No one is assigned to do just movies, ads or CDs. Says Andy: "It's very useful to keep changing channels -- to go from working on a 30-second commercial to working on a two-hour movie to working on some multimedia thing that isn't really linear." Such compositional promiscuity -- and a mandate to always be "working for the man" -- is a far cry from the kinds of old-school composers Hadju and Milburn were trained to be. But that suits them just fine. "I've realized that I do my best work when I'm working with other people," says Milburn when asked if he ever feels any regrets about straying from academia. "In advertising, you sometimes get input -- like demographic concerns -- into the chain that, from a musical perspective, seems totally arbitrary. But these kinds of constraints are good. They make you try and do stuff that you wouldn't do otherwise."

One thing that no company has done is emblazon its logo on Vitamin C capsules. The concept has proved so buzzworthy that the company plans to spin off a line of branded merchandise and a potential retail venture. This ancillary and promotional side of tomandandy is driven by the design efforts of James Spindler, who is responsible for the company's orange and black logo ("part genetic engineering, part Caterpillar and part Howard Johnson's," according to Spindler) and all its promotional gear (pajamas, sleeping bags, chocolate bars, messenger bags). "The Vitamin C tablets and the chocolate bar were specifically designed to get the tomandandy logo into people's bodies," jokes Spindler.

The concept archly parallels the company's main business, which is to subversively pump obscure, original and hip music into homes across America through television commercials. "We're musicians first, and iconographers second, but the logo and promo stuff is just an extension of our idea of trying to play with the culture and seep into it in as many ways as we can -- and we can get our music into an alarming number of places and ears," explains Milburn. "Through subtle manipulation of our iconography and promotional materials, we've been able to do that with our corporate image a little bit. It's been a lot of

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