Los Angeles DIY musician Justus Proffit is returning this year with a new album Speedstar, and today we’re premiering the lead single “Burning the Ground.” Releasing music as Justus Proffit since 2015, he dropped a breakout collaborative EP Nothing’s Changed in 2018 with Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, and before the pandemic he was hosting shows at Topspace, an arts and living space he headed. But when COVID began to take away any sense of normalcy and safety, Proffit quit music. “But I realized I needed to deconstruct my beliefs about music to get back into it, that’s what this record did for me,” he said of his forthcoming sophomore album.
Proffit’s music pulls from decades of moody garage rock, at times reminiscent of Sebadoh and every shade of Elliott Smith. “Burning the Ground” centers around resurrection, an act that shakes hands with death, as the track is hoisted by a cyclic percussive pattern. It’s comforting, almost spellbinding, as Proffit sings about living life by his own choices. “It could be beautiful, completely in control,” he sings during the chorus. Later, a wobbly electric guitar riff spins through among bell-like plucks that mimic Proffit’s choral melody.
Written and recorded on an island off the coast of Washington State, “Burning the Ground” was inspired by the forest fires blazing at the time. “I knew the forest I was surrounded by would all be destroyed someday, I knew we would all be responsible, I could feel tension in the air,” he says. The eeriness in the track exists in Proffit’s self-determination in his lyrics and the ruinous background the song sprouted from. The accompanying video features ritualistic, magical imagery with a similar conflict of morbidity and light.
Justus Proffit’s Speedstar is out August 20 via Bar/None Records. Watch the video for “Burning the Ground” below and check out the Q&A about the single and video down yonder.
How did “Burning the Ground” come to be?
I wrote and recorded “Burning the Ground” in the Guemes Island in Washington, staying at my pal Drake’s house. They recorded the record with me. The fires were active. I knew the forest I was surrounded by would all be destroyed someday, I knew we would all be responsible, I could feel tension in the air.
I’m intrigued by the track’s ostensibly contradictory themes of control, beauty, and destruction. Can you speak to that?
I think it’s just the way I was seeing things at the time, just trying to be present and aware of the whole spectrum. It’s about destroying yourself and destroying things around you, but also with destruction comes rebuilding. Basically understanding that there is always divine beauty in complete chaos, and it’s all perfectly balanced.
What comes to mind when you think of control?
I think of self control, impulse control, having power in saying no. I’ve been working on my sobriety for a while now—been sober for four months. When I was writing that song, it was probably a small cry for help. Saying that it would be very beautiful if I was in complete control of myself, not letting drugs and alcohol control me.
What is the inspiration behind the video? How many candles are there, by the way?
Six black and six white. White for personal strength, black for protection. For me the video is about a little boy who played with magic. I’m more a fan of just creating a visually appealing video more than a big concept. I like for the viewers to create their own opinion on what the video is about—it’s kind of like pop music, the song could be about a lot or can be about nothing.
Are you religious or spiritual?
I am religious, I believe in God. And I am spiritual. I definitely want to be more open about it now.
I love that the song ends on a dissonant chord, was that intentional?
I wrote it the day before i recorded it, so I would probably say none of it was really intentional. Definitely winged it. The four songs I recorded in Washington that are on the record were all written and recorded there in a period of about six days.
What made you decide that “Burning the Ground” should be the first single from the forthcoming album? What was it like recording in Anacortes studio?
It sounds like a good, simple pop song that might stick in some peoples’ ears. It’s a bit more of a digestible song than the others on the record. The studio was cool! We did four of the songs on this record there. We just did it for fun, Nothing serious. I wasn’t even planning on doing music when I was up there, but it came together clean.