Rostam Reimagines Queer Love Songs with “Wood”

Last January, songwriter-producer Rostam Batmanglij tweeted to his fans of his departure from indie rock group Vampire Weekend:

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Rostam’s note, which he tweeted

   Batmanglij, exhilirated with prospects for future projects, prioritized his pursuit as an artist and producer, under his name, “Rostam”.

Batmanglij expressed weariness with his role in Vampire Weekend, in an interview with Pitchfork, stating that while he understood the idea of being “‘a dude in a band’, because people got to know me through Vampire Weekend…it’s hard for people to see you as a producer with a musical identity when you’re contextualized in a band that performs on a stage.”

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Vampire Weekend members (back in the day)

     Iranian-American Rostam Batmanglij conceived Vampire Weekend with former Columbia University colleagues Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio and Chris Thompson in 2006, and throughout the years, adopted side projects like Discovery and Ra Ra Riot, while likewise producing music for notable artists like Santigold, Wavves, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

  As a teen, Batmanglij dabbled with music production by “recording myself [Rostam] in my bedroom, layering myself.”  Producing music, to him, was an area where he “found a lot of joy.”   And in 2016, Rostam left his fingerprints in his production of sublime tracks like Solange’s “F.U.B.U.” and Frank Ocean’s “Ivy“.vampire_rostam.jpg

Rostam, in his favorite place, the studio (PC: Universal Audio)

  His sound resists categorization, though many of Vampire Weekend’s afro-pop joyful rhythms echo Batmanglij’s next-level drum and synth programming and complexly layered instrumentation (see: Step).

Batmanglij, who has been openly gay for years and regards music as inherently political, once twisted Koenig’s original story into a queer love song about a relationship between a diplomat’s son and another man in VW song “Diplomat’s Son“.

Ed Droste, founder of group Grizzly Bear and good friend of Rostam, bolstered Batmanglij’s choice to come out to the press, because Droste had always refused to silence that aspect of his identity.   Since that moment,  Rostam has vocalized his queerness to the world through his lyricism, where, in place of queer artists who choose gender-neutral pronouns (like Sam Smith), he uses male pronouns in songs.  One of Rostam’s aspirations is to write a successful gay pop anthem.

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A silly Rostam

   While music critics classify his music as quintessentially “indie”, Rostam prefers “the term ‘art music’—I f*ck with that.”

The first song Rostam re-packaged and released as a single in 2016, post-Vampire Weekend, was his song “Wood”.

Bordering on six minutes, Rostam sought to “capture the feeling of being in bed with someone, and dreaming something wild beside them.”  “Wood”, a mostly instrumental track, fuses Eastern influences with the soft, dreamlike melody of Rostam’s voice singing about laying “inside a field / beneath cherry trees” as the sunlight pouring from his  window falls on his lover’s eyelids.

The stunning musicality of “Wood” can be traced to the unusual mix of classical violin and sitar melodies Batmanglij thought up on an airplane ride.  His 12-string solo emulates the Persian music he grew up listening to.

The 4 years of composing it took Rostam to achieve an unorthodox, modern “queer love song” of this magnitude resonates with every listen as he reimagines what a queer love song ought to sound like.

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