Proud Peasant, is a USA-based progressive rock band. On May 27th, 2014, they released their debut album, Flight, via CD Baby on their own label, Basement Avatar Records. Their music is firmly rooted in classic progressive rock, and it has been described as both cinematic and pastoral. Their tagline is: The soundtrack to sublime dreams and wicked nightmares.
My name is Xander Rapstine, and I’m the bandleader and primary composer for Proud Peasant. In the summer of 2011, I was looking for a new direction. I had just quit my pop/rock band, The Evildoers, which was not an easy decision, as we had been together for about 8 years. I had always been a fan of classic progressive rock, and I decided that I would finally give it a go.
I wrote 3 lengthy compositions, creating pastoral soundscapes that reflected the peace, beauty, terror, and uncertainty of life. I consciously chose to include no lyrical vocals on the initial recordings, as I wanted to first find my voice musically. I founded the band in November of 2011, and we recorded our debut album, Flight, over the next two years at Ohm Recording Facility (here in Austin) with Chico Jones engineering and mixing.
David Hobizal played drums on the album, and he was a veteran of several Austin bands before moving to Brooklyn. He still plays with Ola Podrida and the Eddy Hobizal Trio, and he will continue to play on our future albums in some capacity. Jay Allen played keys on the album, and has played with the Dallas-area bands, The Angelus and Crushed Stars. Jay will be involved with studio work in the future as well. Kyle Robarge, our bassist, has played in several bands in the Austin area, but he is most prominently a member of Austin bands My Jerusalem and The Calm Blue Sea.
Kyle and I are the only founding members who will be able to play live with Proud Peasant currently, so we have added 2 keyboardists (Charlie Campbell & Mark Poitras), another guitarist (David Young), and a different drummer (Josh Denslow of Borrisokane) to fill out our live sets. We also had several orchestral musicians play on the album, adding flute, clarinet, timpani, trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, violin, cello, and percussion. Although we are currently an instrumental band, we did add some non-lyrical choral vocals to a few sections as well.
Progressive rock is not just the fusion of multiple musical styles — it’s also about using your creativity to transcend the humble beginnings that we all come from.
I have been a fan of progressive rock since my youth, and in the past (when progressive rock had yet to make its comeback), I was constantly searching for ways to incorporate the genre into other styles of music. As bands such as The Mars Volta and Tool began to popularize the style once more, I knew that I wanted to try my take on the genre. I love the complexity of the music, but also the sincerity of the musicians playing it, pouring their hearts into the songs they’ve written.
Evolution of the initial musical and thematic elements:
As I began to write the music, I really was just trying to meld common musical threads that had been in my mind for a long time. It was only about halfway through the composition of the album that the thematic ideas started to come together. I wanted to make music with themes that the average person could relate to, so I centered it around life’s formative years. It’s about finding your identity through creative means, transcending your humble beginnings, and taking risks once you’ve established who you are.
Musically, I was striving for symmetry and unity, but I also hoped to throw in a few surprises. The finished recording stayed pretty close to my original compositions, but the other musicians (especially David, Jay, and, Kyle) really brought their own touch, and there were things that ended up on the album that were never there in the original concept. And that’s a good thing! : )
Ideas about the album:
I think the band is about 80-90% satisfied with the album. The reaction has been very positive. The album was completely financed by the band, however, and this did lead to some limitations. Budget constraints can sometimes lead to more creativity, but I think if we had a slightly larger budget (and more time), we would have concentrated a bit more on certain things. What I mean to say is that everything turned out fine, but there were 3-4 sections that could have been even better, if only we had been afforded a bit more time. All in all, though, we are happy with the album. And the band is extremely happy with the way the album sounds. Tone is very important to us, and on that front, I think we succeeded completely.
What little notice we have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve gotten comparisons to Gryphon, King Crimson, and Mike Oldfield, and those aren’t bad places to start. : ) Austin has a very small, but quickly emerging progressive rock scene, and the other bands, radio hosts, and promoters we’ve met here have been extremely supportive. We’ve also had some great support in the UK, including radio presenters Jim Lawson and Shaun Geraghty and bands such as Looking Glass Lantern, Lyrian, and KingBathmat.
We’re going to start by playing shows here in Austin, but we’re hoping to expand our scope to the rest of North America and to Europe at some point. Once the first round of shows has concluded, we will be focusing on recording our second album, Communion.
We plan to record at least 2 more albums: Communion & Dreeing the Weird. We’re really hoping to play abroad as well, but time will tell on whether that is really a possibility.
Lyrics, themes and concepts:
Flight is the first part of 3 albums that form an album cycle called It Does Not Cease. The second album will be called Communion, and will be centered on the themes of communication and co-existence. Naturally, it will feature lyrical vocals, and will be a much heavier, stormier album than our debut. Our first record is pastoral and cinematic — the second will be harder edged and more blatant in its presentation. The final album in the trilogy is called Dreeing the Weird. It centers around the acceptance of one’s mortality, and our hope is that it sounds like nothing else out there — epic and towering in scope. The songs on the remaining albums will be very representative of their individual themes. As far as composition goes, the music is written in short bursts, sort of a download of ideas. The band then arranges the songs in the studio, and that’s really where they take their shape.
Preference; live or studio:
We haven’t really been on the road, so I would have to say that the studio is currently more exciting. 🙂 But we are looking forward to the possibilities.
I (Xander) compose the music (and the lyrics for the next 2 albums).
We are inspired by all sorts of bands (progressive and otherwise) from all periods of music, but our primary influences are King Crimson, Mike Oldfield, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Wobbler, Astra, Bigelf, and Lyrian. Gryphon, Faust, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and Jellyfish are in the mix as well. We could list countless others, but those are the most prominent.
Preference; cater to the audience or music for its own sake:
I think catering to your audience is important, and you should never forget who you’re playing for, but ultimately, you have to make the music you want to make. Otherwise, it will feel like you are just going through the motions — and that’s a horrible feeling to have.
This album. So far. : )