Chris DuPont doesn’t envision Floodplains as a stand-alone musical chapter.
The Ypsilanti indie folk singer-songwriter intricately weaves a series of reflective, tender vignettes into a cathartic, cohesive whole on his exploratory new album. Filled with ethereal soundscapes, hypnotic guitars and mesmerizing vocals, Floodplains surges through the vast peaks and valleys of the soul to unify past and present experiences into a hopeful future.
“As a project that’s loaded with very difficult emotional content, I just had to sit by myself and grind. It was a very frustrating, solitary experience, and I had to really develop my work ethic and show up. It’s really tough to show up literally in your bedroom when you have a whole list of things that you have to get knocked out,” DuPont said.
“I learned the value of solitude and just sitting with your feelings and allowing them to move through you without making a knee-jerk reaction about what they mean. That’s been a big growth point for me. Working on this record really forced me to sit with difficult feelings and hear them tossed back in my ears over and over again. But as valuable as solitude is, I also learned the importance of asking for help.”
For Floodplains, DuPont sought help from a talented team of collaborators, including Frances Luke Accord’s Nick Gunty (piano vocals), Billy Harrington (drums, orchestral percussion), Johannes Stauffer (piano), Luke Jackson (bass), Christina Furtado (cello), Lea Kirstein (violin, viola), Rin Tarsy (vocals) and Olivia Dear (vocals).
Together, they created and navigated the majestic Floodplains throughout apartments, houses and recording studios in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. The album slowly ebbed and flowed over two years alongside a period of personal upheaval and change for DuPont.
“Working with producer Nick Gunty was a fabulous experience. It was a big deal working with a producer, letting them in on your process and giving them creative push and pull as you’re letting go. That was a very important part of the process,” DuPont said.
“And toward the end wrapping it all up and getting the mastering done, I pulled in my dear friend Chris Norman, who’s an electronica producer out of Texas. I was running out of time and needed someone to master the record, and I knew he would love to do it.”
As an exquisite finished product, Floodplains rises and swells with intense emotion across 12 thoughtful, vivid tracks that steer listeners along a highly personal, poignant odyssey. It’s the ideal sonic outlet for releasing deeply buried troubles while seeking solace and starting anew in an uncertain world.
Start Again to Devices
That critical path to renewal commences with “Start Again,” a dreamy, therapeutic ode to looking ahead and moving forward after a life-changing decision. Delicate acoustic scratches quickly transform into swirling acoustic strums backed by smooth piano, glistening electric guitars, shimmering cymbals, soft drums and calm bass throughout this five-minute emotional release.
DuPont quietly reflects, “I have never faced so steep a valley/As the center of the mattress in a wedding bed/All the years of isolation are more than I can stand/Start again.”
“‘Start Again’ feels brutal to me, and I was nervous about putting that one out there. When I wrote it, it was like the song had its own personality and was insisting that I finish it. It was like an unwelcome moth that just wouldn’t get out of the group. I had that hook line, ‘Start Again’ mantra that would just get stuck in my head, and the verses honestly just kind of wrote themselves during sleepless nights of me letting my mind wander around,” said DuPont, who invited Tarsy to sing harmonies on the track.
“It’s a very stream-of-consciousness song, and I did not think I was doing anyone any favors by completing it because it’s just so raw and so brutal. It’s basically me sitting alone seeing a partnership disintegrate and trying to contemplate the variables. Do I persevere and try to redeem this? Or do I turn my life inside out in a way that affects everyone around me?”
While “Start Again” questions traveling an unknown road alone, “I Don’t Wanna Do This” uncovers the challenges of maintaining a troubled relationship. Twirling acoustic guitars, tranquil banjo, pensive electric guitars, thumping drums and light bass make an unwavering commitment to the future.
DuPont openly sings, “Who untethered the enemy/And drew the curtains over you/If I found a window would you let me stay/Until the clean air can get through for you/Let it nourish you.”
“‘I Don’t Wanna Do This’ was actually my attempt at a love song, even though I can’t write a love song that’s completely drama-free. That one was written very quickly, and it was just a really emotional day. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to fit on the record because it was a little poppier. It ended up being really precious to me and a handful of my bandmates and was kind of an opportunity to give the record some sonic levity,” DuPont said.
DuPont brings another refreshing sonic element midway through Floodplains on “Interlude” and “Devices.” Peaceful, vibrating flute-like synths and mystical piano cleanse previously tainted emotional palates and open the floodgates to new beginnings.
With healing waters flowing, churning acoustic strums, airy synths, haunting percussion, thumping drums and delicate bass envelope listeners on “Devices,” a spiritual reflection of self-discovery and personal change.
DuPont cautiously sings, “You’ve guarded your territory/By drawing the darkest line/You tell me we bear a target I’ve yet to find/My friend can we cool the fever/That’s feeding your reverie/You’ve worshipped the preservation of your own flesh, belongings and beliefs.”
“That ‘Interlude’ was a really cool exploration that came from Nick. It’s got this really eerie flute-sounding instrument, but it’s actually a sampled cello. It’s peculiar sample that I captured; it’s called an OP-1 that I used a lot on this record,” DuPont said.
“I sampled Christina (Furtado) playing a harmonic note, and then I put this tremolo oscillator on it that gave it this vibrato that sounds a lot like a flute. It was originally this background layer; you hear it in ‘Devices’ a bunch. Nick (Gunty) loved it so much that he grabbed that section of music and stretched it out and built an entire instrumental piece on it.”
Holy Lap of the Mountain
DuPont continues his spiritual journey on “Holy of Holies,” a spellbinding recount of a sacred moment with someone special. Floaty classical strums, shiny piano, mournful cello, crashing cymbals and light drums create an otherworldly, intimate portrayal of love and growth.
DuPont reflects, “You are a scared creature, love/Your breath in the silence, rhythm to my blood/You cradle my head in the failing light/My queen of the water, puller of the tide.”
“Writing that song was really cathartic for me, but it was also really scary. It co-opts some very explicit religious language to give gravitas to a love encounter. I showed it to someone who found it to be very healing, and I showed it to some people who thought it was blasphemous. I was like, ‘Well, cool, at least I’m not half-assing it,’” he said.
“For years, I wanted to try to write a song about how an encounter with someone can be sacred. That’s a very important thing for me to pull off in a song. When I wrote that song, I was reclaiming my own connection to my own heart and body. It felt like a really redemptive thing to write.”
DuPont seeks further redemption on the atmospheric Bon Iver-inspired closing track, “In the Lap of the Mountain (Benediction),” as drifting acoustic strums, thoughtful cello, lingering synths, soothing drums and hushed cymbals loom peacefully in the distance. It beautifully brings a sense of closure to DuPont’s challenging, introspective multiyear Floodplains journey.
He calmly recounts, “Lay me down beside you in the lap of the mountain, at Georgia’s chest/My troubles are nowhere near me/Left where I found them, so I can rest/Call me by the name that you’ve been speaking onto me/From the time we left together/Your are fingers on my head, an oil of anointing/Because I was sick but now I’m better.”
“I always associate mountains and valleys with that free feeling of being on the road and being on tour. At those times, I’m always hyper-aware, and memory cements itself much more deeply and quickly when I’m out on tour. It’s one of the ways I feel most connected to myself,” he said.
“The song, ‘In the Lap of the Mountain,’ was literally inspired by a valley in Georgia. The band and I crashed on a massive plain of grass in the valley beneath this huge mountain, and we stared at the sky. I picked up a guitar and started playing that riff, and I knew that scene and that riff had to go together.”
With Floodplains now filling listeners’ ears, DuPont intends to revisit the songwriting table soon. He’s currently developing new piano-based tracks wrapped in electronic beats with Norman as producer. This new EP will be an adventurous departure from his chamber pop, Americana and indie folk roots.
“I will be diving back into writing this summer. After a record like this one, I don’t want those muscles to atrophy. I want to dance in a handful of genres, do some shorter works and press into those before doing another LP,” DuPont said.