The album cover of “1955.” Courtesy | Photo: Jen­nifer Lesnau; Cover design: Gabe Listro

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.”