Drone music is not for the casual listener. It’s about as far from pop music as one can get if not the exact opposite of it. You can find plenty of ambient drone on random Spotify lists like Music for Plants and Sleeping, but if one were to purchase a drone record, they’d have to be quite the musical explorer.
One of the modern purveyors of drone music is Blake Edward Conley, who calls himself a cowboy of drones. Rusted Lung is the name of his new album, released on April 28th and recorded in Louisville, Kentucky, and Las Vegas. Under the moniker droneroom, Conley has amassed an impressive catalog of drone recordings on Bandcamp since 2012 and seems to shy away from much self-description. He simply releases his country drone into the world and lets the minimalist music speak for itself.
Rusted Lung comprises three songs of, “What this country looks like as its promises decay and crumble,” according to the Bandcamp profile. As America lurches toward ruin, droneroom is making the soundtrack for our madness, paranoia, and demise. The songs contain “heavy scuzz” and drones that are sometimes gentle but other times harsh. Droneroom closes his description of the album with the phrase, “Hope only lasts so long.” This is certainly not something you’ll find in a bedside daily meditations book, but perhaps it’s true.
Conley used a Telecaster, chord organ, and field recordings for Rusted Lung, and everything was recorded between 2020 and 2022. “Blood Goes Warm” opens the album, and at nearly 11 minutes long, it courses through your veins like a slow-acting poison. “The Distance From Myself” is next, clocking in at a little less than nine minutes. This song and the others conjure images of bleak desert landscapes and the shuttered, desolate strip malls of middle America.
“Rustic Lung” closes things out; it’s the longest track at just over 19 minutes. If you had any hope for salvation, this last song’s diseased, dissonant tones will crush you and leave you empty. But that’s probably the point. As I said, drone music isn’t for the faint of heart, especially from droneroom. Conley makes music with extraterrestrial vibes that capture the dark spirit of America in all its weirdness and mania. Fans of Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor will likely recognize this album’s heavy sorrow and enjoy it.
We got to catch up with Blake Edward Conley of droneroom during his travels throughout the barren locales of America. He was kind enough to answer our questions and reveal a bit about his cowboy drone recordings. Let’s offer a warm Weirdo Shrine welcome to Blake Edward Conley of droneroom.
How are you? How have the past few years been for droneroom?
Oh, alright. Trying to find grounding within a steady stream of change and chaos. The past few years have been crazed and hectic. On my 4th address change in 9 months. Droneroom has been sort of reflective of that chaos in the form of an overkill of material ranging from big and small acoustic albums (Whatever Truthful Understanding on Desert Records and Secondhand Failures on Marginal Glitch), lap steel albums (The Most Gorgeous Sleep on Ramble Records), pure grade what the fuck albums (Easy Payday on Moonlight Cypress Archetypes and You Drown Out the Crowd on Imploding Sounds), duo collabs (Rabbit Hash and Rivers of Glass)and some droneroom classic albums (Rusted Lung).
Can you introduce droneroom? When did this project begin?
Droneroom started in 2012 as an at-home solo thing for fun. Slowly became my main musical identity as bands I would start or join would break up, or I would leave (or be asked to leave), coupled with some moves. Having a solo musical identity makes it easy to move with. Can’t quit yourself, as I like to say.
What can you tell me about your musical background?
I didn’t really start participating in music in any big way till 2011 at the young age of 29. This would have been a 2 piece metal leaning band. But we were still into the use of space, repetition, and minimalism, so I can see a throughline from that to here. From there, it was a ton of different bands but with droneroom always hugging the bottom edge of it all. droneroom was always an easy sub if a project I was in couldn’t make a gig.
What initially got you interested in drone music?
I’m not sure about that. I always liked albums that ended with the big dirty number, and as I grew, I always sought out weirder and weirder things. Often with an undertone of either strong repetition or big spaces. I was definitely into the new weird America scene (Six Organs of Admittance, Magik Markers, Wooden Wand) as well as more extreme weird metal adjacent music (the Body, Earth) and then getting into more experimental solo guitarists (Loren Connors, Alan Licht) or guitarists who were kind of gadfly, going from one end to the other (David Pajo, Mary Timony, Brian Case).
All this coupled with a childhood rooted in constant movement. My father was a truck driver, so the visions of things flying past were often scored by country music. I dunno. To me, in a way, everything can be drone.
What is the best thing, in your opinion, about the new album Rusted Lung?
Well, I would have to say, for me, the stellar art by Cory Fusting. This was a big bucket list thing for him to do, and he knocked it out of the park.
What can you tell me about your songwriting process?
I’m not sure there is a process beyond ‘sit down and play’…it’s all improvised.
What are your immediate and long-term future plans for droneroom?
Immediate is mostly just promotion promotion promotion. The future is unwritten.
What should the readers of Weirdo Shrine do immediately after reading this interview?
Take a nap.
This review and Q&A was done by fellow weirdo Nick, who runs the psychedelic rock and music blog, The Third Eye. Born in the Philly area, Nick currently lives in Tennessee with his wife and three annoying animals. When he’s not writing about music, you may not be able to find him because he’s grown increasingly reclusive as he’s gotten older.
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