Borrowed Inspiration: Local alt-pop-rockers drop delicious debut release
Let's be honest: local musician Adam Brock doesn't need much motivation to spur his songwriting– a quick glance over his track record more than proves that. The frontman of the burgeoning sticky-pop, prolific-rock group Borrowed Beams of Light (whose main gig finds him seated behind a drumset playing with hometown favorites the Invisible Hand) writes a hell of a song given the opportunity. So when BBoL releases their debut full-length album, Stellar Hoax, listeners will be more than pleased with the upbeat melodies and passionate harmonies, while intrigued by the haunting, medieval-inspired lyrics Brock manages to make sound summery.
Lines like "I did the twist with willing suitors in the harbor / Now countless urchins all keep calling me their father / Their needy eyes all make mosaics of the sun / Their moms are something, but they'll never be the one!" (from the album's title track) come out cheerfully when chanted by the BBoL crew– a powerhouse of Charlottesville musicians from groups like the Invisible Hand and Corsair. The combination of the band's diverse talents– Marie Landragin and Jordan Brunk of Corsair translate their cosmic prog-rock into power pop, for example– with Brock and writing partner Nate Walsh's flair for the unexpected leads to a perfectly packaged debut that challenges the senses while lending itself to being the perfect background music for a montage of frolicking, happy summer scenes.
"Nate and I intersect at places like the Beach Boys [and] The Beatles, and we really shine when we stick to straight-format pop songs," explains Brock. "I'm more on the pop side of things while he likes minimalism, noise, experimentation."
The overarching influence on the album is the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious handwritten illustrated book dating back to the medieval era which has proven impossible to translate (and which some scholars have pronounced a hoax). After stumbling upon the manuscript in his Internet wanderings one night, Brock found himself attracted to the mystery. "I like the idea that no one knows what it means [and] I like the aesthetic, the look of the drawings," says Brock.
"I wanted something to write about," he continues. "I could go about my songwriting in my usual way, but if I got stumped, I would look through the pages to find a particular drawing to inspire me or imagine the person who found the manuscript, or the imagined author of the manuscript, and write from his point of view."
Scholars argue the manuscript may consist of stream of consciousness writing. Brock did some of that himself when composing the album, channeling the manuscript's aesthetic in his lyrics and melodies. While not a concept album, Stellar Hoax borrows from the theories and speculation around the manuscript, adding in bombastic vocals and a vintage, nostalgic pop veneer to heighten the absurdist mysticism behind the album's inspiration.
But Brock also has his own personal interpretation of the title: "Sometime I feel like being an artist is kind of a ploy– it's a fake-it-til-you-make-it thing," he says. "Even though I'm no where near the success level I want to be at, sometimes I fool people that I know what I'm doing– so maybe this whole manuscript was a giant hoax, but it's still this beautiful amazing piece of art, and if you see beauty in it, who gives a sh*t?"
Borrowed Beams of Light releases Stellar Hoax on Friday 7/15 at The Southern. Eternal Summers and DJ's Lunatic and the Rascal open. Doors open at 9pm and tickets are $8.