In the age of upheaval, Freund cuts to the truth.
The odor of disillusionment is ripe these days. It's an easy thing to which to succumb, and no one could fault you for that. The current socio-political atmosphere is muggy and thick and 'bout to burst. And we're all trapped inside its tightening, veiny grasp. It takes a vital moment of clarity to hit you squarely across the chest to rattle you awake enough from such gloomy reveries, and when we're left gasping for breath, that's when we feel most alive.
Touring across the Northern Californian landscape, Americana wordsmith Tom Freund was once so struck by the cotton-candy clouds gliding across the sky that his life and song-craft took a hard left. "Homer Simpson's Clouds (Day of the Locust)," premiering today, was born out of vital inquisition.
"I stopped in at my friend Brett Dennen's house in Strawberry, California ⎯⎯ he left me the keys ⎯⎯ and I grabbed his 12-string and proceeded to write about what those clouds that we see in the intro to 'The Simpsons' triggered in me," he tells Popdust over email about the song, which taps gently on the heartstrings, his voice calm and sturdy. "It spoke of being above the 'normal' world looking down ⎯⎯ but how you can never really get away from something on the ground, in your life especially, if it's something you're still working on within yourself."
"That rubber band stretches awfully far / When you're trying to get away from something that you are," Freund sings, expanding the song's intent to address "a disgruntled America in 2017," he says. The song also handles pointed insight on "our current president, a feeling of franticness and not getting what we deserve, in our jobs, in our lives and as citizens of this country, or maybe any country for that matter." After the initial songwriting, he "finished part of the song in Switzerland on tour the next month."
Freund's new album East of Lincoln drops Sept. 7 via Surf Road Records.
The song's backstory doesn't stop there. Freund also turned to a vital piece of literature to meld inspiration with, you guessed it, that long-running animated TV series. He explains, "One of my top four books of all time is 'The Day of the Locust' by Nathaniel West, written way back in the '30s or '40s, but still very present: a genius portrayal of the disillusioned people, those coming to California for excitement, movie stars and luscious oranges; and then landing here and not getting enough that was promised."
"Homer Simpson's Clouds (Day of the Locust)" is nourished and delivered in much the same fashion. His performance is wispy and transfixing, and the production is rooted in hope but doesn't abandon the dark presence over today's world. "Like the making of the painting that parallels the storyline in the book, the people eventually rebel and try to burn the city down with torches. Homer Simpson is one of the main characters in the book, and I am 98 percent sure that the makers of 'The Simpsons' also love this novel and that there are even some parallels within the Homers characters," Freund says. "Homer in the TV show also represents a kind of everyman's hero: we would all rather be up in the clouds drinking beer, escaping work, relaxing, maybe even having some donuts to boot. So, there you have it: a mass clash of the themes and names, that to me in my life, make a lot of sense."
East of Lincoln, which features contributions from Ben Harper, Matt Johnson, Chris Joyner and others, is co-produced by Freund and Sejo Navajas, known for his work with alt-pop duo Smoke Season's Gabrielle Wortman and Vintage Trouble.
Surf Road Records
POP⚡DUST | Read More…