In their album “1955,” two students take listeners on a journey back nearly 70 years to an era of jazz bands, doo-wops, and plenty of nostalgia.
Seniors Carson Waites and Jake Rummel wrote, recorded, produced, and released their second album, “1955,” in December: a story of romanticism and reality through 50s-style music.
Published under Rourke Michael, the band name is a combination of Waites’ and Rummel’s middle names. “1955” can be found on all streaming platforms.
Although Rourke Michael has only released two official albums in the past few years, Waites and Rummel have known each other since childhood and became close in high school.
“We became good friends through music,” Waites said. “Our music tastes have evolved to be very similar, and we’ve played in various groups together ever since coming to Hillsdale.”
Before “1955,” they released their first album, “Moonlighting,” in the summer of 2018.
“The album name rose from the idea where we each worked jobs from eight to five in town and then from six to midnight every day we would end up going to the studio in Carson’s basement to record,” Rummel said.
The personal connection that Waites and Rummel integrate into their music stays consistent throughout every song, EP, and album. Just six months after “Moonlighting,” Waites and Rummel dreamt up “1955.”
“It was in December 2018,” Waites said. “I had an idea for a concept, and I was walking somewhere down here in Hillsdale street when Jake called me. I had this idea of tying in a narrative that’s sort of a loss for nostalgia. And then the whole thing kind of developed from there.”
“We spent the next week or so working on this idea,” Rummel said. “We have about a five-hour, round-trip drive home, and we would listen to ’50s playlists that users had created or Spotify had created just to get a feel for the sound.”
This album is different than anything Waites and Rummel worked on before.
“It’s the coolest project I’ve ever written,” Waites said. “I think this project was special because it wasn’t just a collection of songs that I’ve written. Everything that’s on it is specifically written for it.”
The layout of this album is significantly distinct from their first, with only 16 minutes of music in all and an artistic dichotomy in the last three songs.
The first song of the album, titled “1955,” sounds similar to an opening scene of a musical, with an acapella intro, a jazzy transition, and lyrics wishing for the past in a moment of nostalgia.
“Sunshine / Time of Day” features a doo-wop arrangement with an electric jazz tone, while “Never a Moment / Confused” starts out slower and transitions into an upbeat, pop/rap melody. Finally, “Ride / Pull Over” ends the album with an electric guitar and piano combo, perfect for a freeway drive.
“The three different types of ’50s songs that are on it all exemplify a different style of ’50s music,” Waites said. “Then a crossover happens between that, and the second half of the song is more modern-sounding. The narrative that persists throughout it was very specifically written for it.”
Throughout the production of the music, Waites and Rummel had a few friends help with vocals and lyrics, including Ryan Burns ’19, senior Brian Freimuth, and junior John Szczotka.
“I basically wrote all the music for it and I did the production,” Waites said. “Jake does a lot of singing and plays bass on it. Ryan helps me a lot with lyrics. He and I would throw ideas back and forth at each other until we found something kind of fitting.”
Burns only started singing in choirs when he first came to Hillsdale, but now has performed and recorded numerous times with Waites and Rummel.
“The album is a brisk attempt to talk about how being nostalgic feels really great at first, but it isn’t fulfilling,” Burns wrote in an email. “The tracks being combinations of two unique songs, neither half can really stand on its own, so we put them together. We thought it would be truly fulfilling to try out more aesthetic approaches to the music we make together, and that’s what happened.”
Throughout the recording process, Waites’ recording setup provided a relaxing environment for everyone to work in.
“I’ve amassed a collection of recording equipment that’s worth way too much to keep in our house in Hillsdale here,” Waites said. “Since I was probably 12 or 13, it would just keep growing and I kind of took it with me wherever I lived on campus.”
Waites keeps all his recording equipment in his bedroom where he and his bandmates can sit around on the couches and let the genius flow.
“I think it helps creativity a lot,” Waites said.
Waites and Rummel hope to produce more music before graduation, but they still plan on keeping music in their lives after graduation.
“Music is something that we’ll always be able to do,” Rummel said. “We can always get together with our friends or with people that we’ll meet. It’s not hard to throw audio files back and forth. Whatever happens, there will always be music in the future, absolutely.”
Burns affirmed the significance and value that music provided all their lives.
“More work is inevitable,” Burns wrote. “We’re so excited to put out work we value.”
In the future, the goal of Rourke Michael’s music “will definitely not be the money-making kind,” Waites said. “Which is okay because that’s never been the goal.”
“There’s something so freeing about not relying on music for anything other than itself,” Waites said. “I hope it’s always like that.”