As Roman Ruins, Graham Hill makes music that threads together generations, a rich, psychedelic pop that points to the future as heavily as it nods to the past. While putting together his debut LP Homebuilding, Hill was, more or less, doing just that. His first son was born during the album's construction. His day job as an architect layered a biographical in-joke over the title, too. Two years later, Roman Ruins' second full-length Source of Pride orients Hill both within his new family and as part of the family that reared him. It deals with the duality of being a son and a father at the same time, about finding continuity in a story that keeps growing.
Impose is delighted to premiere “Loved One”, the first track from Roman Ruins' Source of Pride. Between its heavy, stomping rhythm and playful synth doodles, the song sounds a whole lot like what childhood should feel like. There's also a tinge of melancholy lingering at its corners. “All our friends have moved away, yet we never leave,” Hill sings. “We are living our own way.” To build a home is also to seal off a brand new world, one that can't be unbuilt. To build a home is to leave behind what you used to call home.
We got the chance to ask Graham Hill about the many transitions in his life, and the music that's issued from them.
You started putting together your last album right around the time your first child was born. How has being a parent changed the way you make music?
Since we had our first kid, I have felt a charge to build things. I think it stems from our primal need to provide shelter, sustenance, and wisdom for a life other than ours. When you have someone whose whole life is your responsibility, it diminishes the inner monologues and forces you to become more present and take things more seriously. It has been chaotic too. It's a continuum of time and energy and you have to provide structure in order to make it all make sense. All the music I've done since since starting a family has helped me process the extreme swings of joy, frustration and exhaustion, and ultimately it erupts in love.
The songs on Source of Pride tell stories of ancestry and family. What specifically in your own family's history did you find yourself drawing upon when you were writing this album?
Source of Pride deals primarily with people in my immediate family. Each song has a story, a relationship, a specificity that created the feeling and the words. For example, my paternal grandfather was a pro basketball player before the NBA existed, he played guard and was one of the first players to jettison the granny-style shot. He was sensational at hoops and loved the attention. I have a picture of him in my house—he was a dapper guy, real sharp dresser. He gave my dad a Ford Fairlane for graduation and ended up living in a house on a golf course in Florida. Now that I'm a father, it's apparent that we uphold appearances to cement our preferred image into people's memories, but a side exists that most never see. That's what I'm trying to reach in the track “Grandfather”. I talk about visiting his grave at the end of the song, and what it would feel like to take off my shoes there. To literally feel him through the grass.
Do you share your music with your children? Do you have plans to teach them to make music themselves?
I definitely share the music with them; it's part of our daily routine. A critical part of my songwriting process is running or driving around listening to rough mixes and poring over the tracks. Usually that means either one or both of my sons is in tow and we like to sing together. Over the course of finishing the record, they were present for the iteration as songs evolved into the final album versions. I suppose this is my approach to teaching them musically; I want it to happen naturally so things can grow on them over time. I'll always enjoy exposing them to music, especially certain songs or records that have inspired me. I grew up around music—my dad still plays all the time—but being involved in the performance aspect was always my choice. That said, I think it's a useful thing to be the product of a musical family and it can help foster the confidence that is such a necessary part of live music.
You're drawn to a vintage-leaning breed of psych pop—why do you think psychedelia is the most ready idiom for you to express your ideas?
I enjoy psychedelia as a therapeutic pursuit, a retreat from distractions, but I don't actively strive for it in my music. I record things based on what I'm feeling in that moment, then I sample them and build libraries of sounds, much like materials for designing buildings. It's an alchemical process. When I start writing a song and layering, I inevitably recall something I felt about my children, or my sister, or a wave of contentment I got after connecting with my wife. If it has a strong vibe, I pursue it. It helps me process the feelings and move beyond myself; it's a release. In some ways I think this is why many people take psychedelics—to get over themselves and let the light in. If my songs can help people feel that way, I would be psyched.
What was the most pleasant surprise you experienced in putting together this album?
When I first started composing, I used it as an escape, a way to float above the fray and explore outside perspectives. It's always been just me doing this project, so when recording I exclusively work alone. But with this record, I found myself becoming more interested in the relationships that have shaped me, and the people who have fueled what's burning inside. The most surprising part of the process was where I ended up—feeling more connected to those I truly care about, rather than on the outside looking in.
Roman Ruins' Source of Pride is out July 15 on Gold Robot Records.