Written by Rob Aldana
There is a distinct difference between the tourist and the foreigner. Although both experiences evoke feelings of anxiety and excitement, the former only awakens the more superficial aspects of these feelings. The tourist feels butterflies of the stomach and a shortened bladder as he observes a crowded plaza or a vibrant market; once the initial shock of this environment starts to fade, the tourist explores this new space to prolong the subtle kick of adrenaline triggered by strange sounds and smells, people and sights. These are the cheap thrills that are packed into week-long vacations, and upon the return home, these feelings of anxiety and excitement fade from reality, becoming more a recollection than an experienced actuality. But while the tourist can board his plane and escape, the foreigner is forced to face this reality of what it means to live in a new country. He struggles with deeper questions of personal identity and is forced to deal with the pervasive and ever constant force of culture. Eventually, the result is some sort of assimilation as the foreigner changes in some way to reflect his new environment. The experience is complex, fraught with mixed emotions that are often only reduced by words.
Rome centers around presenting these complicated emotions. Although there are no explicit references in the EP to living abroad, the lyrical content encompasses themes of self-reflection and introspection that first arose when Boon’s lead singer and songwriter, Brendan Principato, was living in Rome. While speaking to me about the record, Principato related: “I think that being dropped in Rome for six months reconnected me with parts of myself that had gone dormant. The main part of this was being present with myself and fully conscious of every moment that happened as it happened. Living in a routine puts parts of me to sleep mentally.”
After returning, Principato spent months collaborating with close friend and bandmate Jesse Paller, and the two eventually recorded the EP at Gravesend Recordings in Silent Barn, where Paller interned.
Rather than prescribe or lecture, Principato seeks to depict these emotions and experiences in all their complexity, to get across the feeling of having “all of these thoughts about three thousand different things, lots of them conflicting” and being “at the mercy of them.” The overwhelming emotions present in the lyrics are complemented by the deep and layered sonic landscape which is meticulously developed in several of the EPs songs: in opening track “Medicine,” listeners hear a strumming guitar accompanied by Principato’s voice singing the phrase “I’m hiding from you,” which is then repeated four times. The sound builds as the original phrase is joined by three new loops, which each repeat the phrase in a different intonation, register, and frequency. The result is a choir of interpersonal denial that is at first discernible but quickly inundating. As the song progresses, themes of relational intimacy are developed by phrases such as “Gardeners they don’t know the truth / There’s no such thing as weeds,” referring to falsely perceived invasive dynamics of a relationship. After a breakdown in the song where Principato admits “no everything’s not fine,” the original phrase of “I’m hiding from you” is warped almost beyond recognition until the sound is resolved by the simple statement, “everyday I take my medicine and wait / to watch you watch me watch you on the phone.” Out of all the confusion and chaos, the listener is left with this elementary statement. The message’s potency comes from its simplicity, which reveals the type of minute and private moment in a relationship that can only be valued once absent.
As the EP continues, each track explores different aspects of Principato’s experience in Rome to create an emotionally narrative arc. While the song “Circles” speaks of the unhinging effects caused by repetitive actions that eventually erode and age the self, “Another Life” represents a more optimistic outlook. All six tracks contain distinct messages and sounds and yet have come together to form a complete picture of the introspective and ever-changing foreigner.
Listen to more Boon on his Bandcamp.