We are huge fans of live music and the special energy and atmosphere it brings to a wedding. Today we chat to Renee Anderson of band Tobi Tobi who is no stranger to weddings, having performed at oh-so many and can be booked out years in advance! The two-piece of Tobi Tobi is made up of Renee on guitar and vocals and Jamie Barlow on double bass. They are Melbourne-based but love to travel, and even played at The Bachelor’s Tim Robards and Anna Heinrich’s wedding at Masseria Potenti, a classic Italian villa in Puglia. Renee’s passion for what she does, her industry, for weddings and for LOVE really shines through in this interview, and reminds us not to overlook the power of music and what it can add to your big day.

Describe Tobi Tobi in three words…
Ohhh, this is fun already… I’ll be back after I consult my Thesaurus…

Lovesome – I can’t believe this is a word but it means inspiring love, loveable, I think that’s what we do at weddings, make people feel extra love. They don’t need to love more, but sometimes brides need to snap out of the organisation mode they have just spent weeks, months or years in and snap into the moment. Music can do that.

Hardworking – this one is a touch boring after the last one, but I am extremely hard working, I am on my email, all day, learning songs, writing songs. I love it though!

Friendly – we are just two silly goats who love what we do.

Image by Lost in Love Photography

How did Tobi Tobi start and what has it become since then?
Well, I was singing at a pub in Ascot Vale and I had been for, I think, four years (I was rapidly becoming a part of the furniture). Anyway, a lovely girl named Georgia asked if I could play at her wedding. I mentioned that my partner Jamie played double bass and she loved that idea. It was THE PERFECT start, but it set the bar high. Jamie and I sat in the middle of a dam on a dock, surrounded by lush green, playing to the guests up on the bank. ‘Twas gorgeous! I thought to myself, “I want to do this, alllll the timeeeeee!”

How do couples book you for their wedding? What’s the process?
They usually shoot us through an email to [email protected]! Then we send our packages page and go from there!

Do you book out quickly? When should couples book you in if they want you to play at their wedding?
Yes, yes, please contact us ASAP if you would like us to be a part of it. Sometimes we are booked two years in advance. Other times couples are lucky and we just happen to have that day free only a few months in advance. I guess it’s hard because sometimes couples don’t find us until later on in the process, but whenever you know you want us please do reach out and hopefully we are free on your date.

Image by Lost in Love Photography

What kind of input do couples have in the song choices for their wedding?
Couples have as much or as little input as they would like. We send every couple our song list and sometimes couples highlight the songs they like, sometimes they leave it up to us, other times we get specific set orders like “play this song, then this, then this song”. We like alllllll the ways. We love it when couples suggest their own songs for the special moments, however, we always ask that couples trust us.  If we don’t think it’s going to be special enough, we will tell you. We do try our best though to make it work and often times the suggestion turns out great!

What are your favourite songs to play at a ceremony?
‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ by Elvis, ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronnetts, ‘First Day of My Life’ by Bright Eyes,  ‘Cavalier’ by James Vincent McMorrow, ‘To Build a Home’ by Cinematic Orchestra, and ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ by Damien Rice.

What about at the reception?
We are quite often only involved in ceremonies and canapés. We always recommend either a full band or a DJ to follow us in the reception spot! Receptions are so fun but I am a full-blown nana and love to be in bed by 10pm. Ha!

Do you take requests from guests?
I love a good request. It’s so nice when people come up and say, “Hi, you remind me of such and such, can you play this song?” And it’s extra nice when we know the song and we can play it for them!

Image by Erin and Tara

Why is good music so important to a wedding?
People spend so much money on flowers, layout and venue etc (all important), and quite often music is the last thing on their minds. However, this is changing heaps – in the last year I have had people contacting us first to ask what dates we are free, and god I love those emails.

The music is like the vibe or veil that falls over your day, it creates or adds to the atmosphere. Think about when you’re standing in your kitchen and your favourite song comes on and you start dancing around or singing or maybe you just feel happy. Those feels are what music adds to the day.

I always say to couples, “If you are not going to choose us, that is so so fine, but please consider live music, especially during your ceremony.” I have had numerous celebrants tell me, “It’s just so much better with live music”. Clicking play on an iPod honestly can be clunky and, no offence to the beautiful celebrants in this world, but their speakers are usually only perfect for a voice running through it. So, you have this stunning location, ridiculously beautiful bride holding romantic flowers, then blerrrggggh! A song from an iPod coming crackling through this tiny speaker – it’s just a buzz kill!

If you’re deadset on a song you have loved for all your life and want that exact Beyoncé version, then bring or organise your own sound system and get your Uncle Bob to stand there and fade in and fade out. Also make sure all the songs are downloaded to your phone!

Image by Lost in Love Photography

Are there any venues you work closely with or have played at numerous times?
Yes, we love Stones of the Yarra Valley, they run like clockwork and all the staff are delightful. We play there once every few weeks and music sounds THE BEST in their chapel! Also, really loving the warm and rustic feel of Zonzo. Rupert on Rupert is cool, and Glasshaus in Richmond. Ohhh, also Barunah Plains. That place is just wonderful.

What’s been your favourite wedding venue so far?
Gosh, this is an impossible question. Well, I am going to mention a few. Stones of the Yarra Valley, Villa Passerini in Cortona, Belmond Hotel Caruso on the Amalfi Coast – there are no words for this place. La Badia in Orvieto – the grand video of us playing in the church was taken there by the wonderful photographer Katie Grant. I also adore Jackalope and Masseria Potenti. Everywhere can be so nice though with a few little touches!

Have you noticed if your band plays at a particular style of wedding more than others?
Hmm, you would think this! However, I would have to say no. I think because we play most styles from different eras it makes us sort of adaptable. I am glad because it keeps things interesting; one wedding will be loving the pop classics like Ed Sheeran, the next will be all about Nick Cave and Bob Dylan. One of my alllll time fave weddings was on a rooftop in Denmark. This couple chose a small group of people, I think there may have been 20 or so attending and we played classics from the 90s and early 2000s, like ‘Kissing You’ by Des’ree. There was a little bonfire and the couples all stood around us hugging and slow dancing and watching us. It was like a private concert.

You’re based in Melbourne but travel the world. Tell us about some of the overseas weddings you’ve been a part of…
I love all the weddings, do not get me wrong, but there is something very special about having your family and friends with you in the same town, possibly exploring, but most likely just hanging out in some Tuscan villa. It means the wedding day is super comfortable, because everyone has already met and hung out in the days before. I remember every single overseas wedding and I think we have played over 15 or so now.

Tim Robards and Anna Heinrich’s wedding was pretty special, in one of my favourite ever wedding venues – Masseria Potenti. It has this rustic sort of Mexican feel, there are cactuses up against beautiful white walls, gorgeous rugs in the hallways and on the floors of all the rooms, dusty orange tiles… Music wise, Tim was all over it. He wanted the ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ by Damian Rice and they used our version of it in the wondrous video by Moon and Back seen here.

Anna was the chillest bride. I asked her what song she wanted for her bridesmaids to walk down the aisle to and she was pretty much like, “Oh, whatever you think, lovely!” So we sang ‘Come Away with Me’ by Norah Jones for her bridesmaids then ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ for her.  Then we played a canapé set and their first dance later on in the evening. THEN we drove 10 hours to our next gig in France. Face palm, but we love it!

Image by Bayleigh Vedelago

The next one that immediately comes to mind was Amila and Robbie’s on the Amalfi Coast. Talk about OTT in an amazing and classy way. They started their wedding at the Grand Hotel Conventi in what I guess you would call ruins of a church on top of a cliff, with a hotel attached to it below. They then put everyone on a bus and headed to Belmond Hotel Caruso – and honestly, I think I left some of my heart there it was so beautiful. There is one of those fancy pools that doesn’t have an edge, looking out over the magical cliffs of Amalfi. There are so soooo many more but I would be here all day.

Images by Lost in Love Photography

What do you love about playing weddings?
Ohhhhhhhhh, so muchhhh!!!! Mainly, I think I love it because I can see how happy it makes the bride. Sometimes brides will smile at me half way down the aisle and give me a little giggly wave and my heart just melts. Or I can see the tears running down their eyes! I love the atmosphere, everyone is happy on wedding days. I am the most grateful person in the world to get to be a part of the magic and help create some.

Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
This one is pretty special from a pop star in Hong Kong:

Renee & Jamie…. Where do we start? I really wanted to leave a review/feedback for you but didn’t know where! So here I go haha. You two are a beautiful couple, thank you for sharing your music and soulful voice at our wedding. I knew from the first moment I heard you online that you were special and that you sing from a place deep within. I cried the first time I heard you sing, and I teared up again with the music you shared with us on our special day. I thoroughly enjoyed your rendition of I won’t give up, I knew it from the start that you would do an amazing job. Thank you for all the songs you learned for our wedding. Our guests were all raving about your music and your voice. Thank you for making our day extra special 🙂 much love, Robynn & Jon

It’s that much more special because this came from a fellow singer!

You’ve just released a new single called ‘Ice and Rum’ – have you played it at any weddings yet?

OHHHH, no we haven’t! We should though. I think it would suit most people’s weddings. I am so nervous about playing my own songs. Eeek! Okay, I’ma do it!

How do you balance playing weddings, events, shows, releasing music? What do you do in your downtime?
At the moment, it feels like we have zero downtime, but we do love movies. We watch about three a week of all genres. I also love reading, it’s part of the reason I love Europe in the summer, because I finally get a chance to be away from everything and read. The rest of the year I just don’t get time, so I squish as many books in as I can when I’m on working holidays!

Images by Kreativ Wedding and Elk & Willow Photography

What else does 2019 have in store for Tobi Tobi?

We have just hired a publicity company to help get ‘Ice and Rum’ out there so maybe a show or two. Maybe more new singles, more weddings, a few overseas adventures in various countries from May through to August, and just lotsa, lotsa love!

Thank you Renee for sharing Tobi Tobi’s story and so many wonderful wedding tips and memories through your words and videos. What a treat to feature your blissful tunes on Polka Dot Bride! To find out more about Renee, Jamie and their band, head to the Tobi Tobi website.

Headshot courtesy of Lost in Love Photography