Discovery: Francis Lung


At first glance, a Discovery piece on Francis Lung (a.k.a. Tom McClung) might seem like an unusual choice. After all, McClung played bass in the now-defunct WU LYF, whose debut LP garnered praise from just about every music publication on the planet. Then again, Francis Lung sounds almost nothing at all like McClung’s previous band. Whereas Go Tell Fire to the Mountain was dominated by Ellery James Roberts’ guttural vocal squall, McClung’s delivery is silky and smooth; and rather than a cavalcade of organ and guitar, McClung puts as much emphasis on his lyrical as he does his musical arrangements. (“I think lyrics are stupidly important,” says McClung. “More important than being in tune, and more important than being in time.)

Now that WU LYF is over, Tom McClung has also teamed up with some former bandmates to for Manchester indie-rock group Los Porcos, but his true passion lies in his solo project. “I started it because I always wrote songs by myself,” says McClung. “I wanted to start fresh and finish a bunch of songs that I had. It was a dream to do this—it means everything to me, I wanted to be a songwriter.” After dropping “Age Limits” to last summer, Francis Lung is prepping an upcoming 7-inch for release next week via Atelier Ciseaux, known for singles from TOPS, Amen Dunes, Idiot Glee, and more. Lung refers to the two tracks therein, “A Selfish Man” and “Tsunami Blues (Cause of Me),” as a sort of yin and yang: “Side A of the 7-inch is about being the one to blame, and Side B is about being the one that’s blameless.”

“Tsunami Blues (Cause of Me)” is both a metaphorical expiration of guilt and the tale of a fictional protagonist’s experience following an actual tsunami. “I guess it’s about people doing shitty things to the earth and then the earth having revenge on the people,” says McClung. “It’s about a guy who survives a natural disaster and then wonders about his own impact on that disaster. Is it his fault that there was a flood due to global warming, because he did something wrong? He feels bad because he’s the only one left. I suppose it’s more of a metaphor for escaping something and then feeling bad about it.”

Listen to the premiere of “Tsunami Blues (Cause of Me)” right here as our Track of the Week, and read on for McClung’s thoughts on WU LYF’s dissolution, going solo, and his favorite lyricists of all time.

GIVEN NAME: Thomas David Francis McClung

HOMETOWN: Manchester, England

CURRENT LOCATION: Manchester, England

AGE: 24

GOING SOLO: When you’re in a band, you have to be constantly thinking about how you fit into everybody else’s scheme. You’re always working on your own little part. When I’m by myself, I’m sort of trying to stick one idea into a headspace of its own; you control how a song gets its own identity. I definitely find it easier to come up with stuff that I like better when I’m on my own. When I play with other people, I tend to write things that they will like. [With Francis Lung], I’m trying to appeal to myself, which is nice. The approach is just running with an idea and trying to give it enough space and time to develop. I didn’t start a solo project to try to show people how many instruments I could muster a tune on, I just wanted to do it. It’s really hard to teach other people how exactly how you want to play in your head. If you feel like you can do it, I think you just should.

FAVORITE LYRICISTS: A good lyric doesn’t need to be explained, it just screams at you, however loud it’s sung. Bill Callahan is one of my favorites. I like John Lennon a lot, too. I like Alex Chilton and Paul Westerberg. Daniel Johnston, too, he can just grab you and strangle you with a line. And Stephin Merritt: His words leave you feeling like you’ve been slapped in the face with a joke and not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

A SELFISH MAN: On the last single I put out, [“A Selfish Man”], a lot of people are getting the lyrics wrong. There are some blogs that thought I wrote, “You have to leave a band / And it was not the plan.” But it’s actually, “You have to leave / Abandoning was not the plan.” It’s supposed to sound like it, but it’s not supposed to be it. I started writing it about being selfish. At the time I was inspired by certain events. I just thought I would want to point out how hypocritical being selfish is—how hypocritical life is if you live it as a selfish person. It’s more about making an example of that than anything else. I thought it would be funny to have a line that sounded like I said [“band”], but it’s not the most serious thing in the world—it’s kind of a joke. Also, if you read it, you can’t say that I said that, ’cause I didn’t. [laughs]

THE MANCHESTER SCENE: Everybody goes to each other’s shows and supports them. I suppose that’s the closest thing you could say that’s a scene. You always see the same people at a show, along with a couple other people you don’t really recognize. I suppose the “Manchester Scene” is just bands watching other bands until A&R people see them, and then they’ll get scouted and go away, or they’ll stick around. I do think there’s some good stuff around, and I don’t think there has been for a little while.

COMING SOON: I have a collection of songs called Faeher‘s Son. I want to release the first volume of that in the spring. I’m unsigned, so I don’t know how it’ll get it out there. It’s going to be a collection of music released in two parts—they’re both going to be called Faeher‘s Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. “Faeher” is the way my friend says, “father”—I just like it. It’s supposedly a collection of music for my dad, me being his faeher’s son. It just sounds a little bit less biblical than “father’s son.”

NOM DE GUERRE: Francis is my confirmation name, which is after Francis of Assisi. Lung was just a nickname that I had when I was a teenager—I still have it I suppose. I just like it better than Tom McClung, I think that sounded a bit cumbersome. I also like how it’s separate from me. I’m Tom when I hang out with my friends and my girlfriend, then I go and play and act it all out. If it was just me up there it would be terrifying. If I can act and pretend that I’m really mean and really tough, it’s fine, I can do it.

LIFE AFTER WU LYF: In truth, it wasn’t any different from any other band break-up. It was just friends who stopped communicating as well as they could and people made rash decisions—all of us, not just people who wanted to quit. We could have started again, or with less members, or more. But we chose not to. I’m just happy that it’s over. It wasn’t the healthiest thing in the world. I think we went on tour too young.

ONE-MAN SHOW: I don’t have a band. I’ve been doing it by myself. I would like to keep it that way. I just don’t want to give up on how much you can do with just a one-man show. I think there’s quite a lot of potential there. It always pisses me off when you see solo people who get a record done and they come out with a bunch of people they’re not really friends with. I don’t want to play with session people—it’s going to be really awkward on tour, I’m not going to have any fun. I don’t know how much tension there’s going to be between me and myself. I was just the bassist in the other band—I was barely even name-checked.