In the past decade, it has felt as though the concreteness once known as “fact” is shifting. What were once black and white truths have now turned grey, good and evil have grown nuanced, genre and labels are infinite, and there’s a general acceptance of fluidity in the nature of being human. Floatie, a Chicago-based band comprised of tight-knit group of friends Sam Bern (they/them) Luc Schutz (he/him), Joe Olson (he/him) and Will Wisniewski (he/him), explore these ideas sonically and lyrically on their new record Voyage Out, slated for release March 26 via Exploding in Sound.
“We’ve been looking very seriously into binaries, and it turns out they aren’t real. Human beings are always drawing conclusions about the things we don’t fully understand,” the band says over email. “It is a perfectly natural defense against a strange and incomprehensible world, but we believe abstract questions require abstract answers, so we turn to the language of music, to the vibrations of the spheres, and all we have learned so far is that we know nothing.”
The lyrics on the record can at times feel like listening in on a refreshingly authentic contemplation amongst loved ones. The group have been playing music together for over a decade, causing them to grow a fan base and community of musical peers in the Chicago indie scene, but surprisingly, Voyage Out is Floatie’s first release. “Nothing crumbles that is built on a foundation of love. Playing music with each other makes us happier than little piggies in a watermelon patch,” they say. “There’s a level of trust and understanding and openness that makes writing music with each other really easy. It does make for some distracting band practices though – if we don’t see each other for a while we end up just chatting the whole time.”
Throughout the record, Floatie morphs conventional indie music into something mesmerizing and swirling. At times the instrumentation can sound like a voice all its own, as though a debate between guitar, vocals, and percussion is taking place. Both chaotic and organized, simplistic yet dynamic, Voyage Out sheds genre and rejects definition. The precision the band engages with doesn’t limit their creativity as much as it challenges them to explore something new, a restriction the group seems to thrive under. Voyage Out was recorded by Seth Engel, a local Chicagoan who has been working with up-and-coming bands for the past twelve years, such as Ratboys and Moontype – bands that Floatie played shows with prior to the pandemic. Engel is known less for the sounds he introduces on the record and more for the way he forms an artistic space, with warmth and security in order to yield genuine and open results.
“Working with Seth is like working with an angel in heaven. He’s always there in your corner, saying all the right things at the right time. He’s proven himself as a more than capable producer both with his own material he puts out as Options, and every other record he is involved with,” says the band. “He is also a dear friend and a fan of the music, so we knew we could trust his decisions when it came to translating the music into the recorded domain. Working with Seth is a blessing and a delight and a gift and we love him.”
The album’s second single “Shiny,” premiering today via Audiofemme, speaks of fate (“Some luck/It’s happenstance/Or consequence/I guess that’s the way it goes”) juxtaposed with choice (“I will try/Even if my brain says so”). Lyrically, it’s a narrative of rediscovering oneself in the wake of change caused by a relationship, and how partnership and the self interact. Floatie claims the song is about “forcing your own luck by committing to your decisions” – a sentiment which scoffs at fate while acknowledging that not all circumstances and outcomes are in our hands. The twisting and turning which takes place sonically reflects this concept; as the flow of the song recedes and advances, so does the confidence of its speaker.
“The guitar may seem a bit out of fashion these days, but that doesn’t take away from its power as an instrument for channeling divinity,” the band says. “Usually Sam will bring a riff or two – or sometimes many riffs – for the rest of us to play with and modify until we have something that we all feel a connection to. The meaning coincides with the riffs, the vocal melody ensues and lastly the lyrics are finalized, marking the end of a quest for a song that (hopefully) isn’t a stinker.”
“This is surely a tried and true method for us, but we’re looking forward to experimenting with other processes for the next batch of songs,” they add. They’re also looking forward to playing more shows, as evidenced by the line, “I’ll take all the spice in front of me/I’ll go to another show” from “Shiny.”
“The first live music event post-lockdown will be overflowing with spice, and we will all appreciate the live experience in a new and special way, and that is really exciting,” says Floatie. “The shift from counting on our fellow music community members to fill our creative cups has been an adjustment. What the lyrics are referencing are the things that we do in order to feel driven to challenge ourselves and sit down and write something. Without the stimulation and life of the outside world, I guess it becomes more of a personal responsibility and less of an active experience.”
As we come into a time where commonplace formulas for music, identity, and community are being challenged, Floatie pushes the boundaries of our familiar comforts. This isn’t an indie band that sticks to standard form and discusses conventional truths and dynamics – instead, Floatie experiments with something new on Voyage Out. Through hypnotic melodies and decisive rhythm, the band allows creativity to steer their path, a commitment which only yields new and exciting music from a band to keep on our radars.
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