Floodwater Angel grapple with isolation in new music video, “The Nonstudent Left”

Social distancing is inspiring musicians to think creatively about how they collaborate and write new music. Minneapolis’ Floodwater Angel are finding inspiration in isolation, with a new music video for “The Nonstudent Left.”

In late March, Floodwater Angel announced a new album, Spy Covers & Oddities, Odysseys. For the past month, the band has been releasing songs sporadically to the album, which will ultimately contain 20 tracks. Since they can’t meet up in person to record, the band is recording their parts individually and sharing files on Google Drive.

This quarantined style of recording and releasing music is new territory for Floodwater Angel, and it’s pushing them to experiment with their sound. The band’s jangly yet wry blend of indie pop is stretched out on Spy Covers & Oddities, Odyseeys, with the end result more closely resembling a psychedelic jam session or free jazz.

A prime example of this new sound is “The Nonstudent Left,” an ambient, eerie song that draws on the isolation of living quarantine and the general anxieties that come from living in our current political climate. Today, Floodwater Angel released a music video for the song, starring Floodwater Angel guitarist Jack Squier, directed by Aiden James.

The black and white video shows Jack sitting in a bathtub. The wall behind them is filled with paint scrawls: “Billionaires should not exist.” “Eat the rich.” “Queer is a reclaimed slur.” A repetitive, yet sporadic bass riff holds down the song while pencil scribbles and tinny guitar plucks dance on top. The video’s quick cuts mirror the song’s sense of decay, as the camera-work sends Jack’s head spinning in choppy circles.

Floodwater Angel and Aiden James answered some of my questions about making music while socially distant, and the inspirations behind the video for “The Nonstudent Left.”

What are some of the experiences or emotions that influenced the Spy Covers & Oddities, Odysseys album? 

Dillon LaFollette-James (they/them): Being stuck inside can lead to a lot of mixed emotions. Although I can’t see my friends, play live music, or do much of anything I am alone with my records a lot of the day while i work from home. I spent the first day of my quarantine separating out my record collection into stuff I either had never actually played or stuff I knew I needed to go back over. I also did a bit of shopping on Electric Fetus (Love them) and Discogs for stuff I didn’t have yet, and all of the samples you hear on the album are recorded straight from the wax (Except some obvious ones). This all bleeds together on the album; the influences and the influenced. I wanted to forgo a “traditional acoustic ep” in exchange for a full blown witches brew album.

Jack Squier (they/she): The first was the feeling of a very intense and sudden isolation that I had absolutely no idea how to cope with. The second was a deep anger with how the world around me responded to what has happened these past few months. Both emotions that were and still are not feelings that can be resolved because they are indicative of much larger problems, so instead of thinking about that, I wrote a few songs about how I felt and went back to playing guitar hero. 

How has the writing/recording process for the album been different or similar to Floodwater Angel’s past projects?

Dillon: Sparse to say the least; typically I like having everyone in the room when we record mix and master, but without that it’s a lot of Google Drive sharing. Which sucks cause sometimes you can’t get an opinion from someone for two or three days, and sometimes things fall through the cracks. It’s a lot of individual work; complete it and stamp your name on it and we’ll upload it to the album. We write and record and upload all in one day sometimes, and some songs are over the course of a week. Either way, the order they go up is the order we did them. 

Jack: Well, for starters, everything I recorded for this album I recorded on my phone, just me and my guitar. This process has been different because it feels like a collection of our own individual creations, rather than a collection of our collaborations. It’s a showcase of ourselves as individual creators which I think is really cool to see.

When did “The Nonstudent Left” music video come together and what were some of the inspirations?

Aiden James (he/him), Director, Concrete Basement: The constant isolation that we’re living in tends to make the things that are typically heavy in my mind much much heavier. Constant isolation is also deafeningly quiet. I wanted to capitalize on the things that were feeling especially heavy to me and then make them lighter, wash them away if you will, quietly. Sometimes all you need to feel lighter is a bathtub, some paint and initial heaviness.

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