Words by Sean Moeller // Illustration by Johnnie Cluney // Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Seth Kaufman, the unsuspecting man behind the band Floating Action, lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and maybe more than it usually would, that piece of biographical information about him says a lot. He lives there, in one of the prettiest cities in this great and great big old country, cuddled up against the Blue Ridge Mountains, and he takes advantage of all of its splendors, it seems. He greedily and voraciously fills his available time with hiking and wiffle ball games, picnics and other outdoorsy activities that no matter how much any jerk will want to argue with you, are the very elements of the good life. He's a man who probably burns very easily, but he throws himself into nature, even when he's traveling and exploring the rest of America, visiting Missoula on tour and rafting on a river until the sun's well past its setting and the insects have begun their calisthenics and vocal exercises for anyone who wants to watch and listen.
He believes in this thing called the good life and in just writing that and thinking about the various things that he values, it's abundantly clear that those are truly aspirations - seeking that old-fashioned good life in the simplest and most assessable of pursuits - from an older time, a generation of hard-working people who didn't feel as if they always needed to be working. It's of a generation of people who worked to afford themselves bread and milk, a roof over their heads and evenings and weekends to get together with their neighbors, close friends and family and enjoy their company anyway they could think of. These pursuits of well-earned rest and relaxation are those that clash violently with the adopted mentality of working overtime all the time so it's really just normal and never being too far removed from a gadget or glowing white screen. There's no moderation to our sad commitment to working and working if only for a more heaping collection of green pieces of paper.
Kaufman and Floating Action, a band that has gotten tighter and tighter over the last two years and turned into a soul-grooving group that wouldn't have been out of its league in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Philadelphia or Detroit in the 60s and 70s, bring us to a very calm place where they woo us with gorgeous melodies and scrappily fuzzed out tones that radiate a vinyl warmth that somehow immediately instills a feeling of nostalgic happiness. The songs that are on the band's self-titled debut full-length are numbers that reflect the carefree, I'm-clocking-out-early-for-the-rest-of-the-day thought even if there's a love problem or an even more torturous non-love problem.
Mostly, the songs that Kaufman writes come from a spot of reluctant comfort, where a man and a woman are in the middle of their love, a mutual feeling where they care, love and yearn for the other and they're desperately hoping that it doesn't wane, but who could ever be certain of anything so uncertain as love? Kaufman's characters worry about this constantly - that impermanence of those matters - and there's begging and pleading (all of it mostly internally in the privacy of one's own troubled confidence) that feels absolutely justified and actually quite endearing. It's what we all do in those same situations when the going is good, we pray that something or someone doesn't come along and muck it all up like usual. Kaufman sings about being held up to the sunlight, but he's most wise when we're allowed to drift with him and empathize with his spirit on "So Vapor," when he lets this line out soft and cool, "When your mind is at ease to let go, to let go, to let go/So vapor." It captures all of his greatest inspirations and fears in one short and resoundingly soothing touch.