Oxford has had nothing short of an incredible musical history. From the days of bluesmen, such as R. L. Burnside or Holly Springs’ Junior Kimbrough, to the punk music community of the 1990s with bands such as The Cooters.
It also includes the wave of garage rock and indie pop bands that came in a sweeping wave in the late 2000s and early 2010s, such as Bass Drum of Death, Dent May, and Dead Gaze. Music seems to be one of the most significant threads that can be traced through the city’s story.
In the last two years, however, Oxford has lost multiple venues. Though so many performance options are no longer available, Oxford’s music community has kept moving. Songwriters like Andrew Bryant and Will Griffith, who performs under the name The Great Dying, are regulars in local bars and venues. The Rose Room, a new house venue, has begun booking regular shows and attracting regular crowds.
In the midst of a shifting and unusual music scene, local musician Walter Boswell has surfaced with a new project called Curlers (stylized curlers).
Originally from Greenwood, Mississippi, Boswell grew up in Southaven. In high school, he began playing in several Memphis-area metal bands with Caleb Rushton, who has himself become a fixture in the local music community. During this time, Boswell admits he never wrote a lot of music or lyrics. Then, inspiration struck.
“I never wrote poetry or anything,” Boswell says, “but then, at the end of 2015, I was listening to Lorde. She wrote her whole album when she was 14-16. I was like, ‘Okay, I could probably write some music.’” And thus, Boswell began to write.
Studying at Mississippi State University, Boswell wrote most of the music that appears on the debut Curlers EP, “Food Court & Demos.”
“Most of Curlers took place in Starkville between January 2016 and June of last year,” Boswell says.
In 2016, Boswell’s project called Codpiece played a house show in Oxford. Boswell said this show was the experience that transitioned his work into his current project.
Upon moving to Oxford, Boswell upgraded to a newer iPhone than he had used in the past, and he quickly discovered Apple’s GarageBand. Though he had experimented with computers and digital audio workstations in the past, this easy-to-use and accessible free application opened doors for Boswell to capture his ideas. All of “Food Court & Demos” was recorded using nothing more than Boswell’s iPhone and GarageBand.
“Food Court & Demos,” which was released on Bandcamp on Jan. 16, 2018, presents a fresh take on 1980s-inspired synth pop. Boswell praises the unique guitar work of bands like 38 Special, the ethereal production of artists like Tame Impala, and the music of the 1970s and 1980s in general. Boswell said he is heavily influenced by artists who make modern music that falls back on older influences.
When writing, Boswell begins by making instrumentals and then freely building vocal melodies and lyrics throughout the writing process. As is often the case with solo recording projects, he wanted to use a full band to adapt his songs to a live setting. Boswell was prepared for this from the beginning, saying: “It’s never going to be one-to-one […] [but] I tried to limit the recordings to […] something that you could reproduce.”
Aforementioned local musician Caleb Rushton is one member of Boswell’s three-piece backing band. Rushton played bass in the local emo band Pinebox and guitar in the local shoegaze outfit Woolgathering. He also provided lead vocals for both bands.
In performances with curlers, Rushton mostly plays bass, occasionally swapping with Boswell for the guitar. Rushton particularly enjoys playing with Curlers.
“The basslines are prominent in Walter’s songs,” remarks Rushton, “so it’s nice not to just be an accessory. […] The live versions are certainly more visceral and perhaps punkier. […] It’s been a lot of fun learning and playing the songs and helping Walter realize his songs in a live context.”
Oxford’s music community continues to grow with artists like curlers. With the accessibility of recording technology on a constant climb upward, one can only hope that more artists enter the public space.
In the fall of 2017, Hattiesburg native Andrew Newman moved to Oxford for college, and he brought his self-produced pop project Lo Noom along. Lo Noom was the subject of immediate praise.
Whether with laptops and digital workstations (like those used by Newman) or iPhones and free apps (like those used by Boswell), young artists will continue to enter the world of music with high production values and a strong DIY ethic.
“Food Court & Demos,” the debut release by Curlers, is currently available to stream on Spotify and available to stream and buy on a name-your-price basis on Bandcamp.