Interview: Modern Nomad
Interview by Carl Pietrusinski
Photographed by Noah Cimitu
Illustration by Peter Hopkins
Thomas McLean, a nomad of sorts, has migrated from college lecture halls and his own basement studio to Maryland’s inviting coast, living in a beach house with friends where he intends to record enough music for his fifth EP.
McLean, going by the name of Modern Nomad, has been recording music for about two years now and is coming off the release of his first full-length album “Road Trip”.
The eleven song project is chalk full of happy-go-lucky lyrics, guitar riffs that fuel a hunger for sand between your toes, and an overall carefree ambiance making it just as essential for your summer as sunscreen.
For the majority of the album, McLean’s sunny riffs are accompanied by his monotone, yet fitting vocals. The album as a whole is ideal for the dog days of summer or an afternoon of watching waves crash ashore.
McLean didn’t jump too far outside of his comfort zone for “Road Trip”, as the sound is quite familiar to his previous releases. But after multiple listens, I’ve grown to understand that’s acceptable. More so, he flirts with brilliance. By listening through his Soundcloud from his first release, Wave EP to “Road Trip” it’s obvious that he’s in the process of fine-tuning his sound.
The whole project carries a warmer Mac Demarco vibe, which elates Modern Nomad.
“People do say that I kinda sound like Mac, which I take as a huge compliment. But I don't think so at all. I listen to him everyday, so it definitely makes sense that people say I sound like him though. He just sits in his house and makes his records all himself which is what I do too, so maybe that has something to do with it,” he said of the comparison to one of his heroes.
For the time challenged listener, I recommend checking out Go Back, Oh Girl, and Who Am I To Say first. Those are at the very least my favorites. But definitely don’t forget to throw on the rest of the album to set the vibe for your next bonfire or summer function. In addition the rest of his Soundcloud is filled with music that echoes “Road Trip” and will surely have you feeling relaxed.
I fortunately had the opportunity to interview Modern Nomad and pick his brain about his tunes, inspirations, recording process and the Marylander’s favorite crab spot. Stream his new album "Road Trip" and take a look at the full interview below.
POND: When did you start making music?
TOM: I bought about $500 worth of recording gear about 2 and a half years ago, and just started messing around with everything. I started seriously recording about 2 years ago and then released my first EP "Wave" with the songs I had recorded. So yeah I've been making music for about 2 years.
POND: What was the first CD that you purchased?
TOM: I first CD I bought was "Nevermind". I was in like 3rd grade and was obsessed with Nirvana.
POND: What are some of the challenges of making music while balancing student life that you’ve faced so far?
TOM: Having to balance school, work, and music is super hard sometimes. There will be some days where I'll go to class then record for the rest of the day, or some days I'll go to class and then do school work for the rest of the day, so it balances out. My friends get bummed if I can't hangout because I'm recording or practicing for a show, but they’re all awesome and totally get what I'm trying to do!
POND: What are planning to pursue as a degree?
TOM: I think I'm going to do marketing. The music industry is a business, so it will be nice to have some business knowledge.
POND: What will be your quintessential college memory?
TOM: Playing shows at house parties for all my friends and having a good time!
POND: What’s been your favorite performance so far?
TOM: I just started playing live with the band I put together, so I haven't played that many shows, but we played at this Hookah Bar and it was super fun. My friend Brandon had a party before the show, and then everyone came and packed the place out.
POND: If you could collaborate with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
TOM: That's a tuff one for sure. It would be tight to collab with Mac Demarco, the dudes in Dr. Dog, or Kevin Parker, but I would have to choose John Lennon. I love The Beatles and Lennon’s solo work.
POND: From the looks of your Twitter (I did some creeping) you look to be a huge Mac Demarco fan, and I definitely hear his influence – if you will – in your music, could you speak on that a bit?
TOM: Hahaha yes, Mac is king. His music is incredible, but everything about him is just "cool" and kids love him. I remember last summer I was thinking "everyone will know who Mac is in a few years" and he just played on Conan and was at Coachella, which is insane! Some people do say that I kinda sound like Mac, which I take as a huge compliment. But I don't think so at all. I listen to him everyday, so it definitely makes sense that people say I sound like him though. He just sits in his house and makes his records all himself which is what I do too, so maybe that has something to do with it. I'm not really sure. Mac, I love you baby.
POND: I also saw that you would be living in a beach house all summer. Does that help to create the vibe of music that you make?
TOM: Yes for sure! I'm living with some of my good friends in a beach house so it should be cool. I brought the recording gear and instruments so I can record an EP while I'm here. I'm excited to hear what kind of influences it will have on my music.
POND: What was the recording process like for “Road Trip”?
TOM: It took me about 3 months to do the album. I just kept recording songs like I would normally do and then ended up with like 11 songs and was like "oh cool this is enough for an album!" I recorded it in my basement. My parents gave me a lot of space to set up a little studio. It's nothing special but it does the trick.
POND: Where does the rest of your inspiration for your lyrics stem?
TOM: I'll either write lyrics that deal with sunshine and having fun and whatever, or lyrics that don't mean anything. I don't really write down the lyrics I'll just think of them while I’m recording and put them together.
POND: Which Song off of “Road Trip” is your favorite?
TOM: I guess "Oh Girl" only because, I recorded it during a blizzard and it gave me something to do all day hahaha.
POND: What are the most meaningful lyrics – in your own opinion – that you have ever written?
TOM: "Keep on Rollin"
POND: Who are your 5 favorite artists to listen to at the moment?
TOM: Mac Demarco, Dr Dog, Tame Impala, The Babies, and my friend Ian Ruhala who goes by "HALA""
POND: In being from Maryland, I can only assume that you know good crab and seafood. Where’s the best crab down there?
TOM: St Michaels. We go crabbing off my Grammys pier and steam them ourselves. That's the way to do it!
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