D.C. indie-folk band Boon takes atmosphere seriously: Its recent Rome EP boasts more than 70 different instrumental layers.
Frontman and primary songwriter Brendan Principato describes the atmosphere-building as a months-long period of trying things out.
“It was simultaneously really spontaneous and really meticulously planned,” says Principato, a student at American University.
On the EP’s third song, “Circles” (listen below), that controlled chaos extends to nature sounds, crashing guitars, a flitting chorus of hums and an increasingly desperate vocal performance from Principato.
“The song is about getting caught in mental loops and feeling trapped in what seems like the path of least resistance or the unknown and the inevitable. I definitely wanted it have a chaotic vibe,” the songwriter says.
Principato’s inspiration for Rome emerged recently while he was living in Italy. “I never really traveled anywhere before I went to Rome, and living there was an intense transition from my normal life. I was totally amazed by everything that I was seeing, but also felt a severe and unshakable loneliness,” he says. “So I think a lot of the themes on the EP are about things that are close feeling extremely distant, and things that are far away feeling stuck in my head.”
Principato channeled those feelings into musical ideas in any way he could. “I didn’t bring any instruments with me,” he says. “I would hum little melodies into my phone with explanations like ‘guitar with heavy ping pong delay’ or ‘thick flanged vocal with high third harmony.'”
Upon his return to the U.S., Principato began developing his ideas with fellow American University student Jesse Paller, a drummer and recording engineer. They recorded the Rome EP as a duo, along with a submission to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest. They didn’t win, but both Bandwidth and NPR picked their video as a promising entry. Boon grew to a four-piece soon after, adding bassist Luke Ramsey and guitarist/keyboardist Drew Sher.
Since then, Boon has been performing regionally and promoting the Rome EP. To Principato, though, this is only the beginning.
“I have a ton of new songs written that I’ve been workshopping with the band, and they’re starting to come together and sound really cool and really different,” Principato says. “It’s been great having a band to bounce ideas off of.”
WAMU is licensed to American University.