Cumulus Perseveres Against Self Doubt on “Tough Crowd” (KEXP Premiere)

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry
photo by Sarah Cass

“I’m a fuck up and I’ve always been,” Cumulus’ Alex Niedzialkowski belts on the chorus to “Tough Crowd,” the latest single from her upcoming album Comfort World – out Sept. 28 via Trans- Records.

These aren’t words that sound particularly empowering on their face. But at the very least, they’re relatable. I mean, who hasn’t felt that way? (You haven’t? So it’s just me and Alex? Yeah, sure. Okay.) But there’s more than just dejection and self doubt in Niedzialkowski’s words barrelling over the surging guitar riffs. Feeling like a failure isn’t a new idea, but we live in a time where we have other people’s successes shoved in our faces any time we open our phones. Maybe we even contribute to the problem, posting a photo of ourselves having a great time on vacation but not taking a selfie when we’re hyperventilating looking at our bank statements. It's a #foolserrand (if you enjoy quips like this, please like and subscribe below!). 

On “Tough Crowd,” Niedzialkowski does more than just lament the things she doesn’t have. Maybe it starts that way, but as the song progresses she starts to find empowerment in being a “fuck up.” She sings with a sneer, “I’m a fuck up and I’m getting good at it.” While embracing the title, she also makes a much more important declaration: “I’m a fuck up, but I’m not gonna break.” It’s the type of revelation that can only come through really living through that type of pain. It's easy to relate to her angst, making it even more profoundly beautiful and comforting to hear when she takes ownership over a really shitty feeling. She's right, we're all fuck ups. But we can't let it bring us down. It's the type of honest anthem the world could use right about now.

Niedzialkowski shares with KEXP the genesis of the song:

"I wrote this song on a day where nothing was going right. I was sitting in my living room, unemployed at the time, and just kind of feeling like a failure in every way. Although I was feeling particularly low, I started to think about all the people who are or have been in a similar spot. When all we see on the screen is pictures of success, it’s important to have voices that talk about these moments of darkness, of failing, of being human. ‘One of these days they’ll figure me out’ was my way of venting that insecurity… that any minute people could find out I don’t have my life as together as I make it look on the outside, and then kind of bringing it all together with a chorus that is unifying. I’m a fuck up. You're a fuck up. We are all kind of fucked up. But it’s okay because we figure it out, we get through it, and we pick each other up.”

Listen to “Tough Crowd” below.


Catch Cumulus on Aug. 25 at The Barboza in Seattle and Aug. 26 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Ore. Revisit their 2014 in-studio below.

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