Toy Factory has made its name in central Indiana playing a hyperactive mix of all kinds of music.

In their sweat-soaked sets, it’s not uncommon to go from “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire to “Hey Ya!” by Outkast to “Jump” by Van Halen.

The eight-piece band fuses guitars, drums and bass with horns, keys and impressive harmonies to give it a wide range of musical options.

“If it’s happening in the audience, if you get it happening with them, then everyone will take notice. That energy will get flowing toward you,” said Daren Owens, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist for Toy Factory.

Already familiar to southside music fans through shows at last year’s WAMMfest and annually at the Greenwood Summer Concert series, the band will be getting down from 7 to 10 p.m. during the upcoming Daily Journal Street Party.

In between shows in early July, Owens took some time to explain what makes the “Toyz” tick.

What is the inspiration behind the band?

I’ve done a lot of touring and work for national acts, and I was watching how bands play. Some of these bands that were popular 30 or 40 years are still out there doing 150 to 200 shows a year. They were working more than the so-called stars of today. I was wondering how they were still doing this.

What did that experience teach you?

If you put together a band like that and had access to where you could be heard, you could do the same thing. You could make it fun, and you’d be able to keep working. You wouldn’t have to play every dive bar there is. You could be out having fun. That’s where it comes from.

What is the philosophy behind Toy Factory?

I noticed that bands always tended to want to play what they liked. The only thing with that is, maybe the audience doesn’t like it. Me and some friends got together and were like, what if we just played hits? For us, it’s one hit right after another. That’s where the energy is.

When you’re about to take the stage, what kind of mindset do you try to bring with you?

We’re looking around to see what’s going on with the audience, and then we think about our go-to songs that we know will get a good response. It’s like before you go to work. Sometimes you’re really anxious to get out there, and sometimes it’s harder. But we all want to get out there and give the audience what they came for, and that’s to have fun.

Is there a secret to getting the crowd up and dancing?

I’m not going to say it’s a secret, but some of us know what to do, and some of us don’t. You can’t be selfish with what moves the audience. What moves the audience might not move you, but you need to pay attention to that.

How do you put together a set to ensure that people are responding?

The biggest thing to making sure the audience receives you is making sure your mix is correct. The secret is that preparation, making sure that first note strikes the audience. You’ve got to get on there and create instantaneous momentum.

Are there songs that you have that you love to get out there and perform for people?

We’ve started playing some of our own stuff, so if I have to say something I absolutely love, it’s our own stuff. There are some covers by Bruno Mars and Jill Scott that are a lot of fun, just because it’s more musical.

With your own music, what has it been like integrating it into your set?

It’s been rewarding. People are listening to it, they’re really hearing it. We’ve made sure our stuff fits into the set. If you’re not really paying attention, you wouldn’t be able to tell it is something different.

For someone who’s never seen you guys play, what can they expect?

They can expect to have a lot of fun, hear a lot of songs they grew up on, a lot of songs that are out now. We try to make sure we can create some memories. We want to get people up dancing. A lot of times, we’ll bring the kids up on stage. For whatever reason, we connect with the kids. We try to get them up, and they love it.

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.