SOMETIMES IT'S FUTILE to accurately mine the inspirations, new territories, and conscious directions of an artist. And while it's tempting to draw attention to any engaging tears in the fabric of the creative process or zero in on the awkward tensions of outside influence, sometimes music is music. But sometimes it's really great music, which is important when considering Ramona Falls and its brain trust, Brent Knopf.
With Knopf's story comes a temptation to compare and contrast his Ramona Falls output—specifically his new LP Prophet—to that of his former band, art-rockers Menomena. Prophet being the first of Ramona Falls' two albums to be free of the parasol shadow cast by Menomena, there could be reasonable queries about embracing vulnerability.
Not to Knopf.
"I think my songwriting is pretty consistent between both bands," says Knopf. "I might have been a little more guarded with Menomena, but I think people are having to fish out how [Prophet] is different, and sometimes I have to grasp for straws to explain that."
Having a full band now, as opposed to the largely solo take on Ramona Falls' first full-length, Intuit (not counting the 30-plus collaborators on that album), has resulted in a creative buoy for Knopf, whose songs typically encompass an artistic ambiguity even while riding lush textural terrain. Still, Knopf's piano- and synth-heavy opuses generally remain front and center, as his busy bandmates' are stretched collaboratively as is—bassist Dave Lowensohn and former guitarist Matt Sheehy are in Lost Lander; new guitarist Brandon Laws plays in Hosannas; drummer Paul Alcott is in Parenthetical Girls and took over Knopf's keyboard parts for Menomena on their most recent tour.
Spacey new wave meditations like "Spore" showcase Knopf's experimental sojourns while also staying true to near-orchestral arrangements. There are moments of eye-popping guitar, too, with big riffs and driving drums featured on "Sqworm" and "Brevony," the latter sounding like the soundtrack to a bleary-eyed drive through the desert.
The album didn't come without its share of roadblocks. Knopf was forced to overcome a crippling lyrical drought once the music had been composed, and had to face his own challenges of over-deliberation. Knopf's studiousness typically bleeds into his music; in this case, his internal debates threatened to clot up before that could happen.
Luckily, that thematic speed bump yielded a heady thread woven throughout the record, encouraging cosmic, spiritual, and social quandaries through insightful verse.
"It's a tricky process to try to divorce the editing and conscious brain from the expressive and unconscious brain," Knopf explains of his lyrical battles. "I actually spent an enormous amount of time rewriting lyrics. At a certain point you just have to bite the bullet and try to honor the song."
Such was the case with one of the album's highlights, "Archimedes Plutonium." The plight of the character in the song mirrors the struggles Knopf experienced.
"'Archimedes Plutonium' is about someone who doesn't accept the limitations they're presented with," says Knopf. "Like, 'I'm not happy with these choices; I'm gonna go back and hack the game, figure out what the rules are, figure out something that everyone else has overlooked, and I'm going to exploit that, and expand the realm of possibility to make what I really want to happen possible. That kind of spirit to me is really admirable, because it requires an enormous amount of stubbornness and a lot of courage, really."