The Ton3s: New Name And Sound, Same Great Vibes
The R&B/Soul trio, previously known as The Hamiltones, explores their background singing, what they call musical memes and the reason they created their own thing.
May 25, 2022 at 4:05 pm
Grammy-nominated R&B/soul trio The Ton3s (previously known as The Hamiltones) have been a staple of good-time vibes for true music lovers over the past decade. They have made some of the most memorable pop culture moments for fans with silly numbers like “Whose Billy Goat Is This” and “Put Some Respeck On It.” But the fun-loving group of North Carolina crooners, who began as background singers for Anthony Hamilton, are very serious about their music and how they intend to reshape the landscape of R&B and soul as independent musicians creating a new sound with an old vibe.
The Ton3s — J. Vito, Lelo and 2E — sat down with Blavity to discuss how they got started as background singers, their viral successes and why they created their own thing.
It all started at open mic night
The three were all frequent individual performers at an open mic event in Charlotte, N.C., where Kenny Leonard, the event’s keyboard player, who was also Anthony Hamilton’s musical director, told them that Hamilton would soon be looking for new background singers.
“We would see Anthony every now and then, but it really happened when Kenny pulled us into the fold with Anthony Hamilton,” 2E told Blavity.
As The Hamiltones, the three became wildly popular background singers, so when it was time to do their main stage thing, they changed their name.
“The Hamiltones were more of the background singers, like Ray Charles and the Raelettes or Marvin Gaye and The Marvelettes,” 2E said. “In order for us to be us and represent us and not carry another man’s name, it just felt better for us to just be us. The Ton3s are the guys in the front. The Hamiltones are the guys who sing background.”
Even though they’ve changed their name, they want to be sure people understand that there is no beef between them and Hamilton.
“With Anthony’s blessings, we were able to just step out on our own and do our own thing,” J. Vito told Blavity.
A part of what pushed the trio to the forefront was what they call musical memes.
“Thank the internet,” J. Vito said. “If it wasn’t for the internet, we would have still been doing it, but I don’t think those moments would have been as funny. Those were like musical memes — memes that were being sang. We just took viral moments that we kept seeing and just sang about it and it just kind of happened organically.”
Vito continued that the success of their videos is likely due to people’s general joy with memes.
“People love memes!” he said.
The transition from background to the spotlight
The transition to becoming a main act took shape as the popularity of their musical memes continued to rise.
“We started getting calls like, ‘hey, you come perform in this city,'” J. Vito said. “We would go here and there performing and next thing you know, it turned into a tour.”
He said the three were blessed to have the opportunity to accompany Hamilton while still being able to grow as a group.
“I don’t think there’s been a lot of groups transition from the background to a full entity,” J. Vito said. “We just got that boost and that push from people around us to kind of just go and do our thang, and that’s kind of been the story of our careers. These opportunities, we just make the best out of them. We don’t really get comfortable because you can’t, because we always expect more of ourselves.”
Alternative soul and the upcoming album
Their upcoming album, We Are The Ton3s, is slightly different from previous projects because it’s more grown, the crooners noted.
They refer to their sound as alternative soul.
“We span across a lot of different areas,” Lelo told Blavity. “I think we are a pretty cool group because you can see us over here in this space and we make it work, and you can see us over in this space. We’re in like two totally different spaces, but we able to actually still be impactful.”
J. Vito likened the new music to them graduating into being grown men.
“It’s like grown man graduation — that’s what this is,” he said. “It’s nothing much different than what we’ve done before — it’s got a really R&B approach to it. This is kind of like really dabbing in that R&B lane.”
The music also explores relationships and content catered to women.
“When we came out, we were more like a fun group. We didn’t talk a lot about relationship scenarios,” Lelo said. “Now, we’re diving into what we wanna do. And we’re doing it in a grown way.”