Brooklyn-based vocalist and songwriter Allen Tate first earned acclaim as indie-rock outfit San Fermin’s frontman, but the singer has since stepped out on his own. With the release of Sleepwalker in 2016—Tate’s first release under his own name—he went after what drew him to music in the first place: combining the right words and sounds to make something more. With Sleepwalker, Tate’s something more was capturing the isolated mind state of “feeling optimistic and doubtful at the same time.”
That dichotomy between music and lyrics, hope and fear, darkness and light is exactly what attracted Tate to Nirvana’s “Polly,” his compelling cover of which Paste is proud to premiere today. ”’Polly’ is one of my favorite Nirvana songs and a lesser known one in my experience,” said Tate. “It’s a dark song but the melody really sticks with you in almost a nursery rhyme kind of way.”
Recorded with one of his San Fermin bandmates, drummer Michael Hanf, Tate’s cover of “Polly” strikes a fine balance between faithful recreation of Nirvana’s song and bold expansion of the Nevermind cut beyond its original strictures. Tate’s voice is a rich and haunting reflection of Kurt Cobain’s, while Hanf’s drums add a dynamism the stripped-down original song couldn’t claim.
Listen to both Tate’s take on “Polly” and a San Fermin performance from the Paste Cloud below, and revisit our fall 2016 talk with the singer here.