MODERN NOMAD: NOSTALGIA

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A drifter through the decades, time has never been a match for Modern Nomad. Making millenniums melt away through his sugary delivery, Tom McLean’s time-hopping tendencies expand on his latest EP, Nostalgia. Posting childhood memories preserved through grainy VHS videos, Modern Nomad has always had a knack for evoking this strange shared nostalgia. Uncovering these moments we’ve all been through from first birthday parties to high school graduation, he reminds us of how it feels even when we are completely different people from the ones in the photos. This strange schism as life speeds up and we move further from the kids in the photos and towards who we are meant to be.

A complex exploration of both time and the way it passes, Nostalgia swings from the reassurance of “time is on our side” to the walls closing in feeling of never having enough. Stopping you in your tracks, “What Was Lost Was Found,” makes you ask yourself what you’re doing. A reality check disguised in an easy groove, McLean's voice wanders over the bohemian beat as he admits “It just seems to just not work out/It really makes me want to shout/I just really don’t know.” Almost in direct response, silky and slinking, “All Night” begs you to shake off those reservations and drive in circles until daylight. Despite ticking clocks and the timing being off, there’s this unwavering optimism that makes you forget that any of that even matters. With meandering synth and gentle percussion, the song makes you lose track of the hours. 

Still, that suspension of reality can’t last forever as the ache for the past starts to set in on “Time and Place,” admitting “all the time that I had wasted/it seems I had just misplaced it/so now I must go back to the start.” Dazed and confused, there’s this dull sort of anxiety through the scribbled synths and retro bass lines as he searches for the rewind button. Sparkling and swirling, there’s ample time for meditation as he professes “everything changed and now I wanna go away but then I'll come back/you know I’ll come back/even these days you know I wanna go away but then I’ll come back.” A more relaxed look at time, “Why Do I” is balmy and breezy, a gentle sort of reflection like nights spent laying on your bed staring at the ceiling trying to figure things out. A dulcet guitar weaves its way through the dreamlike delusion promising you can take as long as you need to. Adding to the confusion, the bonus track “Sorry” makes it feel like everyone's talking at you but not saying much. Beatles-esque and brimming with plunky riffs, springy keys, and hippy spirit, the song is a vibrant nod to some of his biggest influences. 

The sunshine that cuts through the clouds, “May” dispels all of the unease and uncertainty throughout the EP. Pure adoration and sweetness the song lights up the whole room. The layered vocals and 50s doo-wop style make you want to smile as he croons “every time you leave I get sad until next time.” Drinking wine and visions of rainbows, summertime, butterflies, and every other awe-inspiring thing you can imagine, the song is nothing short of surreal. 

Like an empty hourglass, Nostalgia makes time irrelevant. Revisiting these sentimental moments and allowing you to connect with the EP on a deeper level, there is an emotional intensity unlike any of McLean’s past releases. Diving into that disconnect between growing up and being okay with that and the primal urge to fall back into the past, there is this ambivalence that cannot be escaped. However, as you sit there reminiscing on childhood best friends, grade-school crushes, your parents’ house at Christmas time, you cannot help but be thankful for the moments you’ve had and excited for the ones that come - that a year from now you’ll be sitting here missing just as much as the ones you do now. 

THIS EP IS CALLED NOSTALGIA - WHAT MAKES YOU NOSTALGIC?  

       Mostly Music, Old movies, childhood memories, old song demos, things like that. Seeing my nieces and nephews grow up and my parents and grandparents getting older brings about those feelings too.  

IS YOUR NOSTALGIA MORE FOR PLACES/PEOPLE/THINGS IN THE PAST OR FOR CERTAIN FEELINGS? 

       Being a kid and not having any worries in the world is definitely something I think we all long for. When you’re young it seems like you tend to see your family more often, but as everyone gets older it feels like that happens less and less. I think I’m more nostalgic about old places and people.

TIME AND THE PASSING OF IT IS A PRETTY CENTRAL THEME ON THIS EP. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TIME LIKE? WHY IS THIS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO EXPLORE? 

        I think it’s really easy to waste time and a lot of people, including myself, do waste it sometimes.  It’s a weird thing though because I do think people should value every second and do as much as they can, but at the same time I think it's important to step back, reflect, and slow yourself down for a bit. I find that if I don't do that, time goes by really quickly and it’s harder to look back and really appreciate what’s happened in your life. I also got really into Einstein's theory of relativity and time dilation this past year, so maybe that has something to do with it haha. Some of these songs are like 3 years old that I just re-recorded, so I guess it just really makes sense that a theme of time is embedded into this EP 

YOU ASK A LOT OF BIG QUESTIONS ON THIS EP. DO YOU WRITE TO TRY AND ANSWER THEM OR IS IT JUST AN OUTLET TO HELP EXPRESS WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR HEAD? 

       I think it’s just an outlet to help me express myself, but I usually figure out what I was trying to say well after a song has been out. I guess every song has a literal meaning to it, but I like to write lyrics so the listener can interpret them and connect them to whatever they are going through in their own life. If I go back and listen to older songs of mine, I usually go “ahhh thats what I meant by that, it makes sense now.”  It’s weird, it’s almost like they come back to me full circle. In a year or so I will probably know more about the songs and understand them better myself.

“MAY” IS ONE OF THE SWEETEST SONGS AND PRETTY REMOVED FROM THE STRESS OF SOME OF THE HEAVIER TOPICS DISCUSSED. WHERE DID THAT SONG COME FROM AND WHY DID YOU WANT TO INCLUDE IT? 

       Awh thank you. That one is definitely more of a happy nostalgic feeling and probably the most straight forward song on the EP.  It’s about my Grandma May who I am really close to. She was at my house one day and when she left, the melody for the hook came into my head and I immediately felt that I had to get it out and record it. I made it the last song on the EP so it would end on a happy note, and then maybe some people would feel some sort of nostalgia about the EP if that makes sense?  Almost the same feeling when a melancholy movie has a happy ending. I get reallyyyyy nostalgic when I hangout with my grandma and we tell stories and laugh about them, so I knew it had to go onto the EP.    

IF YOU COULD SEND THIS EP TO ANYONE WHO WOULD YOU SEND IT TO AND WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO TELL THEM ABOUT IT?

       I would want my Mom’s Dad to hear it.  He passed away when she was only 4 or so, so I never got to meet him.  He was the only musician in our family and in the 50s/60s had a band called The Jolly-Aires Orchestra and would play around Baltimore. He was an all around artist, he was really good at drawing too. I would just want to say “Hey pops, I'm trying to do this music thing too. Here are some songs that reflect what I’ve been thinking/doing over the past couple of years. These songs mean something to me, and hopefully they will grow on you and mean something to you one day too.” 

LISTEN HERE! 

samantha sullivan