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10 Years in the Making: An Interview with Boundary Waters on Their Debut LP ‘Atalanta’

Updated: May 18, 2021

Andy Brommel, of Chicago's very own Boundary Waters has spent the last 10 years perfecting the band's debut album 'Atalanta’  and after all this time, his hard work has paid off. Today, the band released their 7 song, self-produced album digitally and on vinyl. The time spent producing the album is evident as it is extremely intricate and poetic in nature. Brommel connects seven seemingly unrelated songs together in perfect harmony to tell a story of heartbreak, letting go, and healing.  We sat down with the band, to talk about what inspired the album, his creative process, and how the final product of Boundary Waters came together.

Atalanta’ is Boundary Waters debut LP. I know this album has been years in the making, what was the process of producing the album like? 

"It’s been a journey! Boundary Waters started as a home-studio project 10 years ago and there's an EP from that era. In 2017, I finally found the right people to turn it into a full band, and that's when we started playing shows locally and developing the material on this album. We probably should have recorded singles or an EP sooner, but I felt really committed to introducing the band with a more complete statement, for better or worse!"

Well, I think the album was worth the wait! I know ‘Atalanta’  has a lot of personal significance to you, can you tell me a little bit about what inspired this album?

"Atalanta comes from a time in my life in which I was emerging from the end of a 13-year relationship, and this music became one of the ways that I made sense of that experience and started to figure out who I was outside of it. Part of that is in the music itself and lyrics, but honestly the meaning of this album for me has as much to do with all the relationships that are woven around it--the creative connection and friendships I’ve gotten to form with my bandmates, and the sense of community we’ve found through being a part of music in Chicago. That's an incredibly healing and life-giving thing."

Thats a really beautiful explanation, I know the lyrics are a really big aspect of your vision for the album, what song or lyrics are you most proud of and what do they mean to you?

"I love lyrics and always pay attention to lyrics as a listener...and in my day-to-day life I'm basically a writer by profession, so I fuss with the lyrics a lot! I never want to be too prescriptive in saying what individual songs are about per se, but for the album as a whole, I think of these songs as reflecting on the whole lifecycle of a life-sized relationship--beginning, middle, and end--and trying to sort of say yes to the whole thing, to find the meaning and beauty in all of it while seeing it clearly and without mythology."

The album is so lyrically intricate and very poetic in nature. Can you tell me about your creative process when it comes to writing music?

"I really envy artists who can capture a perfect idea on the wing and write a whole song in an afternoon. I don't seem to have that capacity at all. I collect little bits of things--instrumental bits, lyrical snippets, melodies without any context--and I accumulate them for years, and then at some point, some very specific feeling will come up in me and start magnetizing some of the bits together. So a 'typical'; song has pieces that are one day, six months, and multiple years old, and then I bring it to the band and everyone pitches in to turn it into something that might actually work. I've been trying to finish 'Flowering Trees'; since 2005, and only with this album did it finally come together."

Sometimes, good things are worth waiting for and this album definitely proves that. You said you guys all work together to create a song based on the lyrics, let's talk about the significance of creative freedom when it comes to the instrumental aspect of your music and what or who influences it?

"Honestly, this part is a mystery to me. We’re four different musicians who have compatible instincts but really aren’t all listening to the same stuff every day. For my part, I feel like I can tell you where every one of my own ideas or pieces is borrowed from in terms of other bands and genres, but I can’t tell you what exactly it all adds up to. I do think we are working with mostly familiar sounds, and I want the music to be comforting and consoling in that way, but I also hope it ends up feeling like its own thing on some level."

Speaking of creative freedom,‘Atalanta’ was produced independently, can you tell me a little bit about what the production process was like?

"Painstaking and liberating! I really didn’t want to be on the clock at a studio, and several of us have enough production experience to do the tracking and editing ourselves. So we were able to spend hundreds of hours getting the sounds, textures, and performances we wanted, and then we brought in Brok Mende to do the mixing and mastering, and he really brought it all to life. I loved the freedom of doing so much ourselves, though, and I feel like we learned a ton in the process as well."

You put a lot of time and energy into perfecting this album, how does your age and experience contribute to your perspective as a musician?

"Haha yeah, I’m 38 and probably the median age for the band. Honestly, I love it. There’s a no-drama factor to being in a band with four grown-ass adults who know who they are and how to communicate, and who have their lives in relative order. We’re not trying to blow up or be part of any trends or genre-specific scenes that we don’t have any business in, so I feel totally comfortable just being ourselves. At the same time, there’s something really special about the energy of younger people making music, finding their voices, figuring things out and making new sounds—from a place of pure passion, not making any money, just trying to express something urgent in a new way, whether it even works or not. I think I’ll always want to be close to that and supporting that, and perhaps keeping my own flame alive thereby. It’s sad how many of your creative friends hang it up when they turn 30, so if you wanna stay close to that feeling, you’ve gotta be willing to be the old guy at the show!"

One last question to wrap things up, what do you want listeners to feel or to take away from listening to the album? 

"It’s really strange to be releasing this music in this year where we’re all going through this chaos together and every one of us is carrying some kind of new suffering that is unique and life-sized to us. It’s not what we planned for the album release! But music has been there for me in moments like those, and honestly that’s what I think music is really for when it comes down to it. So we’ll just share this music with the hope that it might be a comfort or companion to someone in some way large or small."

Keep up with Boundary Waters on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify and YouTube!

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