Trucking songs are, by nature, tales of loneliness: white line fever, convoys and days on the road. Tom Connors thinks he’s written a different kind of trucking song.
Connors, one of three singers and songwriters in Seeking Homer, comes to Iota next Friday with his bandmates and a new album, “Not So Far Away.” The album includes the song “Ms. Wichita,” a trucker’s love song to the truckstop waitress who keeps him going.
“There’s a lingering sentiment of hope” in all of the band’s songs, Connors said, and that hope makes “Ms. Wichita” more upbeat than most songs about truckdrivers. “It’s about a guy who works hard all day, and he loves coming through Kansas and seeing this woman once a month. That’s enough to keep him going.”
While trucking is a common theme in country and roots rock, Seeking Homer is not so easily pigeonholed, it’s members say. There are mandolins and harmonicas, but there are also echoes of the Police in their songs, and of Dave Matthews Band. At a show in Syracuse later this month, the band will play one entire set of U2 covers.
“I think the band members, each guy has a different musical taste,” said Dave Oberacker, with Connors the co-founder of the band. “Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Rush, Van Halen and Ben Harper.”
For his part, Connors cited folkier artists as his influences: the Band, the BoDeans from Wisconsin, and folk singers like Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams.
But if listeners hear different influences, Oberacker said he doesn’t mind comparisons. “The easy thing for a listener to do is to say, ‘They sound like the Police, they sound like REM.’ Those are the bands that taught us to play music, and if we can honor the music of U2 at a show, we’ll certainly try.”
<b>BUT SEEKING HOMER</b> is no cover band. “Not So Far Away” is the band’s fourth studio album, with songs written by Connors, Oberacker and drummer Michael Seda.
The three trade off lead vocals, and harmonize on choruses — a practice rooted in Seeking Homer’s origins at Fordham University.
Connors and Oberacker met at the university in the Bronx, and started singing together, accompanying themselves on acoustic guitars. They traded off lead vocals based on who had written a song.
“We both had ridiculous amounts of stage fright. So the way it worked was, if you wrote the song, you got to sing it,” said Connors. “It’s scary when you’re starting off, but it’s not as bad when you’ve got your best friend with you.”
One of their first gigs brought the band’s name. “We were underclassmen playing a senior party for the first time,” said Connors. “Nobody wanted to know us as Tom & Dave. They told us, ‘You guys have got to come up with a name,’ as we were listening to [the song] ‘Homeward Bound,’ by Simon & Garfunkel.”
Seeking Homer came as a play on words in that song title, initially meant as a temporary name. “The name stuck,” Connors said. “We expected it to be only one party. But it went great: we got drunk and met girls, and we thought, Hey, that worked and I want to do it again.”
<b>SINCE THEN,</b> the name has taken on a deeper meaning for the band, Oberacker said. “Seeking homer is like finding our way … to quote our drummer, ‘We’re seeking a home we hope we never find.’”
They’ve found a new sound on the new album, he said. “We’re learning how to play in the studio. This album comes from being comfortable with your instrument, and it’s definitely the best representation of the band to date.”
There’s a backwards glance on the album in the song “The Man in the Subway Station,” a kind of ode to subway platform musicians.
“I think it’s a very telling song, in terms of a double meaning. It reflects the history of the band, the underground scene we’ve lived in over the last six, seven years,” said Oberacker.
The other, literal meaning of the song also represents the band’s life, he said: “Playing for strangers, for people who walk in and walk out. You’re doing it for yourself, I guess.”