Tom Hobden

Tom Hobden

We joined musician and strings virtuoso, Tom Hobden, at his flat in King’s Cross and for a stroll down to Lamb’s Conduit Street to talk about the Aussie rock renaissance, life on tour, and Florence in February.

You’re a classically-trained violinist whose spent a career in world-famous rock bands - why did you choose Glastonbury over the Royal Festival Hall?

When I was 17 I was gearing myself up for auditions to music college, the path to becoming a classical violinist BUT I got in with a group of guys who were mad about bluegrass and country music. We formed a 9-piece country rap(!) band, as you do, and the weekend London pub gigs we’d play gave me a taste of something completely different to the somewhat reserved and cerebral classical world I knew. These nights were sweaty, tiny back rooms of pubs, filled with teenagers and a PA as loud as an aircraft engine. It really was the most fun I’ve ever had on a stage. That band didn’t make it, not the most marketable I guess, but many of us did go on to have careers in other bands - from Noah and the Whale to Bear’s Den, to King Charles and Mumford and Sons. An extraordinary group of guys that’ll I forever be grateful to for showing me a different path to take. The camaraderie, the energy at the shows were reasons enough that, after only a few months of study I ended up dropping out and playing with my then band Noah and the Whale full-time. Missing fresher’s week because we were on tour and then having our debut album chart at no.5 in the UK put it all in perspective for me, and sure enough our first Glastonbury performance followed soon after.

Out of Noah and the Whale, Mumford and Sons, and Gang of Youths - which band cares the most about clothes?

Tricky one this - I’d say Noah and Gang of Youths are both up there for sure. In the early days of Noah, when Laura Marling was in the band, we went for the matching colour-palette schtick: heavily influenced by Wes Anderson, we basically ripped off The Life Aquatic and wore exclusively blues and yellows for a while. We then went through a few lost years before resolutely committing to suits and tailoring on our third album. We were fortunate to work with the renowned photographer now director Autumn de Wilde, who shot all our music videos and press shots for that campaign. Looking back, I’m proud of that era, particularly in our unwavering commitment to being suited and booted for every show, whatever the place, whatever the weather - 3 piece tweed suits at a summer festival somewhere in Texas? Why not.

The guys in Gang of Youths, particularly Dave and Jung, are very knowledgable in all things sartorial - I have a lot to learn from them. To give your readers some perspective, a recent discussion we had in the dressing room before a show focussed on the pros and cons of a Spalla Camicia shoulder.

"I’ve never had to describe my style before, and it’s probably pretty varied."

How would you describe your own style? What qualities do you look for in a piece of clothing?

I’ve never had to describe my style before, and it’s probably pretty varied. You’ll never see me in a t-shirt and trainers, and I certainly try to wear suits as often as possible on stage. In my downtime, I’m a fan of a softer, loose-fitting suit, and a pair of Chelsea boots.

You’ve travelled to most corners of the world while touring. Has any place had a particularly strong sartorial impact on you?

If you’re organised enough, touring is a great chance to find clothes and meet tailors etc. Down the years I’ve discovered places that I always head to when I’m in a particular city. A few that spring to mind are “Bobby from Boston”, in Boston funnily enough, which is an incredible emporium of men’s and women’s vintage clothing. Their vast collection is used a lot by the film industry. I remember picking up a 1950s marching band outfit there once, randomly.

Another must if you’re ever in Melbourne is to visit Steve Calder, the man behind Calder Sartoria and Informale. Jung from Gang of Youths introduced us and last time I was there I picked up one of his Jungle Jackets in Grey, love it. Herr Von Eden in Berlin is fun: I really enjoy the more eccentric elements of their suit and shirt styles.

What’s next on the horizon for Gang of Youths?

We have just released an album called “angel in realtime.” in which our singer Dave Le’aupepe explores his relationship with his late father. We’ve also just discovered that the album has charted at no.1 in Australia and no.10 in the UK, which is fantastic news. As of writing, we are in the midst of a UK tour and have a London show at Brixton Academy coming up on 15th March. The year ahead involves some festivals, a month long US tour and then a big arena tour in Australia. Lots to look forward to.

Quick Fire Five

  • Favourite restaurant: ROKA on Charlotte Street in London
  • Favourite holiday destination: Anywhere in Italy, but particularly Florence
  • Favourite musician: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Arthur Russell fan
  • Prize possession: My Violin, made by Josef Hel in 1896
  • Biggest indulgence: English ales - always at room temperature, no fizz, fustier the better!