Keats Euphoria: Punk Folk Album Inspired by Keats’s Life and Poems

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On February 23, Tom Anderson is releasing his album “Keats Euphoria” with eleven punk-folk songs inspired by Keats life and poems. It’s a homage to Keats, with some direct lifts and interpretations of some of his most famous poems, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” “Lamia,” “Eve of St. Agnes,” “Isabella and the Pot of Basil.” There are deeper, more personal songs that pick up ideas from “Bright Star”, “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” The opening song, with Keats singing to Fanny Brawne from his grave in Rome, used the title of Keats’ epitaph, “Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water.” There are two songs that fictionalize some real events and people in Keats life – one that imagines he had a thing for Mary Shelley, one that imagines a break-up song to his married love-interest, Isabella Jones. The final song, “A Little More,” a lament by Keats, for his brother George, his fiancé Fanny Brawne, his health, his poetic aspirations. 

Artwork used with permission ©Cynthia White

Tom noted: “I’ve always been enamored of Keats and his poetry, and studied his work in depth in college (along with chemistry). I started writing songs ten years ago, and have released some short EPs, but had this notion of a Keats concept album, and roughly mapped it out a year ago, with eight songs. Things changed, more ideas came, some ideas died, and here it is. I wanted to release it on the anniversary of Keats death in 1821.”

The sound is unique. Tom’s music has been described as punk folk – a story-telling, driving beat, in-your-face, attitude sound. He works with a classical violinist, a jazz drummer, a poetry-slamming bass guitarist, and there is tension in the music, with the percussion countering the melodic violin. Tom tells the story and plays punk acoustic. There is some interesting harmony voice work in three of the songs. 

Death and Monsters

The songs that leverage the titles of some of Keats most famous poems jump into the underlying myth and story, and then modern life. “Eve of St. Agnes,” a dream song, has Keats and St. Agnes as lovers, in Rome, who encounter Caesar, Moses, Elon Musk, Hamlet, Lear. “Isabella and the Pot of Basil,” focuses on the 15th century story, and then takes it to Cambridge, Massachusetts with a porch full of head-hiding urns. “New Lamia” has the illusion and deception theme of Keats poem, and then a “red wedding” climatic revelation. In “No Mercy” we have the knight and La Belle, and then we’re transported (with a key change) to old knights on a subway, riding away forever. 

“Slow Time” makes the “Ode to a Grecian Urn” an ode to a high school yearbook, with the singer looking at a photo of a woman he’d rejected. “Tender Night” is a riff on “Ode to a Nightingale, and “Sweet Unrest” plays off of “Bright Star.”

There is no evidence that Keats had a thing for Mary Shelley, but that song imagines it so. He sees himself as Frankenstein, and Mary becomes a monster, too. “Love Begone”: did Keats have a hard time leaving a married woman he was enamored with? Possibly. This is a ska-like song. Mona Lisa makes a debut. 

Time, death, regret, despair – you can hear this in the first and last book-ending songs, in the first Keats is singing to Fanny Brawne, and in the last song, Keats is singing to all of us.

Making it Happen

“I got help from so many people on this idea. The musicians were wonderful and talented: Yulia Price, a concert violinist trained at the New England Conservatory; Patrick Guilin, a jazz drummer who studied at Berklee College of Music; Ethan Mackler, a bassist who also studied at Berklee. Almost weekly I had my ideas challenged, delineated and enhanced by Catherine Capozzi, a brilliant guitarist and performer who’s played all over the world. Tali Freed, my patient voice coach, added harmonies to several songs.  The master engineer, Ethan Dussault, made the songs come alive with his recording, mixing, and insightful ears. Nick Zampiello did the mastering, wonderfully. 

The cover art, always key, is from Cynthia White, a Boston-based visual artist.  I got assistance on music videos from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, US, and the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in Bristol, UK. And I had help from some new AI imaging tools for music videos.”

Tom noted: “Keats. I read more about him. I learned more about him. I know friends with preview of the songs have re-read him and have been inspired by him. And I hope more do with this album.”

Tom is looking to perform the album in April in the U.S. and is pursuing UK venues for May/June, 2024. 

You can find out more about Tom by checking out his website here, Instagram here, and YouTube channel here. Listen to Tom’s album “Keats Euphoria” here.

Thanks to Tom for telling us about his new album!