Northern California native Tony Molina has a split musical personality. On the one side, he's been playing in hardcore bands since he was old enough to.
On the other, he crafts bite-sized chunks of melodic pop under his own name and as Ovens. Even there, his style can be broken into two distinct segments: quiet acoustic guitar-led ballads and noisy electric songs that sound like Teenage Fanclub with J Mascis and the Fastbacks' Kurt Bloch spearheading a dual guitar attack. Molina broke through with 2013's Dissed and Dismissed, which leaned almost exclusively on his louder songs to great effect. Not content to be pigeonholed, however, he switched to the gentle, acoustic side of his dual nature for his next two releases, which included 2018's baroque pop-influenced LP Kill the Lights.
Molina played in various D.I.Y. hardcore acts starting in his teenage years, while at the same time recording short songs that varied from acoustic ballads to almost symphonic metal, none of them lasting much more than a minute. This work was released under the name Ovens, beginning in 2006 with the Beau Goes to the Hospital single. He kept up a prolific pace, both as a member of bands and as Ovens, then in 2009 released the first music under his own name, the 12-song Embarrassing Times cassette. As the 2010s began, he continued recording as Ovens, joined the lo-fi punk band Violent Change and played on their self-titled album, and fronted the hardcore band Caged Animals. In 2013, Molina released his second solo album, Dissed and Dismissed, a collection of 12 short and fuzzy tunes that took notes from '90s indie and power pop acts like Weezer, Redd Kross, and Dinosaur Jr. What was intended as a demo caught the attention of fans of melodic guitar pop and hooked two legendary American labels, Matador and Slumberland. The former released the Six Tracks EP later in 2013; the latter signed him and reissued Dissed and Dismissed in 2014.
While playing guitar in the hardcore band Scalped, Molina began work on his first Slumberland record. He wrote and recorded over 40 songs, feeling pressure to make the record just right and wavering about which musical direction to take. In the end, he pivoted from making an album to releasing an EP instead. Stripping away the power and guitars from his pop sound, the eight-song Confront the Truth featured Molina playing acoustic guitars, adding keyboards, and channeling his love of the Beatles. His next album, 2018's Kill the Lights, came about much more naturally. Molina worked on some songs with a friend, Jasper Leach, and they decided to make a record out of the demos they had started. Recorded in two studios and a bedroom, the album was again built around Molina's acoustic guitar and winsome pop melodies, but this time featured some folk-rock-ready 12-string electric, a full-band sound, and Leach's keyboards. The next year, the Smoking Room label convinced Molina to put together a collection of previously unreleased songs from throughout his career. Titled SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY, the 14-song album was released in July 2019, just about the time Molina was wrapping up a U.S. tour with Culture Abuse. ~ Fred Thomas & Tim Sendra, Rovi