Small Souls’ Brian Rozendal goes Track by Track new LP ‘Unheard, Unseen’
Small Souls can be found on Bandcamp.
by Walter Price
When an album allows the listener to visualize scenes, personal-conscious vignettes, you can inadvertently and pleasantly become transfixed. Small Souls (Brian Rozendal, Bryan Daste) have such an album, ‘Unheard, Unseen’. Haunting, complex, introspective and honest, this album is a beautiful example of how exploring folk and expanding common perceptions can work masterfully.
If you enjoy the sounds and expanses of Beirut and/or Band of Horses, you’ll get into Small Souls. And to further understand the depths of ‘Unheard, Unseen’, the band’s Brian Rozendal graciously stopped by The GTC to go track by track.
Body Needs Time
This song is about the anxiety of being alone and how that bleeds into relationships. I liked the image of someone sitting alone drunk in his kitchen, with just the refrigerator humming, watching the cat crawl out the window—it worked to create a typical, even banal, sense of loneliness. Musically, I think this song gets to what it’s doing right away, which is why we chose it to open the album.
Existential Midlife Crimes
The first image of the song, someone believing himself blind and using others as a guide. it worked to sum up my feelings about my own incompetence, and an over-dependence on others as a result. That attitude sets up the chorus, that feeling of running out of time and losing control over your life, and the bad choices made as a result of that skewed perspective. We left a lot of space in this song for the melody and its various iterations, rather than crowding with lyrics, with the hope of creating a brooding and ominous experience.
Orderly and Astray
Like a lot of our songs, this one started with an acoustic guitar, but as we started to build the rhythm section, we wanted to experiment more with guitar tone, aiming for something between mechanical and abrasive. Lyrically, it’s the story of a man estranged from his mother because of their history. Like a lot of our songs, we felt it was right to leave it unresolved.
The irony of the title is that just as you can’t un-hear or unsee something, you can’t undo what you’ve done. This song tells at least two stories, one about my great aunt who drowned herself after a botched abortion, and another about my own choices, with the hanging question of how much our ghosts determine our actions.
Mountain with Two Peaks
This song started with me observing little details that hint at the drudgery of a working-class day, the repetition, the banality of your problems—all with a view of the summits but still feeling stuck in the valley. Ultimately, I suppose this song is about perspective. There’s this goal, but you can’t quite make it, or so you feel. But to others, or maybe to someone with a greater perspective, it looks quite different.
This song starts with an image from Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” a story which is deeply ingrained in my perspective on reality and identity. I wanted to challenge that perspective, but I also wanted to convey the problem with the way I was challenging it. Ultimately this song is a giant fuck you to everyone.
Turn the Volume Down
James Baldwin wrote a great short story called “Sonny’s Blues” back in 1957. He narrates from the point of view of Sonny’s brother, watching his prodigy musician brother struggle with heroin addiction. The narrator comes to an understanding (perhaps) that Sonny does heroin because of the noise, the pressure, the world is too much, it’s too loud. Since the song lyrics were so dark, we worked to make the music as dirty and mechanical as possible.
Waves and Waves
At the heart of this song is a question: How can you be complete in a romantic relationship? Give it up, or give yourself to it? Of course, it’s not either/or, and those meanings emerge and retract like tides, or like creamer when you first add it to coffee. This song initially was quiet, acoustic, and finger-picked at a faster tempo. But when we slowed it down and added the heavy electric guitar, we felt the song better embodied the spirit of that central question.
Bridal Veil Falls
This song draws on different images—birds circling above a forest, a man walking a tightrope, a hunter with prey in his crosshairs—all elevated positions, none grounded. I realized those images were working together toward a central question: Can I have a home?
This is our only instrumental track, and it has the most complicated melody. I co-wrote this song with our former mandolin player Christian McKee (who plays on this song and elsewhere on the album), who wrote the bridge. Melodically, we tried to convey a haunting (but pretty) sense of tension, of push and pull, to externalize the oscillation between those two identities: have and have not.
This song is by far the most personal and literal, and we wrestled with the choice of whether to include it on the album. I was inspired by Sun Kil Moon’s album Benji, specifically what Mark Kozelek was doing lyrically. I wanted to stay away from metaphors (there’s only one, the title) and try to build in enough details to tell the story without flourishes. Musically, our goal was to recreate the feeling of a panic attack.
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