Characterized by their muscular guitar sound and the powerful vocals of frontwoman Jenny Toomey, the aptly named Tsunami were among the most important and original bands to emerge from the American indie scene of the 1990s; the motivating force behind the highly regarded Simple Machines label, Tsunami were noted for their sociopolitical activism and unwavering commitment to D.I.Y. principles, which established them among the most respected voices in the alternative community. The band was formed in Arlington, VA, in 1990 by Toomey and guitarist Kristin Thomson, who together had founded Simple Machines as a result of their constant frustrations with music industry machinations. Toomey, a veteran of such groups as Geek and Slack, soon persuaded bassist pal Andrew Webster to relocate to Arlington and join the fledgling band, and with the addition of drummer John Pamer, the original Tsunami lineup was complete.
In early 1991, Tsunami set out on their first tour, in support of the legendary Beat Happening. Upon returning to Arlington, they recorded a four-track demo called Cow Arcade; the 7" EP Headringer, the quartet's first official release, followed a short time later. Also in 1991, they recorded the brilliant "Genius of Crack" single, released to significant acclaim on the Homestead label. A series of 1992 releases — among them "Left Behind," one-half of a split effort with Velocity Girl issued as part of the Sub Pop label's singles club series — raised the band's profile in the indie community, and was followed a year later by "Diner" and "Matchbook," a pair of Simple Machines releases emblematic of the label's impeccably rich packaging designs. After so many 7" releases, Tsunami finally issued their full-length debut, Deep End, in mid-1993. A tour on the support stage of Lollapalooza followed that summer.
After a lengthy tour, Tsunami issued their stunning second LP, The Heart's Tremolo, in 1994; the road again beckoned, and in the spring of 1995 they issued World Tour and Other Destinations, a much-needed compilation of singles, B-sides, and compilation tracks. When Webster returned to college, Tsunami effectively went on hiatus; Toomey and Thomson returned their focus to operating Simple Machines, and Toomey also participated in a number of side projects, among them Liquorice. In the meantime, Pamer left the band and was replaced by drummer Luther Gray; rumors swirled throughout the indie press that the group had broken up, but in 1997 Tsunami resurfaced with the excellent A Brilliant Mistake. Early in 1998, Toomey and Thomson announced the imminent demise of Simple Machines, although Tsunami remained a going concern. ~ Jason Ankeny