Toby Driver

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Toby Driver
Born (1978-09-29) September 29, 1978 (age 44)
Meriden, Connecticut, U.S.
Genres Avant-garde, experimental
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter

Toby Driver is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, producer, label owner, and artist, best known for his work as the leader of the experimental bands Kayo Dot and Maudlin of the Well.


Driver creates the majority of the album artwork associated with these bands, performs the lead vocals and several instruments, produces the albums, and has written and arranged the music for both bands. Although several members of motW continued on when the band dissolved and reformed as Kayo Dot in 2003, Driver is the only remaining member of the original line-up of Maudlin of the Well who is still consistently active with Kayo Dot.

Biography and early work

Toby Driver was born in 1978, in Meriden, Connecticut and currently resides in New York City. He learned clarinet and piano from a young age, and during his high school years, he recorded several albums under the moniker "Spoonion" using tape recorders and a karaoke machine. He later released his favorite cuts of these albums online as collections. [1] After playing with a handful of bands in high school, including a Nirvana and Jane's Addiction cover band, and a gothic-progressive-metal band called Celestial Providence, Driver formed Maudlin of the Well with his friends Jason Byron and Greg Massi and recorded a demo entitled Through Languid Veins (1996)

He attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where he expanded Maudlin of the Well, and where they recorded their second (Begat of the Haunted Oak... An Acorn), third (Odes to Darksome Spring), and fourth (For My Wife) demos which turned into their debut album My Fruit Psychobells... A Seed Combustible. During this time, Driver also studied under composer and jazz legend, Yusef Lateef, and composed, directed, and performed an oratorio for 20 musicians based on and titled after the epic poem Six Trillion Miles Before the First by Jason Byron. Sections of this piece later reappeared on motW's reunion album, Part the Second (2009).

Style and musicianship

As evident in the bands and projects to which Driver has contributed, he generally utilizes unconventional styles of song-writing and song structure. Many songs he writes use odd time signatures, range from ten to twenty minutes in length, divert from typical riff-based structure, and employ elements of many musical genres, often shifting between these styles within the same song. Songs often incorporate musical qualities suited to styles as diverse as death metal, minimalism, chamber music, post-rock and jazz, while seldom completely conforming to any one specific genre. Driver has repeatedly denied any connection of his music to jazz, minimalism or improv. His work is strictly composed and rehearsed thoroughly, and the songs seldom see any changes after being recorded.

Driver's vocals are accordingly diverse in range and style. Driver uses a normal singing voice, screams, shouts, occasionally uses death vocals (not to be confused with former band member Jason Byron who contributes vocals in early motW also), as well as occasionally singing falsetto and using spoken word (see Kayo Dot's Choirs of the Eye and Hubardo for an example of all the styles listed above).

A multi-instrumentalist, Toby Driver is credited on various albums as playing the following instruments:


Maudlin of the Well

Driver was a founding member of Maudlin of the Well in 1996 along with Jason Byron and Greg Massi. They morphed into Kayo Dot in 2003 during the process of recording what would have been motW's fourth album, and titled Kayo Dot's henceforth first album Choirs of the Eye, due to label problems and the desire to move away from being pigeonholed in the metal scene. In 2009, due to fan requests and contributions, Driver, along with Terran Olson who was also still playing with Kayo Dot, reformed Maudlin of the Well to record the digital album Part the Second , reuniting with guitarists Greg Massi, Josh Seipp-Williams, and drummer Sam Gutterman. The album contained five newly released songs, some of which were composed—partially at least—in the early days of the band (as far back as 1997), with lyrics co-written by Jason Byron and Toby Driver. [2] Maudlin of the Well's style was always described by the band as "astral metal," referencing Driver and Byron's interest in astral projection. Driver has stated that he used astral projection and lucid dreaming as methods to retrieve music from the subconscious. Maudlin of the Well's lyrics deal with this topic, as well as the subjects of ghosts and the paranormal, the occult, kabbalah, nostalgia, and betrayal. The liner notes for their companion albums, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map (2001) contain a puzzle that leads to an as-yet-unknown solution.

Kayo Dot

Kayo Dot is Driver's main band, which began in 2003 and remains currently active. They have released ten full-length albums, an EP, a few live recordings, and a handful of remixes and singles. Kayo Dot's musical style shifts constantly, but maintains a ubiquitous aesthetic of darkness, surrealism, impressionism, hallucination, melodrama, and musical technicality. Driver is the only consistent member, although some members who have left the band in the past have returned for recordings or special live performances. Kayo Dot has an active touring schedule, averaging four months on the road per year, and having joined bands such as Pallbearer, Earth, Pelican, and Secret Chiefs 3 on tour. Kayo Dot has worked with several record labels including John Zorn's Tzadik, Robotic Empire, Holy Roar, Aaron Turner's Hydra Head Records, Antithetic Records, The Flenser, and Driver's own imprint, Ice Level Music.

Piggy Black Cross

Piggy Black Cross is Driver's "Dark Industrial IDM" [3] project with vocalist Bridget Bellavia. Thus far, they have released their music only digitally, first appearing on SoundCloud in March 2018. has called it "a surreal, engrossing debut." [4]

Tartar Lamb I and II

Driver formed the side project Tartar Lamb with Mia Matsumiya in 2006. Tartar Lamb did a brief US and Canada tour in January of that year, and later recorded their album, Sixty Metonymies, with Randall Dunn in Seattle, Washington in December 2006 in the middle of another difficult winter tour. Sixty Metonymies was self-released on CD by Driver on his label, Ice Level Music. Since then, Sixty Metonymies has only been performed occasionally at local concerts in New York City when possible.

Tartar Lamb II was created in 2009 with other members of Kayo Dot and composer and clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman. It was named a Tartar Lamb project because the compositional method that Driver invented for Sixty Metonymies was used again for the new work, which was called Polyimage of Known Exits. This incarnation of Tartar Lamb did a month-long European winter tour in 2010 opening up for Kayo Dot. A recording from this tour appears on the Kayo Dot/Tartar Lamb II live album, Kraków (2011). Tartar Lamb II also performed locally in New York City on a couple occasions but the band is currently defunct.


Driver also currently plays bass in the band Vaura, who released their debut album Selenelion, in 2012 through Wierd Records and their second album, The Missing, in 2013 via Profound Lore Records. The band is fronted by writer, philosopher, Blacklist singer and Azar Swan producer, Joshua Strawn, and also includes guitarist Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia and Gorguts, and drummer Charlie Schmid. The style of Vaura is an amalgam of gothic rock, progressive black-metal, and pop.


Driver plays guitar in Stern, the experimental alien pop band auteured by the prolific composer, filmmaker, and writer Chuck Stern (formerly of Time of Orchids). The band also includes former Time of Orchids and Kayo Dot drummer Keith Abrams, and frequent Driver collaborator Tim Byrnes. Stern has released three albums as a solo act, and three more with the full band including Driver: Entitlement (2012), Bone Turquoise (2015), and Missive: Sister Ships (2018). For more information, visit:

Solo work

Driver has also been prolific as a solo act, releasing his eponymous debut In the L..L..Library Loft on John Zorn's Tzadik in 2005. In the L..L..Library Loft features four compositions in a modern classical style including guitars, drumsets, and screaming vocals. Driver composed and recorded Ichneumonidae to accompany a butoh dance performance in 2012; this was also released on Ice Level Music. Driver's next eponymous album was 2017's Madonnawhore, which contains six long, spacious, and slow sombre ballads and features drummer Keith Abrams. In the fall of 2017, Driver was commissioned to compose a piece entitled Through the Arm to Magma for the Kraków-based chamber orchestra Spółdzielnia Muzyczna for the 2017 Sacrum Profanum Festival, which also featured composers Stephen O'Malley, Aaron Turner, Jennifer Walshe, Alvin Lucier, Iancu Dumitrescu, Ana-Maria Avram, and many others. In 2018, Driver released a second album of ballads, entitled They Are the Shield, featuring violinists Pauline Kim Harris and Conrad Harris, pianist Kelly Moran, and drummer Brian Chase from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, on Blood Music. Driver has also done a small amount of soundtrack work, including for Eric Pennycoff's short film The Pod and Kevin Endres' short film, Lazaretto. Driver’s composition, Stained Glass, was used in an installation film piece of the same title by artist Peter Hopkins Miller. Stained Glass was a featured exhibition in the 2017 Biennale di Venezia.


Driver plays bass in the free-improvised trio Bloodmist, which is led by composer, clarinetist, and producer Jeremiah Cymerman and also features composer, guitarist, synthesist, and producer Mario Diaz de Leon. Bloodmist performs occasionally around New York City, and has released one album entitled Sheen on Cymerman's imprint 5049 Records, with another forthcoming in 2019.

Sideman work and small collaborations

Driver has also toured as the bassist of Trey Spruance's Secret Chiefs 3 for many years, has recorded vocals with Asva, Tusk, played vibraphone and clarinet for Gregor Samsa, has toured as bassist for Myrkur, has remixed for Pyramids, Candiria, and Bloody Panda, has formed more casual bands such as Clefter with Gyan Riley and Timba Harris, or Tanks with Ches Smith and Brandon Seabrook, and regularly performs around New York City with local musicians.

Ice Level Music

Driver owns and operates the record label Ice Level Music, which was initially created to release Tartar Lamb's 2007 debut, Sixty Metonymies, but continues to be an outlet for Driver to self-release some of his own material. Ice Level Music's discography includes Tartar Lamb - Sixty Metonymies and Polyimage of Known Exits, Maudlin of the Well - Part the Second, Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife, Hubardo, and the vinyl edition of Choirs of the Eye, Ichneumonidae, and others.


As Spoonion 1

As Spoonion 2

Maudlin of the Well

Kayo Dot

Solo work

Tartar Lamb I

Tartar Lamb II

Piggy Black Cross


Alora Crucible

Other appearances

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kayo Dot</span> American avant-garde metal band

Kayo Dot is an American avant-garde metal band. Formed in 2003 by Toby Driver after the break-up of Maudlin of the Well, they released their debut album Choirs of the Eye on John Zorn's Tzadik Records that same year. Since then, Kayo Dot's lineup has drastically changed over the years. Toby Driver is the only founding member of the band still remaining, save for frequent lyrical contributions from former motW member Jason Byron. Up until 2011, the lineup was constantly shifting, and Kayo Dot's sound consistently changed over the years, featuring a wide variety of instrumentation including guitar, drums, bass, violin, saxophone, vibraphone, synthesizers, clarinets and flutes. Underground metal audiences warmly received the group upon its early existence, with the 2003 album Choirs of the Eye and the 2006 album Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue both becoming underground hits in the progressive metal scene.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mia Matsumiya</span> American violinist

Mia Matsumiya is an American violinist who is a former member of Kayo Dot, Gregor Samsa, and Tartar Lamb. She has also performed on albums with Daughters and Ghastly City Sleep. In 2015, her Instagram account chronicling the sexual and other harassment that had been directed toward her on social media during the past ten years received international attention.

Maudlin of the Well is an avant-garde metal band from Boston, Massachusetts. Their music contains elements from many different genres including jazz, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, post rock, art rock, progressive metal, doom metal, death metal, and gothic metal, as well as chamber music, ambient music and electronic music. After a five-year hiatus, the band re-united to record their latest album, Part the Second, which was funded by fan donations and released online May 14, 2009 for free.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gregor Samsa (band)</span> Musical artist

Gregor Samsa is an American band from Virginia, United States, formed in 2000 and fronted by Champ Bennett. It takes its name from the main character of Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis.

<i>Choirs of the Eye</i> 2003 studio album by Kayo Dot

Choirs of the Eye is the debut studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot, released on Tzadik Records in 2003. It was released shortly after the breakup of maudlin of the Well, with the band consisting of several members from the former band as well as guest performers who are friends of band members. The album is titled after a lyric from the maudlin of the Well song "Blight of River-Systems", on My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible. SputnikMusic voted it as one of the best metal albums of the 2000s. The group performed the entire album in 2010 to two sold out nights in Brooklyn, New York.

<i>Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue</i> 2006 studio album by Kayo Dot

Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue is the second studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot, released on Robotic Empire in 2006. The album received high praise from Pitchfork, Lambgoat, and Sputnikmusic, the last of whom named it the #2 album of 2006.

<i>Bath</i> (album) 2001 studio album by maudlin of the Well

Bath is maudlin of the Well's second album. It was released alongside its companion album Leaving Your Body Map in 2001 on the Dark Symphonies record label, shortly before their break-up.

<i>Blue Lambency Downward</i> 2008 studio album by Kayo Dot

Blue Lambency Downward is the third studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot, released on Hydra Head Records in May 2008. After much of the group left to pursue outside projects, the only members who remained were frontman Toby Driver and violinist and long-time collaborator Mia Matsumiya. The two began recording the album in early 2007 using a revolving door of contributing musicians. The album is heavily influenced by chamber and orchestral music and jazz, and features an abundance of woodwinds. It is widely considered to be Kayo Dot's least heavy album to date.

<i>Leaving Your Body Map</i> 2001 studio album by maudlin of the Well

Leaving Your Body Map is maudlin of the Well's third album, and was released alongside its companion album Bath on the Dark Symphonies record label in 2001, shortly before their break-up.

<i>My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible</i> 1999 studio album by maudlin of the Well

My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible is maudlin of the Well's first album, released in 1999.

Baliset is an American hard rock / heavy metal band based in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the project of Greg Massi, known for his work with the avant-garde bands maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot.

<i>Coyote</i> (Kayo Dot album) 2010 studio album by Kayo Dot

Coyote is the fourth studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot, released April 20, 2010 on Hydra Head Records. The album is a single narrative-driven, long-form composition in five movements. The story and text were provided by a close, terminally-ill friend of the band, Yuko Sueta, in the final stage of her life, while the music was written by Toby Driver in a so-called "goth fusion" style, combining elements of early Cure, Faith and the Muse, and Bauhaus with further influences from Herbie Hancock's psychedelic jazz album Sextant and Scott Walker's recent experimental album The Drift. Sueta's story and lyrics were constructed with deliberate melodrama as part of the intended gothic aesthetic, expressing the protagonist's loneliness and longing to be in a better place, and her journey through her own personal looking-glass through a hallucinatory world of fear and wonder.

Tartar Lamb is an experimental avant-garde band, consisting of Toby Driver and Mia Matsumiya, both leading members of the experimental band Kayo Dot. The band originally was formed in 2006 as a means for Toby Driver to experiment with his ideas for a guitar-violin duo. The duo released their first album, Sixty Metonymies, in 2007. The band was augmented by trumpet and percussion by Tim Byrnes and Andrew Greenwald, respectively. In 2011, the band returned with their sophomore effort, Polyimage of Known Exits, under the name Tartar Lamb II. This album was funded entirely by fans via a Kickstarter project.

<i>Sixty Metonymies</i> 2007 studio album by Tartar Lamb

Sixty Metonymies is the debut studio album of New York City-based avant-garde band Tartar Lamb. The album is essentially one 40-minute composition for a guitar-violin duo.

<i>Gamma Knife</i> (album) Album by Kayo Dot

Gamma Knife is the fifth studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot. The album was self-released through frontman Toby Driver's Ice Level Music via Bandcamp on January 4, 2012, following the group's departure from Hydra Head Records. The bulk of the album was recorded live at Brooklyn, New York venue Littlefield on October 5, 2011, with the remainder recorded at Driver's residence in late 2011. It was mixed by longtime producer Randall Dunn. It is notable for beginning the return to Driver's metal roots and harsh vocals used in Choirs of the Eye. The vinyl and CD copies are both available via the group's Bandcamp.

Vaura is an American experimental band from Brooklyn, New York, United States, formed in 2009 by singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Joshua Strachan and featuring Kevin Hufnagel on lead guitar, Toby Driver on bass.

<i>Hubardo</i> 2013 studio album by Kayo Dot

Hubardo is the sixth studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot. It is a concept double album self-released and funded through pre-orders on frontman Toby Driver's Ice Level Records in 2013. It is the follow-up to Gamma Knife, which was released in 2012. It is Kayo Dot's longest album and its first double album, and contains aspects of black metal, post-rock, jazz fusion, and chamber music. It was picked as the 4th best album of 2013 on indie music website SputnikMusic.

<i>Coffins on Io</i> 2014 studio album by Kayo Dot

Coffins on Io is the seventh studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot, released in the UK on August 14, 2014 and in the US on October 13 through experimental metal label The Flenser. It is a follow-up to 2013's Hubardo. It's the first album from Kayo Dot to not be self-released since 2012's Gamma Knife. Coffins on Io marks a notable change in sound. It combines influences of Type O Negative, The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Gabriel, dark wave and other 80s electronic musicians. It combines aspects of electronic music, jazz fusion, post-punk, gothic rock and new wave. It was produced by Toby Driver.

<i>Blasphemy</i> (Kayo Dot album) 2019 studio album by Kayo Dot

Blasphemy is the ninth studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot. It was released on September 6, 2019 via Prophecy Productions.

<i>Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike</i> 2021 studio album by Kayo Dot

Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike is the tenth studio album by American avant-garde metal band Kayo Dot. It was released on October 29, 2021 via Prophecy Productions. It reached number 100 in the German Top 100 album charts for the first time during the week after its release, November 5, 2021. It is the first album since 2006's Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue to feature founding member Greg Massi.


  1. Spoonion.
  2. motW – Part the Second notes.
  3. [ user-generated source ]
  4. "Piggy Black Cross - Always Just Out of R.E.A.C.H. User Opinions - sputnikmusic".