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Getting To Know: Youth in a Roman Field

Introducing your new favorite surrealist folk outfit: Youth in a Roman Field. The project was spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist, artist, writer, and activist Claire Wellin, known for being a full-time member of the Brooklyn-based indie rock powerhouse San Fermin and her time touring with Delta Rae and Once The Musical.

Youth In a Roman Field showcases Wellin’s knack for writing inventive, dynamic melodies and string arrangements that tell a story. In her latest offering, we find a woman sifting through family trauma and anger towards those who have preceded her, struggling for intimacy in a digitized age, frustrated with the state of American life on a wider scale too. Musically, Youth In a Roman Field feels like if Anais Mitchell collaborated with Andrew Bird. Insightful, razor-sharp, and wildly inventive, the project channels heartbreak and rage through a hopeful lens. It feels disarmingly genuine.

Earlier this month, Youth in a Roman Field announced their newest offering: Get Caught Trying, out November 11 on Better Company Records. With the album announcement, they shared lead single ‘Nightswims.’ Now, they share their next single: ‘Abatross.’ Featuring lush layers of strings and harmonies, ‘Albatross’ is Youth In a Roman Field’s most cinematic and unique offering yet. Accompanying the single is a music video, which you can watch below.

We had a chat with Claire all about ‘Albatross’, the upcoming album, future plans and more. Read the Q&A below.

Hi Claire! How are you? What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?

“Hi! I’m doing ok and hope the same for you! Things are nuts right now between teaching (I teach private music lessons full-time and have 18 students this semester!) and album release prep. Most days, I do lesson prep, notes, and any band-or-music-related things in the morning, teach in the afternoon until about 7pm, then cook dinner either by myself (it’s my favorite way to relax) or with my boyfriend, who is a fabulous cook. I tend to have record-from-home jobs or a gig here in NYC once a week, as well as a once-weekly meeting w/ SURJ NYC, so lately it’s been jam packed. I love sleeping though and cannot function without it so that time is guarded.”

You’ve just released your new single ‘Albatross’. What can you tell us about the song?

“Yes! I’m so excited about it, and about its accompanying video. I wrote it as an anthem for myself, and hopefully others, as an answer to a question I asked often while writing the new record: “Am I here to break the cycle?” – specifically in regards to the experiences of my mom and the anger and sadness I carry on her behalf. Sonically, it’s influenced by the simplicity and subtlety of Nick Drake and Arthur Russell, whom I’ve loved for decades. Lyrically, it’s about sifting through what belongs to me, what I mirror and repeat in my own life, and what I can let go of or change. It’s an expression of my own struggles with self-worth and power, an examination of destructive thought and behavior patterns, and an offering of love and acceptance to my younger self. It encourages breaking free from debilitating thoughts and the social conventions that cement them. It is a pledge to rebirth, freedom, and celebration – that we, in fact, already know the ‘motions’ of our own way. And while we can’t retrieve any of our time spent in and on the past, we are here, for ourselves and for each other, now. Recording it was a thrill, as Jamie, Tiffany, Cassidy, and Scott all brought in game-changing ideas that had a huge impact on the song’s construction, specifically at the end, when Tiffany changed the entire vibe of the song with this incredible, nostalgic, wholly improvised tone-change that everyone else folds into.”

‘Albatross’ is taken from your upcoming new album Get Caught Trying. What can you tell us about the record? How does it compare with your previous releases and what do you hope fans/listeners take away from it?

“I just love the new record. It’s coming out Nov. 11 on Better Company Records, which is run by my friends and San Fermin bandmates Allen Tate and Ellis Ludwig Leone. Allen co-produced the record, which is called Get Caught Trying, and I just love it so much. The title states my intention to live a life of celebration – inspired, bolstered, and made possible by the women who came before me – a life that would make them proud and create paths forward for other women as they did. I’ve struggled with depression and anger my entire life (grappling with it actually led to our band name) and it’s been really difficult to identify what is mine and what does not belong to me. I found that speaking and singing upwards and outwards to my mom, grandmothers, and other ancestors has opened a useful path forward. What started as an exercise in self-soothing grew into exploring generational patterns and trauma, and the anger that accompanies it, as a thread between myself and those who came before me. Women, and mothers in particular, have made unbelievable sacrifices – many forced upon them by our patriarchal society – and I believe it is my job to live a big, loud life when it comes to breaking down these continued pressures. It’s different from our last records in that the music is generally more hopeful, though out of necessity. I wanted to write something that would be healing for both myself and the listener – as well as something I would enjoy playing for a couple years. I wanted songs that felt calm and meditative and solid, like you could rely on them. I hope it offers the same to the audience; my goal with music is to create space and time – for processing, for enjoying oneself, for feeling seen and heard and cherished.”

What was your creative process for ‘Albatross’ and Get Caught Trying like? What did you enjoy most about it? Any challenges?

“It was wild in the sense that what we expected was not at all how things played out, though it ended up being a process during which I learned a lot and had a really good time. I wrote the songs between 2016-2020, finishing just before the pandemic hit and we locked down in New York City. After raising almost 18k on Kickstarter, we’d been set to start in March of 2020, hoping to record as a band (the way we have our previous albums). Because of Covid, we ended up slowly putting things together over the summer and fall of 2020, coming into the studio one or two at a time to track the record. Cassidy, who was stuck in Chicago, recorded remotely and sent in her viola parts. Allen Tate and I co-produced, Kyle Joseph, Carter Stirtz, and Ryan Mannix engineered, Allen and Kyle mixed, and Tyler McDiarmid mastered the record. I ended up recording all of the vocals myself, which is also different from how we’d done things in the past. The entire thing was more relaxed, both because of the ongoing Covid complications and streamlined way of working. Allen and I have worked on a lot of projects together, and he and I have a strong friendship and foundation. He was the best person to help shape and shepherd this record, and encouraged me to both challenge and ease up on myself. The process of having band members in for more individual or ‘duo’ sessions also allowed us all to explore multiple elements intimately, with more space and time and attention to each piece. It felt like a prayer, the whole thing – the process had this strange ease, light, and experimental quality to it. It also helped that we didn’t feel like the clock was ticking; none of us knew when our industry was going to start up again, and any previous timelines were obliterated. I actually liked that; it felt at the time that we could get away with creating something the way it wanted to be created, without time constraints or outside pressures. I wish we had retained that sentiment. Making it was a true bright spot amidst all the isolation, frustration, and anger of 2020 and 2021.”

Finally, what else is next for you? Any shows coming up?

“I’ll be touring a bit down the East Coast in November with my friend Hallie Spoor, and our record release show here in NYC is on December 1st at Mercury Lounge! I’m super thrilled about getting to share the new music live; it’s by far my favorite part of the job. I’m also doing some recording with San Fermin this fall, which is extra fun and exciting.”

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