Meet Covey, the folk-punk artist building an audience (and a twisted fantasy world) on TikTok


Photo: Matt Marino

TikTok fame is invaluable these days—it might just get you a role in the new She’s All That remake—and being a really, really good dancer isn’t the only game to conquer its algorithms. Just ask Tom Freeman, the British-born, Brooklyn-based artist behind folk-punk outfit Covey. After the release of his muscular debut, Class Of Cardinal Sin, was delayed by the pandemic, he barreled through the boredom by embarking on his Tour To Nobody, a trek through the Northeast that found him filming solo acoustic shows at weird dinosaur parks, quirky roadside stores, and even the famed Bread and Puppet Theater. He shared snippets of his journey to TikTok and posted the actual performances over on his YouTube.)

His bite-sized travelogues soon found an audience, one that’s since grown to more than a million since the account was first created in September. On Halloween, he sought to sustain their interest by reigniting one of his old hobbies: creating characters from hand-painted figurines. Throughout a series of TikToks, Freeman introduced the adorably monstrous characters as the students of his Class Of Cardinal Sin, unpacking their backstories in such a way that an entire subreddit was started to further explore their lore.

It all culminated with the music video for “Cut On The Crease,” a twisted clip with an offbeat emotional edge that vividly brings to life Freeman’s figurines as it provides a striking canvas for the song’s piercing lyrics and stirring melodies.

“I’m excited for fans to see the stories told in this totally different medium and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out,” he wrote in a statement accompanying the video. “[T]he personalities definitely come across in the video how I intended them to and how fans have come to know them. Through all the lore, fan theories, cosplay and fan art, the character identities have only gotten more and more vivid, so much so that they began to transcend their small toy bodies even before this video.”

Check it out below.

Freeman elaborated on the figurines, who you certainly haven’t see the last of, in an email interview with The A.V. Club. He also chatted about his impromptu tour and teased what’s next.

The A.V. Club: How did you first become acquainted with TikTok?

Tom Freeman: I just started posting videos of my friends and me messing around getting drunk, making fun of one friend for being a Milk Kid and then figured I could use the platform to really promote my music and as a replacement for tour whilst in quarantine and thats when I started the tour to nobody

AVC: How did the “Tour To Nobody” concept come about? What were some of your favorite places to play?

TF: It came about simply because I was so frustrated with being unable to play shows and simply be a musician in the way I’ve known for years. That side of my life has become such a strong part of who I am and when it was taken away I felt incredibly lost and stuck and I’m sure a lot of other musicians felt that way too. I figured there was some kind of thing I could do episodically and really wanted to do an acoustic version of SCLSCD and those two things came together perfectly to do a sort of socially distant tour where I record each session at a weird and on brand location. I think my favorite location was the Bread and Puppet theater. The artistry was incredible and just so freely creative. It was perfectly obscure and felt like some kind of fantasy world, especially the memorial grounds.

AVC: How did the figurine concept come about? Has this kind of work always been a hobby of yours?

TF: Yeah I grew up painting Warhammer and Warhammer 40k—painted Orks, Waaaargh—but never kit bashed as a kid. I knew I wanted to make some characters for the from cover and do a diorama and when I picked up the hobby again as an adult I realized I could now apply my adult brain to it and become much better at it all. I absolutely loved putting it together and I’m so happy I picked the hobby back up in a much more creative way.

AVC: Do you have any future plans for these figurines beyond this album cycle?

TF: Yes! But I don’t want to spoil anything. All I will say is “College of Cardinal Sin”.

AVC: What’s it like being TikTok famous?

TF: I don’t think I’m Tik Tok famous hahah. You should ask the characters how it feels!

You can pre-order Class Of Cardinal Sin here (and pick up some sick character-themed merch). A firm release date has yet to be set, but you can expect it in the spring of 2021. In the meantime, follow him on TikTok.

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