Proper. discuss how their new LP was inspired by Silver Jews, Dance Gavin Dance & more
Pick up Proper.'s new album on bone & grey vinyl.
Brooklyn trio Proper. have just released their new album The Great American Novel, which was produced by Bartees Strange. "The Great American Novel is a concept album about how Black genius, specifically my own, goes ignored, is relentlessly contested, or just gets completely snuffed out before it can flourish,” says vocalist Erik Garlington. "This record is a concept album that’s meant to read like a book; every song is a chapter following the protagonist through their 20s. Imagine a queer, Black Holden Caufield-type coming up in the 2010s."
That description gives you a good idea of what to expect from the album's lyrical themes, which blend the personal and the political to great effect, and as for the music, it blurs the lines between anthemic 2000s emo and raw DIY indie rock in a totally fresh way, and briefly flirts with screamy post-hardcore, abrasive hip hop, and a few other things too. We asked the band what music influenced the album, and they made a musically diverse list that goes from Silver Jews to Touche Amore to Steely Dan to Dance Gavin Dance to Donald Glover, and also includes some non-music (like Law and Order: SVU). Read on to stream the album and read the band's full influences list.
The Great American Novel is out now via Father/Daughter and Big Scary Monsters. Pick up a copy on bone & grey vinyl here.
PROPER.'S INFLUENCES LIST
Natasha Johnson's (bass) picks:
Silver Jews - "Pet Politics"
David Berman is an absolute legend and "Pet Politics" is a great example of his earlier output with the Silver Jews. His voice drives the entire tempo of the song and I really took to how the bass lines help accentuate everything he was saying. It helped me a lot with working around Erik’s vocals and making him sound like a cherub.
Protomartyr - "Worm in Heaven"
Everything I said about "Pet Politics," this is the total opposite. With a lot of Protomartyr, and especially in "Worm in Heaven," the vocals take a back seat to the rhythm section and they really drive things forward. In our song “The Routine,” I’m using the bass almost like a percussion instrument to really work with Eli and push this song into an area that we really haven’t gone to as a band.
Touché Amore - Lament
Touche has always been in my periphery, but Lament really stuck with me hard. Tyler Kirby’s driving, melodic baselines gave me a “Reminder” that being in a band is supposed to be fun and we’re allowed to rock the fuck out every now and then. The ending of “Jean” is a great example of that.
SVU Season - 1 - 21
Binging almost all of Law and Order: SVU got me through writing this album and me a better person. I would have been THE BEST PERSON if god, my husband, and my therapist didn’t stop me from finishing the entire series. Systemic oppression at its finest.
Elijah Watson's (drums) picks:
My uncle (who passed away in 2020) was a formative inspiration for me as a drummer growing up. Thought of him a lot while recording this album and although rock wasn’t really his beat, I’d like to think he would’ve been happy to see me playing drums regardless.
Steely Dan has really got me through this pandemic. Musically, they didn’t influence anything for the album haha, but just providing me comfort as a person.
A bunch of formative drummers
I’m always tapping into the drummers that inspired me to start playing in the first place, but even more so for this album bcause it channelled it a lot of the heavier influences I grew up with. So Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age), Jay Wynne (ex-Circle Takes The Square), and Tony Hajjar (At the Drive In).
Erik Garlington's (vocals/guitar) picks:
Conor Oberst, to me, is the best, most consistent lyricist I've ever heard. I look at myself as a writer who happens to play guitar so my main focus for every project is making sure the story we're trying to tell is fresh, and that I'm still pushing myself. You see too many artists that capture lightning in a bottle early on the to on to fall off lyrically. Whenever I was feeling challenged lyrically I'd listen to Bright Eyes and it inspired me to go for more complex lyricism and different rhyming words than what you'd expect in some instances.
Dance Gavin Dance
DGD was one of the first 'scene' bands I fell head over heels for. Will Swan, a Black man in such a white washed scene, managed to create his own genre and, not only that, keep building upon it for 15 straight years to the point that their newer releases have surpassed their legacy stuff and they're more successful than ever. It's inspiring as a guitarist, as a touring act, and as a person of color. My lead guitar licks on this album are 100% inspired by Will being able to write part that sound great, are insanely fun to play, and really challenging.
Going back to the point about seeing myself as a writer first, Donald Glover once called himself 'The son of Kanye'. I very much see myself as the son of Donald and the grandson of Kanye. Although we signed to a bigger label and got a bigger advance this time, I still elected to direct all of our videos. I've always been the creative director of Proper., overseeing our photoshoots, dressing the sets, creating the flower and mask themes that you see for all 3 albums. TGAN is our Because the Internet in terms of scope and concept, we're trying to channel that influence and dial it up to 11.