In the last year, the Tenderhooks released an acclaimed sophomore album (New Ways to Butcher English), were voted the ninth-best Knoxville band ever, were co-headliners at Sundown in the City, picked up a former Sony exec as a manager, opened for ZZ Top, and just last month performed at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, one of the most prestigious industry showcases in the country.
Right after CMJ, though, and just before they were scheduled to record a handful of demos at Eric Nowinski’s Rock Snob Recordings, the band decided to call it quits.
The split developed when the band started discussing plans for next year, which would have included a grueling tour schedule to maintain the band’s momentum. According to singer/guitarist Jake Winstrom, guitarist Ben Oyler and bassist Emily Robinson opted out, a move that surprised Winstrom and drummer Matt Honkonen. The split appears to be amicable, but Winstrom says he and Honkonen are “shell-shocked.”
Winstrom and Oyler, the band’s principal songwriters, had played together since high school. The tension between their styles—Winstrom’s power-pop sensibility and Oyler’s fluid, jazzy, Terry Hill-inspired leads—was the foundation of the band’s distinctive sound.
Robinson says she has joined the local avant-doom metal band Argentinum Astrum, a group she has championed in recent years. Oyler has recently played with the instrumental post-rock combo Double Muslims with Eric Lee and Jason Boardman. Winstrom says he plans to continue as a solo artist—last week, he and Honkonen recorded a handful of demos with Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee, and Winstrom has just left on a seven-date solo tour of the Southeast to fulfill Tenderhooks bookings. A few more dates in North Carolina and Nashville are scheduled for mid-December.
The Tenderhooks, along with Royal Bangs, have been widely regarded as one of the local bands most likely to break through to national commercial success. In the spring of 2008, Dan Chertoff, a senior in music production at New York University whose father, Rick Chertoff, had produced albums by Cyndi Lauper, the Hooters, and Joan Osbourne, discovered the group through MySpace and invited them to New York to record what turned into New Ways to Butcher English. That led to a management deal early this year with Rick Dobbis, a former executive at Sony Music International.