We've been following this indie rock band from Iowa since 2019 (for previous releases "Eggs" and "Your Bones Get Old"). I just have a soft spot for Luke Hawley's voice, and the intriguing combination of philosophical contemplation, vulnerability, and sharp commentary that The Ruralists do such a good job of bringing to life. Luke wrote his first song 20 years ago at the age of 14, and has performed with different bands throughout the years. He has since settled down at Dordt College as an English teacher, and is also in the process of writing a novel. In short, he keeps himself busy with a number of different creative projects, but fronting Sioux Center-based The Ruralists offers a unique opportunity to showcase his musical talent and lyrical prowess. Looking back on what has been written previously about this left-of-center indie rock outfit, what comes to mind is an alluring sense of cynicism, and a tendency towards social commentary that I think lies at the heart of their music.
Beyond that, previous tracks have stuck to a roots-based approach to production, something that will resonate deeply with fans of River Whyless and Hiss Golden Messenger. Latest track "(Dis) Appear"—a preview of upcoming release "Trying"—breaks from this convention just a little bit, leaning more in the direction of crunchy electric guitar, ebow, and a general use of electronic and analog effects that only heightens the underlying rock qualities. Fans of The Ruralists will be happy to note that Luke's voice remains as a captivating presence, along with an organic drum groove that pulls together the deeply moving progression from low-key murmur to an animated celebration of life's inherent contradiction. Due for release in one week—April 8, or a day early on Bandcamp—"Trying" extends the breadth and range of their aesthetic, resulting in an album that goes even deeper than previous work. At once lighter, heavier, more explorative, and less folk-adjacent a than song like "Eggs," the release of "Trying" marks an important inflection point for The Ruralists: as their music continues to evolve into a unique and profound amalgam of innovative indie rock, alternative folk-pop, and poetic individualism. It is little wonder that the substance of this band has morphed into a direct expression of their political namesake, proving yet again that art will flourish anywhere that passion and creativity are blessed with the leverage of strong community and a commitment to excellence.
How the Band Got Its Name
Flashback to Sioux Center, 2016, during the heated political season that resulted in the designation of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Dave Kramer, a friend of the band, was asked by a reporter at the Fruited Plain about what Sioux Center residents are like. On the spot, he made up a pretend political platform named Ruralism—centering on the idea that really good art can also happen in rural America.