Tom Curless – Person of Interest

“Almost Ready for the Future” was one of my favorite records of 2020. Its follow-up, “Person of Interest”, released last week, is even better. The songs Tom Curless writes gain in strength, power, and expressiveness with every release. Take “Something for Nothing”, Bob Mould or Rick Springfield would be king if such a melody came to them. But it didn’t. It blew to Tom Curless and, trust me, that’s no coincidence.

On Bandcamp, ‘Person of Interest’ is described as ‘a rocking effort’. What is the most significant difference for you compared to ‘Almost Ready for the Future’?

The main difference between this one and the last one, “Almost Ready for the Future”, is that it is 100% me, just starting with a basic idea/structure and overdubbing like mad. The last album was primarily recorded with my band, the 46% (Chip Saam, Ron Vensko, and Ron McPhereson) live in the studio and then adding stuff here and there.

This one was more of a one-man show which can be a lonely endeavor but still gratifying in a different way. I called it more rocking as, for some reason, most of the ideas were somewhat aggressive electric guitar riffs or chord things; I mean, Scare Tactics that kicks off the record is one of the most aggressive tracks I have ever done, and it was fun to record!

I think I hear some Bob Mould influences, but it looks like there are so many more. Who are you influenced by, or, maybe better, inspired by?

I am definitely influenced by Bob Mould, no question, I absolutely adore both Workbook, and I think Copper Blue by Sugar is a masterpiece, the heaviness of that combined with the melodic sense and amazing tunes, really love it. Michael Lucas, who mastered the record, told me he heard Andy Summers, David Gilmour, and Alex Lifeson (he must have meant 80’s Alex Ha!) in my guitar work, and it’s a fair cop, those three loom large for me. I like a bit of atmosphere.

I like your lyrics, and I keep coming back to Street Kids because of some of the triggers that you built in there. Do the words come easy?

I am so happy you like the lyrics because that is the hardest part for me. The music always comes first, and then I try to get a vibe from the music to write a lyric. Sometimes a snippet will come to me, a line here or there, and then I run with it. Street kids is me trying to be a little like early The Clash, and thinking that way the lyric came pretty fast, the theme being I want the younger generation to wake up and live more in the moment, stop taking all their cues from social media and have their own strong opinions. OK, I can get down from the pulpit now, phew!

Something for Nothing. That’s a special one. It’s not infinitely hard to imagine this should be a huge hit. Did you think that too when you wrote it?

A huge hit would be nice! Hell, a minor hit would be nice! Ha. This one came to me one night; it must have been one of those good nights because it felt like it just appeared. The verse is obviously Zenyatta Mendatta, and then it runs smack into Pete Townshend in the chorus!

I was thinking it may be a bit too rip-off, but then I came up with the words and the melody on top, and I thought, hold on… this is pretty cool!

Then when I got the mix back from Nick Bertling, who did a FANTASTIC job, BTW, I cranked it up in the car and thought, I really like this!! This is a cool track. Did I really do this? If you start feeling like that, you know it is one of your better efforts.

The songs are out, and you probably know you released a great record. Or is it not that easy?

You are too kind. I never feel that way; I mean, I am proud of it for sure, and I put a ton of time and sweat into it but usually, by the end, I have heard the songs SO MANY times that I totally lose perspective and wonder if it is any good? It’s probably because I am sick to death of it…but it turns around when I can send the finished product out into the world, and people hear it with fresh ears. I am so glad you like the record!

Photo by Rick Warhall

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