Hot on the heels of a rarities/covers/live album release in February, Hem will unveil its newest studio set, “Funnel Cloud,” Sept. 5 via Waveland. Joined by a 21-piece orchestra, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and vocalist Amy Helm, the Brooklyn-based outfit produced the effort itself amidst finalizing and releasing “No Word From Tom” earlier this year.
“The ‘Tom’ record was like a record that could represent what the band is, up until now. Those are the old songs,” vocalist Sally Ellyson tells Billboard.com. “As you can imagine, ‘Funnel Cloud’ is all about the new.”
The group decided on the title “Funnel Cloud” as a metaphor for unexpected treasure and tragedy of living, after experiencing one of nature’s little curve balls.
“The idea started in 2004 as Sally was getting married in Virginia,” multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Dan Messe explains. “We stopped off at a state fair during this beautiful summer day, same day she was getting married. It was crystal clear all day with exception to this little puff of a cloud off in the distance. Next thing we know it, five tornadoes are touching down and we all had to evacuate to local cellars.”
“My wedding was basically during Hurricane Ivan,” Ellyson interjects. “We refer to that as passionate weather.”
The storms weren’t over for Messe, however. “After I came home from that wedding, my home was flooded and so much of my life was ruined. The next week, my dad died,” he says. “There’s always these winds of destruction or change, and you just have to move on with your life. The hard things in life can move you forward. So I was writing all this while, with themes about being stuck. This record for us is moving forward.”
There are a number of decidedly more rock-leaning songs than usual on the 14-track set. “It’s a very lush, and it grew in this organic way. It’s really very intimate, even though we challenged our ranges musically. But we just stopped recording at 14 songs even though we had tons of stuff we could have kept going on.”
While a full orchestra won’t be joining the band on tour, Hem hopes to bring eight to 14 members on the road during a headlining jaunt this September and October.
“Funnel Cloud” will be the crew’s fourth full-length effort and its second on the Nettwerk/Wavelend imprint.