For a limited time, Rumspringa is available as a free download via Noisetrade along with a bonus mixtape of unreleased instrumental demos, b-sides, & sketches written during the Rumspringa sessions.
Aug. 26, 2013
The word Rumspringa first entered my head after seeing a documentary called ‘The Devil’s Playground’. I’ve always been interested in words from a visual standpoint. Words as shapes. The way they lay across the page. The way they look side by side. I even keep a dictionary of interesting words and phrases which I’m always adding to and Rumspringa was a word that just seemed to belong with the others.
The film spends weeks in rural Amish communities documenting the lives of a few young kids as they grapple with their burgeoning adulthood. To an Amish kid, Rumspringa means freedom. The word itself translates as ‘running around’. For many, those days are filled with a lot of partying, drugs, and everything else as these kids try to find their footing in this strange new world they’ve been kept from their whole life.
Freedom can be a strange animal. It can be equal parts terrifying and joy inducing. I left the documentary spinning with thoughts and ideas on what exactly happens when someone transitions from a place of intense structure and expectation and is thrust into a world where essentially anything goes. What does that do to the human psyche?
In a more broad sense I was wrestling with the same thing as those kids. What to do with what you’ve been given. What to do with freedom. Up to that point, I had lived most of my life as an anxious kid holed up in a room somewhere. Music had been a way for me to find solace and to soundtrack an increasingly inward life. Acting passively; acting reactively. On a regular basis I was presented with my symbolic Rumspringa, but for the most part was ignoring it.
The initial ideas for the record came quite quickly. I was on the road and decided to try and write an idea a day and then name it after whatever city I happened to be in at that time. I had a laptop and little Apogee Uno interface along with some cheap orchestra samples and every day after load in I would setup in the dressing room for a few hours and just write. Usually, if I was lucky I would end up with a verse, chorus, and bridge idea that I could then archive to work on later.
Cities like Chicago and Las Vegas represented the bombast and cadence of a big city and fed into songs like ‘Chicago’ and ‘Bows & Arrows,’ while small quiet towns like Davenport informed the more introspective songs like ‘Andalusia’.
With Rumspringa, the music and the lyrics were two completely separate processes. I tend to get really involved with the production first and because of that I’m not really in the headspace for words until the music is finished. I always keep a collection of different thoughts, articles, quotes, and experiences that I’m constantly adding to while I’m working. In the end it all starts to blend and mix together. News stories merge with journal entries and lyrics ideas merge with quotes until its all one homogenous mess. But in that mess the hope is that something unexpected will come out that will lead to something below the surface level. Something that will help me access whats really going on in my heart and mind.
Most of the lyrics, I can see now, were me trying to unpack the life I had lived up to that point. The lyrics became a sort of confessional or marker. Lines like ‘I never did something, but its better than nothing’ from ‘Fading Colors’ or ‘We’ll feel like storms in our hollow homes’ from ‘Andalusia’ were my attempts at acknowledging my paralyzing apathy. Other lines like, ‘You won’t ever reach me’ in ‘Indian Summer’ or ‘Over and over, the same thing every time’ from ‘Autark’ were documenting a monotony and an emotionless landscape that I allowed myself to exist in. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I can see now that the lyrics were essentially me calling myself out. Trying to make sense of what was happening around me with my life and relationships and acknowledging that much of it was self inflicted. Essentially, ‘You are doing this to yourself. You were given freedom and this is what you did with it.’
There is a strange power that comes when you consciously decide to do something; Something of your own volition. I began to see that at its core that was what Rumspringa was about. When I think back to ‘The Devil’s Playground’ and the initial ideas for the album I realize that the true core of a Rumspringa seems to be the actualization of self. The feeling of regaining one’s own weight as a human being. Of entering into life at full force.
My first record Colonies was an incredibly insular record. Me alone, in my bedroom on a laptop. Making Rumspringa became a way for me to do the exact opposite. It became a record about community. Getting to work with Eftkerklang, Slaraffenland, Amiina and many other talented people was a sort of coming out party. It was a way for me live out what I was addressing on the album. To enter into life, and to bring others in, in a creative act. To weave together lives in a new way to try and make something of value. Albums can serve to be cultural markers when they hit on a large scale, and they can be personal ones. For me this record became a bridge into a new way of living life and sometimes a way across the darkness is all we can ask for.
Download Rumspringa for free here
Coming next monday: Recording Rumspringa