by Ziggy Merritt
For the past six years, Tom Krell, the figure behind the seductive ambient soundscapes of How to Dress Well has delivered up a brand of ambitious if unpredictable pop that revels in the rawness of love be it physical or emotional. That ambition has so far produced four albums, each one dynamic in how they represent matters of the heart. For his latest, Care, that love is more central to the success of that album. That love is self-love. Just before his latest appearance in Philadelphia at Boot and Saddle we spoke about the drive behind the album and the accompanying tour.
Between the exuberant pop and soulful R&B on full display through Krell’s smooth yet nuanced vocals, one of the album’s brightest lights comes in the emotional epic that is “Salt Song.” “I had a dream that I was a very old man and I went into this house,” says Krell on the inspiration behind the song. “Almost like an LA mansion house, and it was super austere and empty. But it didn’t feel abandoned. I went into one of the rooms and there was this little boy, a four-year old, sitting in a bed of flowers. I was like who are you? ‘My name’s Tom.’ And I’m like my name’s Tom. ‘Yeah we have the same name I’m just a little bit smaller than you.’ Then he proceeded to tell me in fractured, adorable little kid speak all these quote-on-quote secrets.”
Awakening from that dream, Krell felt despondent. But as he continued on, that loss drove him to reinvention. “I went back to a song that I was writing that day and I was like I gotta put this in that song,” he continues. “And I had already sung about how I wanted to fill my house with light and flowers and things that grow. It started to feel like it was connected. It’s the shit that you live for as an artist.”
The track itself is in part a conversation with that same little boy from his dream, one that eventually ends in a commitment to Krell’s own development as not just an artist but a human being: “But as I touched my face felt so alive and felt so strong/That little me in my dream; what he meant not sure I’ll ever know/But with everything that I sing I wanna honor him and help him grow.” There’s a sense here and throughout the whole of the album that this next step in his career is one of healing, acceptance, and growth.
“It’s something I realized I was doing with the record that I really fell in love with,” Krell explains on the concept of the album. Over the course of the verses as I learned things, the choruses changed. There’s still a refrain melodically but the words change because I’m learning through the process that you’re in the laboratory of my self-development, my self-care.”
Throughout the interview it was hard not to notice Krell’s genuine excitement over this album and perhaps moreso this latest tour. “Everything we’ve done on this tour is a complete new translation of songs from all of my records,” he says. “We’re even doing ‘Suicide Dream 1’ from Love Remains, but we’re doing it with crazy guitar and violin.”
Like the album, this tour sees Krell reviving his already robust back catalog but instilling past and present with the same inspired fervor. “Even some of the songs from the new record, some of them get a real different flip in the live context,” he continues. “‘Salt Song’ is amazing live. It feels like one of those songs that you can get lost in live. We brought ‘& It Was You’ back out and rearranged it so the whole middle section is literally a dance party.”
Catch How to Dress Well at Boot and Saddle tonight- Saturday, October 1st- at Boot and Saddle along with opener Ex Reyes. Meanwhile check out the video for “Lost Youth/Lost You” just below.