It was 2009. MySpace was still bringing musicians together before it began a slow fade to the realm of nostalgia (looking at you, Yahoo) and, lucky for us, it was thereabouts that Brian Rozendal and Bryan Daste connected to form Small Souls.
Rozendal had recently released a solo album and was looking for new collaborators when Daste, whose pedal steel and production chops have made him a staple in the Portland folk scene, heard about the opening and recorded an audition tape “over a MySpace download.” There was barely a choice in the matter. Rozendal knew he had to start making music with Daste.
Fast forward to today and “Unheard, Unseen” is the title track from the self-described “post-folk duo” off of their sophomore album. "[The album] was a labor of love for us," Rozendal reflects. "We had enough songs to record a new album over two years ago... but I was growing restless. I knew we could go further, and I knew that [Daste] had the technical expertise and artistic vision to make it happen."
It was that trust in their partnership, it seems, that allowed the pair to really settle in, set aside ego, and thoughtfully workshop their music.
“We started demoing each song just on acoustic guitar and vocals, then taking a step back,” Rozendal remembers. “What was this song trying to say? What was the most effective way to say it? Fast, slow, hard, soft? We experimented with different sounds, different tempos and rhythms until we found some combination that best served the song.”
It’s an emotional performance of a song that asks the listener to face a hard truth: “You can’t unhear or unsee something, you can’t undo what you’ve done,” Rozendal says. “This song tells at least two stories, one about my great aunt who drowned herself after a botched abortion, and another about my own choices, with the hanging question of how much our ghosts determine our actions.”
The beauty of being able to create such intensely personal art in a collaborative process is not lost on Rozendal. “One of the advantages of being an unsigned, relatively unknown artist is that you have complete artistic freedom. We embraced that chaos and started taking more risks. Regardless of what happens with this album, I hope that we can retain a commitment to that ethic—to keep exploring, experimenting, and following the musical possibilities.”
We have no doubt.