Brooklyn trio Proper. has announced a new album today, titled The Great American Novel (Father/Daughter Records and Big Scary Monsters). Recorded and produced by Bartees Strange, it will be released on March 25, 2022. The band has released a new video for the single, “Milk and Honey,” which follows earlier album single “Red, White and Blue“. Pre-order for The Great American Novel is available here.
“Milk and Honey” references vocalist/guitarist Erik Garlington’s experience growing up in the bible belt. “You’re taught early on that having children is the ultimate end goal in life. I knew from a young age that being a family man wasn’t appealing to me but it was drilled into my head I’d change my mind once I settled down,” he explains. “Now that I’m almost 31, it’s finally settling in for my parents that I won’t be the one to pass on our family name. There’s a mixed feeling of bitterness, relief, and quite a bit of feeling selfish that comes with a conversation like that.”
Garlington explains Proper.’s new record The Great American Novel as “a concept album about how Black genius goes ignored, is relentlessly contested, or just gets completely snuffed out before it can flourish. The record is meant to read like a book, every song is a chapter following the protagonist through their 20s. Imagine a queer, Black Holden Caulfield-type coming up in the 2010s.”
Active in the emo and punk circles since 2017 (the band was called Great Wight until 2019) the members of Proper., all of whom identify as Black and queer, found themselves in a predominantly white, male, cis-gendered, heterosexual scene. They wrote The Great American Novel with this in mind, using the album to share their experiences and perspectives. “If these audiences are going to be a voyeur to the Black experience, I want them to hear this record and learn about our identity crises, our aimlessness, how many friends and family we know that are dead or in jail by 25. How at eight we are told we were gifted, but by 11 we are told we’re dangerous,” Garlington says.
The result is an album that is both lyrically and musically heavy. Clocking in at 15 tracks, the record includes standout tracks such as “Huerta”, which explores Garlington’s Mexican heritage, and “Red, White and Blue”, a commentary on the imbalance between the United States’ everyday citizens and elite class. The songs reflect the overall tone of The Great American Novel – abrasive, powerful, and beautifully poignant. Channeling the heavier music he listened to during his adolescence, from At the Drive-In to System of a Down, Garlington and his bandmates, bassist Natasha Johnson and drummer Elijah Watson, push themselves into ambitious new sonic territory.