Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” The implication is that despite placing one’s foot in the same spot of the river bed more than once, the water flowing by is always changing and ideally, the person is as well. Can the same be said for the prospect of standing under raining clouds?
Under the Rug is:
Casey Dayan (Vocals)
Sean Campbell (Guitar)
Brendan McQueeney (Drums)
The Los Angeles, CA soul pop / indie group Under the Rug doesn’t make explicit mention of the philosopher or his iconic phrase in its official explanations of what inspired the band’s new single, “Raindrops.” Nevertheless, a mentality of chasing change while keeping some familiarity does present itself as a cornerstone of the trio’s latest work. Together for 10 years and counting, Under the Rug are a hustling band. Dayan, Campbell, and McQueeney have bonded across many facets of the music making process – not just as bandmates – and while their connection couldn’t be stronger and more enduring at present, the band was facing the push to record new music, as well as find a way to refresh the decade-old creative vantage point from which the band has thus far stood.
The solution Under the Rug decided upon was to keep themselves together in the same old way but make their surrounding space for writing and recording, as fluid as possible. Traveling across the U.S. and working on new music while from a place of transience, certainly imparts echoes of Heraclitus’s concept. Work on a choral hook with the backdrop of a middle America main street and lone post office as the backdrop, is likely to hit a different inspirational nerve than writing out back from an AirBnB overlooking the desertscapes of the southwestern U.S.. In this way, there’s a revisitation of something while a secondary element is constantly changing. And indeed, Under the Ruug found inspiration from the hotter, more southern part of the country, when a visit to Marathon, Texas spurred a rush of creativity and collaboration with some folks in an artist-based community in the Lone Star state town.
Those unfamiliar with Under the Rug up to now might hear the fruits of the band’s created-in-Texas labor as somewhat removed from the group’s self-described indie rock roots. A song of more sonically sparse style, “Raindrops” exudes instrumental and dynamic character that aligns more closely with acoustic indie folk than conventionally guitar-driven indie rock, save for the eventual apex of louder chugging chords played guitar and bass at the bridge. That said, without holding tightly to concern for the band’s preexistent context, “Raindrops” is a solid demonstration of songwriting that not only accomplishes the goal of giving Under the Rug reinvigorated perspective and shaking up their ingrained way of doing things but also, widens the possibilities of what Under the Rug can sound like when not fixated on descriptive labels, an established image, and-or outside expectations. The results from these intentions are reflected strongly and plentifully throughout the song, kicking in right from the opening melodic motif.
The gentle but nimble minor key melody played by the mandolin and placed prominently in the mix, along with the song’s slow, plodding beat punctuated by dry tone snare hits, give the song a more serious, or at least very contemplative, ambiance. Additionally, the consistent 16th note rhythmic pattern of the mandolin and its undulating pitches evoke thoughts of small but continuous water droplets falling from the sky. Meanwhile, the way the keys, as well as the rhythmic duties of the Campbell’s guitar and the subtle thudding downbeats of the bass guitar, parallel and support the flow of the hook started by the mandolin, adds to the song’s feeling of simplicity and unity. as no instrumental part makes a break for the solo spotlight and the band feels very in sync. The timbre of the keys does provide some tonal differentiation – a very subtly warble in the tone combines with the soft-edged, sustaining quality of the notes – but not in an attention-demanding kind of manner. Rather, the sound of the keys offers a very blendable quality. Its touch of a distorted, wah-like quality feels appropriate when thinking of what the world looks like, as seen through the the gentle distortions of created by water.
Beyond the composition itself, the collaborative and connective spirit of the artist community where Under the Rug recorded “Raindrops” also plays a big role in the song’s identity. The inclusion of two guest vocalists – Los Angeles singer-songwriter Leah Judge and Ingrid, a well regarded woman in the community known as “The Goat Queen” – as well as the another community member, George Zupp, creating “Raindrop’s” thought-provoking artwork, shows the band giving genuine attention to the community’s residents and more closely understanding who they are. This approach and mindset, as opposed to the group just traveling to a dramatically new place and utilizing the environment or its local residents solely for personal creative gain, speaks even more to “Raindrops” and Under the Rug overall, solidifying the idea of embracing change, and fostering a sense of renewed energy within the band’s dynamic.
Given the relatively spontaneous nature of the journey Under the Rug took, and the vast inspirational diversity within the United States, it’s anyone’s guess how the band’s self-producing, DIY, nomad-inspired songwriting will manifest in future songs. All the same, having that very degree of unknown means Under the Rug have provided listeners with more than the usual level of anticipation for new music – what’s to come is draped in an added soaking of stylistic suspense.
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