TRACK OF THE WEEK: San Fermin, “Bride”

It’s a good day when you stumble upon new music from San Fermin, and this week they’ve delivered “Bride,” from their upcoming album, Belong. It’s a poignant snapshot of social anxiety—something so many of us have dealt with in some capacity—which made it a shoe-in for our Track of the Week.

Charlene Kaye performs in her usual intoxicating style, her rich vocals easy to bask in. Like many a San Fermin track, “Bride” is layered with orchestral flourishes—violin, guitar, drums, trumpet, and harp—all expertly played and working in lush accordance to deliver a story. And the story, says San Fermin’s producer, composer, and bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is based on a true one.

The title of Belong vaguely alludes to Ludwig-Leone’s struggles with anxiety and his childhood search to fit in. His musical endeavors have helped him build confidence, and after two gorgeous albums, he’s finally delving into more personal stories, particularly related to mental health. To compose this track (based on a wedding-induced panic attack), he wrote from the perspective of a flower-clad bride at the surreal moment of her wedding day. Her panicked dissociation is at odds with the stereotypical joy of marriage – but it wouldn’t be a San Fermin song without that otherworldly darkness cloaking the beautiful vocals and instrumentals.

It’s telling that Ludwig-Leone chose a bride to symbolize the pressures of social expectation. Every aspect of wedding planning comes down to making each moment of the “big day” perfect, and the harshest scrutiny is usually reserved for the woman at the altar. Long before a bride walks down the aisle, she drives herself to high levels of stress, searching out the perfect florist, the perfect band, the perfect venue. It brings to mind the negative images of Bridezilla—rarely do we hear stories of “The Groom From Hell”—but what happens when all that stress is turned inward? Perhaps a dissociative meltdown, like the one Kaye sings about?

Society puts a lot of pressure on us to be the perfect versions of ourselves at all times, stage-managing every single situation so that we come away with picture perfect memories to look back on. “Bride” is Ludwig-Leone’s nod to the irrationality of that notion, of how it only sets us up for continual breakdowns as we come crashing down from our adrenaline-laced, manic perfectionism. Once her wedding comes to fruition, when the bride is finally able to relax, slow down, and take everything in, she disconnects from the moment she’s been building herself up for all along. That’s anxiety in a nutshell – prolonged, continuous stress that stops you from really enjoying what you’ve stressed about cultivating in the first place.

“Bride” reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect, but it’s clear that San Fermin have achieved something close to that on Belong. The record comes out April 7; until then, listen to “Bride” below.