Tom Freund, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his upright-bass-as-lead-instrument work, has kept active during the pandemic months of 2020.
He is about to unveil two new videos, one for “Freezer Burn,” a track from his most recent album, East of Lincoln, and the second for a new adaptation of an old blues song, “Corina Corina,” re-titled “Corona Corona.”
The singer-songwriter and proud Venice resident has eight studio albums (and two EPs, two records, and a kids’ record) to his credit, including the 1992 duo release with college friend Ben Harper titled Pleasure and Pain. The New York Times said of his 1999 release North American Long Weekend: “Every year the mounting landfill of new releases that threatens to bury the working music journalists yields a few unexpected gems, and Tom Freund is one of them.” NPR, featuring his 2014 album Two Moons, noted: “California-based troubadour Tom Freund sings of skate-boarding kids, impending doom and Happy Days lunch boxes on his new album.” The Washington Post wrote of him: “Freund clearly delights in enigma. His vocals could go from laconic to impassioned without such obvious trickery as cranking up the volume. His lyrics are full of curve balls.” Of his most recent release, the Los Angeles Times said, “Fans of roots-oriented artists such as Tom Petty, Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams will find much to explore on East of Lincoln.”
Starring Freund and French-American actress Loan Chabanol, the video was directed by Wally Pfister, whose career as a cinematographer includes an Oscar for Inception and Oscar nominations for The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Batman Begins. (His first feature film as director, Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman, was released in 2014.)
According to Tom: “I met Wally doing some music for a TV show he was directing titled Flaked, starring Will Arnet. He asked me to write some stuff and come in the studio with him and Wally Ingram. That was even where the title East of Lincoln was initially evoked, because like me, in the show, there was a whole East/West of Lincoln Blvd. (the western borderline of Venice, Calif.) separate lifestyle thing going on.
“We hit it off and he said he would like to do a video for his fave song on the album, “Freezer Burn.” And it just so happened that he was shooting a big Walmart commercial that was trying to recreate his Dark Knight Batman sets. He called me saying this set is perfect. So the next day, following the commercial, we Zoomed in with a small trusty crew of Wally’s and made the video happen! Loan was perfect for the role of the muse/hot-and-cold character of the song. And the backdrop of burned streets in New York with turned-over buses and subway entrances and post-apocalyptic destruction, seemed to fit perfectly with the story of the tune. And then me with my jean shirt and my mandolin, playing and singing through the wreckage, with a look of what the hell happened! We later shot one drone shot up in the hills of Malibu to add to the video tale.”
Featured musicians include Freund, mandolin, voice, guitar, upright bass, and melodica; Ben Peeler (Wallflowers, Shelby Lynne), lap steel; Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, Better Than Ezra), drums; Chris Joyner (Heart, Ray LaMontagne), keyboards; and CC White, backup vocals, upright bass, vocals and organ; Piero Perelli, drums; Stan “The Baron” Behrens (War, Canned Heat, Willie Dixon) harmonica; and Steve McCormick, slide guitar.
Says Freund: “OK Corona, it’s really time to go! I took a traditional blues song recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Joni Mitchell, and Taj Mahal and I am letting the virus know that it’s not welcome here anymore! So I grabbed my trusty upright bass. Drums came from Piero Perelli in Italy. And my Venice friends joined me: Stan Behrens on harmonica on my front porch, with Steve McCormick from his home studio on guitar. Good riddance ... Corona, Corona.
“It all started with ‘Drums From Italy,’ a friend and fellow musician Rob Calder (Passenger, Angus and Julia Stone) made a group of us on Facebook to share tracks during the lockdown, Send each other songs and play on them, a real Musicians Union of sorts, back in April. I had been messing around with ‘Corona, Corona’ in my head and on my bass for a while. So I went into our pooled Dropbox files and found this drum track from Perelli (and at the time Italy was in the hot seat of the virus). And I said this will be just fine for ‘Corona, Corona.’ So after laying down my upright bass and vocal live-to-drum track I asked my friend Behrens, a Venice, Calif. staple and legend (War, Canned Heat, Willie Dixon) to come and play harmonica on my porch of my apartment, and I brought a microphone out to him and he did a couple takes that were fabulous. Next was my other Venice comrade McCormick, who has his own studio, to lay down the sweet slide guitar. And send it back to me. Then I snuck a little organ on there for good measure. And mixed it from my place.
“Probably the biggest influence on me was Taj Mahal and his wondrous versions of songs like ‘Corina’ and ‘Cakewalk Into Town’ — I have since recorded the latter with Ben Harper. I also loved a version that Joni Mitchell did and Bob Dylan and of course going way back to Blind Lemon Jefferson. Man, that’s the stuff!
“So I put my own spin on the form, the lyrics to match the time, and music (especially by making it upright bass-focused — one of my favorite partners in life).
”Featured musicians include Freund, upright bass, vocals and organ; Piero Perelli, drums; Stan “The Baron” Behrens (War, Canned Heat, Willie Dixon), harmonica; and Steve McCormick, slide guitar.