With youthful energy, “Rock Eupora” explores transition to adulthood

Posted on Aug 30 2018 - 5:50am by Liam Nieman

Named after a small Mississippi town, the musical project Rock Eupora has been one of the state’s most exciting indie acts for a while now. Clayton Waller self-recorded Rock Eupora’s first album, “Blanks,” in his house in Starkville during his senior year at Mississippi State.

Photo Courtesy: Rock Eupora

He later moved to Nashville and in 2016 recorded “Soon the Sun Will Come.” Just this month, Waller released his third album. Rock Eupora’s latest, a self-titled effort composed of 12 songs and lasting 41 minutes, rocks with the same youthful energy, smooth production and poignant lyrics as Waller’s earlier albums.

Like in his past works, Waller wrote everything and played all of the instruments that appear on the album. He produced the album himself but recorded it at Skinny Elephant Recording in Nashville.

Despite not being recorded in a bedroom or basement, “Rock Eupora” explores some of the same basic themes — love, happiness, trust — as do Waller’s previous albums. Above all else, though, this project is about the transition from college life to adulthood.

Coming late in the album, “People in My Head” explores one aspect of this transition — finding a real job. In the song, Waller’s aunt asks him when he’ll get a “real big-boy job,” and his parents wish that their son would just become an accountant and give them some grandchildren.

“It’s like I’ve said / I got people in my head / And they’re always trying to live my life,” Waller sings. “And all of this / judgment is so toxic / but I’m not going to let it bring me down.”

The defiant lyrics of “People in My Head” are set to fuzzy, upbeat music that sounds like the kind of thing that might be played at a party frequented by the hipsters that quietly thrive at every big state school. This all works together to indicate that Waller really isn’t ready to move on.

In another, earlier track, he bemoans his friends who are settling down and becoming adults.

“All I Need” features Waller’s trademark humor, which seems to borrow equally from the intentional weirdness of other creative Southerners such as Flannery O’Connor and Theora Hamblett (whose painting adorns Waller’s second album cover) and the deadpan irony of bands such as Parquet Courts and Pavement.

The second verse has Waller feeling like he doesn’t fit “all the requirements of the status quo” as his friends wave goodbye to him from their Honda Odysseys, and in the third verse, Waller sings about the everyday American life in which you’re expected to “get a dog and start having children / You might as well teach a Sunday school class.”

Other standout tracks include “It’s Gonna Get Better,” “I Love You So Much” and “Night Terrors,” an impressive song which features a long instrumental lead-in before telling a story about trust and self-doubt through a series of disconnected, dreamlike images.

Before I ever left home for college in Mississippi, I somehow stumbled across Waller’s music during the summer after my senior year of high school. I listened to “Soon the Sun Will Come” dozens of times, imagining each time that whatever this album sounded like is what college life would be.

On one of my first weekends here in Oxford, Rock Eupora came to town for a show. I was set on going but couldn’t find anyone to go with, so I went alone. I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t know how. But there, in a vape-shop-turned-music-venue, listening to the band play and Waller sing with maybe 30 other people, I knew that things would be all right.

Two years later, I’m starting my junior year. Like Waller, I’m trying to figure out what my future looks like. I don’t know what’s going to happen — when, where or whether I’ll settle down. And “Rock Eupora” is confirmation that this time, I’m not alone.