Cover Image by Annabelle Hendrickson, Courtesy of Instagram: @puddlejumprrr
Today we sit down with Soleil of Puddlejumper—an up and coming indie band based out of Chicago. Puddlejumper couples backing tracks reminiscent of 70s neo-psychedelia and shoegaze with a passion for storytelling. In this interview, Soleil walks us through Puddlejumper’s latest arrival, “for reko muse.”
For those who do not know, who are you?
My name is Soleil Engin and I am the songwriter, lyricist, guitarist, and producer of the band Puddlejumper. We are a dreampop/punk/shoegaze/indie/alternative band based at the University of Chicago where my bandmate/vocalist Hannah Wilson-Black and I both go to school. We released our debut EP, New Lies, in October of 2020. “for reko muse” is our first release since then.
Your new song, “for reko muse,” releases the 23rd. Could you touch upon its message and the ideas explored within it?
At its core, “for reko muse” is about my experiences of sexual assault, first when I was seventeen and again as a freshman at college. I wanted the song to tell my story since I think storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to form connections between survivors and offer support to one another. I’ve definitely been supported by songs like “The Face of God” by Camp Cope in my healing process and I hope that “for reko muse” can offer that to others. It’s also about rejecting society’s portrayal of sexual assault as something that makes us stronger and in a sense therefore something we should be grateful for. I really fucking hate it when people tell me “at least you know better now” or “you’ve grown from this experience” because there is absolutely no positive that has come out of my assault. Quite frankly, to entertain that there is a bright side to sexual assault for the survivor is absurd, offensive, upsetting, and wrong. The song is an honest portrayal of my trauma, from the flashbacks and sleepless nights to the process of making my body feel like my own again, and doing it on my own terms, not how others tell me it should be.
The name and lyrics obviously reference “Reko Muse” which was a private gallery that Kathleen Hanna, Heidi Arbogast, and Tammy Rae Carland opened in Olympia, Washington when their college started censoring their art. I kind of imagined Reko Muse as a totally safe space for expressing whatever pain you wanted to express. That concept really inspired the song and kind of echoes its underlying purpose of healing through creativity. Since one of the people who assaulted me was a bandmate, the idea of Reko Muse spoke to me as a place where being vulnerable through creativity is a safe practice.
Are there any specific lyrics that you feel best captures a certain lived experience?
“Don’t tell me I’m strong when I tell you I’m damaged / I’ve been screaming into the night / I’ve been seeing my scars in your eyes”
are definitely some of the most honest lyrics in the song. My healing process has been really ugly, just lots of screaming and crying into pillows. When people are telling you that you should be grateful for your experience in some sick, twisted way while you’re going through that pain, it’s really fucking annoying. A lot of that healing process for me was also made more difficult by the fact I regularly would see my attacker since we lived in the same dorm building and are part of the same program. Every time I see him, I still get filled with anger and sadness literally seeing the source of my pain casually walking around and smiling like everything’s ok. It’s like seeing a monster or a demon walking around others but you’re the only one who sees that its there, everyone else just sees a person.
Your songs are self-produced and while the process may be time-consuming and difficult, has the added agency allowed for a more cathartic experience?
Oh definitely! I honestly really love producing music. I feel like I always have a very specific vision for how I want my songs to sound. I don’t know that I would trust just anybody to bring that vision to life. I like being in control of the final product, especially with a song as personal as this one.
Could you speak more to the ways in which “for reko muse” manifested, specifically the relationship between the contents and the creative direction?
I’m a hardcore kid at heart. I literally have my favorite punk venue tattooed on my ribs. Needless to say, I really love heavy music, whether it be progressive metal, thrash punk, or beatdown hardcore. Since that was the music I raised myself on and that I still listen to, I’ve always been drawn to a darker sound and aesthetic. I think I’m definitely moving Puddlejumper in that direction, it’s just been a journey to find our sound. When I first wrote the lyrics for “for reko muse” and realized it was a song about pain and recovery, it seemed the right time to make things a little heavier. It’s definitely a departure from New Lies but I think it’s also a much more honest portrait of myself as a songwriter and just a person in general.
How important is it for you to touch upon difficult subjects like sexual assault? For one reason or another discourse surrounding sexual assault often comes with a slew of backlash making it difficult to have conversations whether via Twitter, op-eds, or songs.
I’d say it’s really important for me to touch on subjects like sexual assault. Other survivors’ art has been one of the most healing outlets for me. I wanted to give back to that in some way. When you can see that someone else has been through a similar thing as you and made it out alive, it’s comforting. It makes you feel understood and safe. Even if ten thousand people are assholes to me over my song and experience, as long as it helps others, I don’t care. Honestly, I’ve had enough people be shitty to me about my experience that I just became numb to it. That’s not to say that the wound is totally healed, but I just don’t let other people poke at it anymore.
Following this release, what else can we expect from Puddlejumper?
We should have another single coming out this spring that I am super excited about! It kind of follows in the same creative direction I mentioned and it might just be my favorite song I’ve ever written. We’re also preparing a pretty big merch drop!
Where can “for reko muse” be streamed?
Literally everywhere! Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, iTunes, and everywhere else.
This is your space to say anything to our audience:
If anyone reading this is struggling with sexual assault trauma, please just know that it gets better. It is a hard and long process and the vast majority of people will be super unhelpful and unsupportive. But I promise you there are people out there who will believe you and support you. Just knowing that other people had made it through their trauma alive made me feel a lot better during the rough patches of my healing process. Whether it be through art, social media, or anything else, find your people. It helps a lot I promise. You are not alone. Things will get easier. To everyone else, LISTEN TO SURVIVORS.
STREAM “for reko muse” NOW! AND FOLLOW PUDDLEJUMPER ON INSTAGRAM @puddlejumprrr