Junior Retreat’s Debut Grapples with Finding Agency within Nihilism

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Album Artwork by Bailey Tredway

Junior Retreat are a four-piece comprised of Braden Pruitt (drums), Kole Waters (guitar/vocals), Connor Eaves (vocals/guitar), and Aidan Rogge (bass). Their self-titled may be their first release, but Eaves, Pruitt, and Rogge have been collaborating since 2015. The band have become crucial influencers of Wichita, Kansas DIY scene. Waters, from Kansas City, met the trio while attending college in mid-state Kansas and recorded and mastered the release in his home studio.

Despite their humble roots, Junior Retreat embodies the earnest sentimentality of emo’s greats. Their debut’s climactic tracks, “Anything,” and “And Everything In Between”, shine as raw yet carefully crafted testimonies of loss. Waters’ and Eaves’ guitar work waivers between tender and thoughtful to evocative walls of sound. Pruitt’s and Rogge’s steady but passionate rhythms propel the record forward through its introspection and distraught. Eaves’ heartfelt poetry ranges from gut-wrenching, “Loved you like a brother / But now you are just a ghost,” to cheekily relateable, “It’s like we’re back in high school.
The album grapples with grief and nihilism. The socio-political chaos of 2016-2017 wore on Junior Retreat, and they struggle to find truth and meaning amidst the suffering. “We are existing just to find the reason we exist,” says Eaves, “The mass shift in [our culture’s] worldview is depressing.” During this time the band also lost a close friend. “It made me struggle with existence for the first time,” Eaves admits, “I used this album to heal… Maybe it will help someone else.
The Not Swell Collective, an intentionally non-hierarchical organization of artists in Wichita, will be distributing tapes of Junior Retreat’s self-titled.

Dex Victoria / @diymidwest

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