Floating Room’s sophomore album False Baptism is an uber-confessional crusher that neither singer/guitarist Maya Stoner nor her multi-instrumentalist bandmate/boyfriend Kyle Bates was in a rush to release, though it’s been finished for about a year.
Stoner wrote Floating Room’s 2016 debut, Sunless, in the aftermath of an abusive relationship. That album’s self-described “gray pop” grapples with her confusion and distress amidst a wash of heavy-lidded synth and warbling guitars.
“That record was more like shell-shock, like not being totally clear about what happened,” explains Stoner. “I was subconsciously putting off [releasing the new record] because I didn’t really wanna talk about the meanings of the songs... I was also feeling kind of self-conscious about putting out another album that’s slightly related to the same depressing shit I was already writing about.”
False Baptism opens with “Dog,” a song Stoner wrote when she was still in the aforementioned abusive relationship, and one that she performed with her former band Sabonis, but never recorded. “I don’t like how weak I am when I’m with you,” she sings in the chorus amid jangly guitars. Though her vocals sound hazy and veiled, the sentiment is clear as day. Where Sunless processes the abuse Stoner experienced, False Baptism puts it more firmly in the rearview mirror.
“There’s a really important movement and a lot of talk about sexual assault,” Stoner says. “I’m a survivor of sexual assault and an abusive relationship, physically and emotionally. I think talking about it is still stigmatized—people don’t believe survivors, because they’re like, ‘Why would you stay?’ It’s hard to understand the mindset of being in an abusive relationship if you haven’t experienced it.”
“Voicing that in your songs is pretty powerful, even if it’s not the most uplifting sentiment,” Bates adds.
Part of the vulnerability heard on False Baptism stems from the quick songwriting process that Stoner and Bates undertook, along with bassist Alec van Staveren and drummer Sonia Weber. Bates’ other project Drowse had studio time booked at the Unknown, a former church in Anacortes, Washington. Knowing they had the opportunity to record two albums during the week they had at the studio, Stoner went to work.
While her guard was somewhat down, Stoner’s writing produced vivid imagery on songs like “Acid Queen,” a slow-burner that was inspired as much by psychedelic drug use as it was by navigating the crags of her emotional trauma. “You thought it would be a baptism/You thought you would be saved,” Stoner sings. “But he just held you under the water.”
“One of the reasons art is important is because you can listen to sad shit and it doesn’t make you feel sad,” Stoner explains. “It makes you feel less alone.”