You don’t have to fit into a particular mold. In the past, I was super focused on labels and felt like I needed to conform to just one, such as being a metalcore drummer. It’s become apparent to me that fitting into just one area isn’t really my style. The music I write draws from grunge, rock, metalcore, and even some blues.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing AP Tobler.
Annapurna “AP” Tobler is a multi-instrumentalist musician, singer, and songwriter based in San Jose, CA. Often described as a “grunge poet,” AP writes music with heavy riffs and complex themes, holding mental health topics as vital influences in her songwriting. AP aims to share her experiences with anxiety and depression by crafting songs rooted in grunge and alternative rock, with hopes that these thematic elements will speak to listeners who are going through similar experiences.
AP’s musical journey began with the discovery of drums at the age of 8. She explored the sounds and composition of grunge, hard rock, metal, and jazz through her studies, adding guitar and bass to her instrument studies in years that followed. AP has been gigging regularly since a young age, performing at high profile music events such as PASIC, Sweetwater Gearfest, and touring with the School of Rock AllStars. She drums professionally for local bands and performs with the dynamic Street Drum Corps.
AP began writing and recording original music in 2018 and has released 5 singles to date. She draws heavy influence from the 90’s grunge, alternative, and punk scenes in her work, citing Nirvana, Green Day, and Weezer as significant influences. Her versatility as a multi-instrumentalist has allowed her to compose and perform all tracks for her songs. AP’s most recent project is a 5 song EP released in Summer 2021, just after her 16th birthday. The EP is a collection of AP’s strongest feelings and emotions during the writing process, with each track showcasing her vulnerabilities and encapsulating pieces of her soul.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for this opportunity! I grew up in San José, California. I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, which has given me lots of time to focus on my music. I started playing drums at the age of eight, shortly followed by guitar at nine, and I got my first bass for my tenth birthday. I began writing original music when I was twelve.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a little kid, I had a lot of energy and needed a way to get that out. I really wanted to do karate, or some form of martial arts, but when my mom told me I couldn’t hit other people, I turned to bashing drums. As for the writing aspect of my career, I find it to be quite therapeutic. I struggle with both depression and anxiety, and I think writing is a really good coping mechanism.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I was 13, I was invited to sit in with the Sweetwater Allstars at Gearfest. When I sat down to get the feel of the kit I’d be playing on, there was a man sitting at the kit next to me. He introduced himself as Steve, and we talked a little bit about drums. A few minutes into the conversation I realized that I was talking to Steve Ferrone of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. I mispronounced his last name, and he didn’t correct me. He told me he heard that I was a badass and said that he had to go. His final words to me before the show were, “don’t mess this up!” It was awesome.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I’ve made regarding music is probably the time I knocked my front tooth out with my guitar. I was at a rehearsal and got a little too excited while picking my guitar up, and the headstock whacked me right in the mouth. I put my hand over my mouth and when I took it away, there was my tooth! It didn’t hurt, but was a super annoying thing to have to deal with. I’ve since learned to fear headstocks and their probable malicious motives.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just released my debut EP, “Alternate Vision”, which I’m extremely jazzed about. I’m also in a band called Raue, and we recently released our debut album. I’m currently writing new material for both projects.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think diversity and representation are extremely important. As a queer person, it means a lot to have people like me shown in media, and I’m sure it’s quite similar with other underrepresented groups. It’s important to have diverse representation so that folks see that they are not alone, can be successful, and that success can come while being themselves.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Do not take yourself too seriously. I used to think I was expected to be perfect and cool and would get mad at myself if I ever made a mistake. I now realize that it’s much better to accept my inherent ridiculousness.
- You don’t have to fit into a particular mold. In the past, I was super focused on labels and felt like I needed to conform to just one, such as being a metalcore drummer. It’s become apparent to me that fitting into just one area isn’t really my style. The music I write draws from grunge, rock, metalcore, and even some blues.
- Social media success ≠ general success. While social media is a necessity for musicians, my goal is not to be social media famous or viral. That doesn’t mean you should neglect social media entirely, but definitely put more focus into honing your craft and making good music.
- You don’t need a traditionally pretty voice to be a good singer. The goal is to impart emotion and connect with your audience. You don’t have to have a naturally beautiful singing voice to sound good.
- Do not overcomplicate the writing process. Play what works in the space you have, and don’t do things just because they’re possible. Cater to the music, not to your ego.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I definitely struggle with doing too much and exhausting myself. What I find to be most useful to prevent this is not to push myself too hard, and to focus on enjoying myself rather than following a traditional schedule. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t force myself to write. I find that when I am feeling inspired, I write rapidly and it makes up for times that I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I hope my music can spark conversations about mental health issues, and work to help end the stigma around these topics.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful for so many people who’ve helped me throughout this journey, but my first thought is my parents. They’ve been so incredibly supportive and loving towards me, and have always been by my side helping me reach my goals. Even today, each family member has a role in bringing my music to the world. My brother creates my album art, my dad makes all the music videos, and my mom helps manage the business side of things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’d say it’s probably just that there are no shortcuts in life. You’ve gotta get through all the tough stuff, which is annoying, but it’ll be worth it. Most of my music is written about this tough stuff, which allows me to process it and move forward.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! She is smart, funny, and inspiring. She does a great job of shining a light on the needs of the mental health community, as well as so many other communities in need.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find links to all my socials and music at my website, http://aptobler.com !
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!