This is the archived SXSW 2012 schedule. Please see the current schedule here.

Ramona Falls

#sxsw #RamonaFalls


Like most of us, Brent Knopf watches a lot of YouTube videos, only
he’s not watching kittens playing piano. Rather, his tastes err on the
more experimental side of things—like people who make perpetual
motion machines out of magnets. “I love that they’re trying to supply
the world with an endless supply of energy,” says the Ramona Falls
frontman, “and that they go against conventional wisdom in the hopes
of true discovery.”

Which is exactly what Knopf did last year, when he decided to
quit the acclaimed art rock trio Menomena and devote his time to
one epic, personal vision. “False freedom is the ratification of pre-
rigged choices,” the musician paraphrases the philosopher Noam
Chomsky, “And true freedom is the agency to shape the choices
themselves.” But as Knopf is learning now with a full-time focus on
a former side project, freedom comes with greater risk. Prophet, the
second Ramona Falls album, is sonically, lyrically and thematically
more organic and personal than anything he ever contributed to
Menomena, or as the singer/multi-instrumentalist explains, “it’s more
of a rapid transit line between my sleeve and my heart.”

“I think Ramona Falls is my outlet for me to explore what I want, and
what I’m for which makes it more personal to me,” Knopf admits. “I’m
less worried now about being made fun of, than I was before. I can
now say things I believe in, and some people may think it’s stupid or
cheesy...but that’s kind of fun. I would much rather be those things
than be an impenetrable obfuscation.”

That emotional honesty and creative fearlessness is certainly paying
off. Prophet is an album that recalls the experimental beauty of
Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, and the unabashed earnestness of his

old labelmates Death Cab For Cutie. Knopf appreciates those highly
regarded comparisons but when pressed for the true inspirations that
fed into his overall vision, he cites Martin Gore of Depeche Mode’s
dark chordal elements, a production style halfway between Tears
for Fears and the Homosexuals, and lyrical themes that channel a
dyslexic Jorge Luis Borges if he were in Flowers for Algernon.

Recorded with bandmates Paul Alcott (drums, and also, ironically,
Knopf’s replacement in Menomena), Matt Sheehy (guitar), and Dave
Lowensohn (bass), the stunning album begins with “Bodies of Water,”
an emotive and rousing anthem presumably dealing with the fear of
beginning anew. “Spore,” a heartfelt highlight of “Prophet” bears a
substantive core: “I like the idea of someone refusing to feel lonely,
despite how utterly alone they might actually be,” Knopf explains the
song. “It’s a form of rebellion.” But the 11 tracks are not all exercises
in introspective fragility; “Brevony” is Knopf’s most unleashed moment
with gnarling guitars enveloping the listener at the chorus.

Overall, though, Prophet is an homage to Knopf’s religious
upbringing, a titular reference to a life when those around him would
reach to anything that could help them make sense of the chaos. But
as the newly empowered songwriter has discovered with Ramona
Falls that it’s a better strategy to embrace the chaos. And then take
that chaos and make beautiful noise from it.

Our Awesome 2012 Sponsors