By Jamel Smith
June 16, 2022
There comes a time for every singing group where they must embrace a new chapter in their artistry. For the Grammy-nominated R&B group, formerly known as The Hamiltones, that time is now. After six years of viral singing clips, traveling the world as backing vocalists, and releasing projects to rave reviews, J. Vito, Tony Lelo, and 2E are finally ready to step out on their own with a new name: The Ton3s.
The group’s decision to officially change their name did not come easy. “It was a process that we battled with,” said Lelo. “Obviously, we were first presented to the world as The Hamiltones, but we also recognize on the other side of it, that if we continue to move in that name, we will always be looked at as the background guys.”
Vito, Lelo, and 2E were introduced to thousands of fans as background vocalists for Grammy Award-winning soul singer, Anthony Hamilton (hence, the group’s name). The Hamiltones spent months on the road in the background, enamoring audiences with their show-stopping showmanship and homegrown harmonies.
A new chapter of The Hamiltones’ career took shape when their Gospel-quartet parody of Birdman’s “put some respect on my name” manifesto went viral on social media. In one moment, the talented trio were launched as artists and not just “background singers.” They went on to be featured on several Grammy-stamped projects: Anthony Hamilton’s What I’m Feelin’ (“What I’m Feelin’”), PJ Morton’s GUMBO (“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”), Jonathan McReynolds’ Make Room (“Graduate”), and the Grammy Award-winning Tori Kelly album, Hiding Place (“Help Us To Love”).
After a string of wins and features, the group finally decided to answer the prayers of thousands of fans and step into the spotlight. In 2019, The Hamiltones released their first EP project titled Watch The Ton3s– a foreshadowing of things to come in the group’s burgeoning career. “Strategically from the get go, our first album was Watch The Ton3s,” Lelo said. “It wasn’t ‘Watch the Hamiltones.’” The trio released their reiterative second EP, Watch The Ton3s: B-Side in 2020.
Two years later, the group formerly known as The Hamiltones has officially emerged as The Ton3s with their latest project, We Are The Ton3s, a collection of eleven songs that sonically revolve around the group’s signature brand of “young vintage.”
“Young Vintage” was coined by the group to express their unique brand of merging their influences– past and present– in their sound and style.
“When we first stepped in here, we knew what it was. We knew who we were as three individuals. We knew how we were raised. We knew what we came from,” 2E said. “We’re younger guys with a vintage vibe and swag. That’s how the world met us.”
The Ton3s are stepping into their own as artists, but they are adamant about making sure their fans– lovingly called “ToneNation”– understand that they are not changing the essence of their sound, just tweaking the application of it.
“As you know, we’re not changing. I think the change was more so in this project,” Vito said. “This project, We Are The Ton3s, focuses more on what’s happening now in R&B.”
We Are The Ton3s pulls from a range of sounds and eras to create a kaleidoscope of R&B that just feels good. Songs like “Don’t Let Him,” featuring Snoop Dogg, and “Sexual” are reminiscent of early ‘80s 808-based soul records, such as “Sexual Healing” and “Between The Sheets.” The debut single, “Better,” combines modern-day Southern soul with ‘80s R&B as the trio declares on the chorus “Baby, I want to get to know you better! Baby, let me show you better!” in a harmonic style reminiscent of the chorus on Guy’s “Groove Me.” “Lose It,” featuring Tarriona “Tank” Ball, is an immediate standout on the album, as its 2000s-influenced sparse and rhythmic production rolls over you in a way that makes you want to dance with someone in a dimly lit club.
Throughout the album, it is clear The Ton3s are tuned into what makes R&B listeners tick these days: nostalgia. We Are The Ton3s is even loosely tied together by ingoing and outgoing calls between a man and his lover, a thematic device often wielded in R&B music. By merging the demands of today’s listeners with their signature quartet-style influence, the soul group fulfills the “young vintage” sound of this album to a tee. In fact, any of these songs could easily live on an urban adult contemporary radio station.
The process behind We Are The Ton3s was equally carefree, and the majority of the album was recorded in the group’s home state of North Carolina. Gathering music features was just as laid back. Most of the features included on the album– Snoop Dogg, Tarriona Ball, PJ Morton, Vanessa Ferguson, PJ Morton, Sir The Baptist– happened under a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” principle.
“A lot of the time, [artists] will be like ‘Yo, let’s work.’ And then, we’ll be like, ‘Okay, can we get something too?’” Lelo said. “Luckily, we are around people that are really cool, genuine people and really do what they say they’re gonna do.”
View this post on Instagram
With a debut album under a new name, The Ton3s are ready to perform and celebrate with their fans around the country. They are currently on a promotional tour for the album, which included a prominent stop on The TODAY Show. In a first-time appearance on the massive morning show, the trio performed “Got So Much Love” with fellow North Carolina native and producer, Greg Cox. After “hours of preparation,” the group left Jenna, Hoda, and the rest of the world ready and waiting for more.
Listen to We Are The Ton3s by The Ton3s now available on all platforms.