- Josh Crowe
Traphouse: Graeme Miller is a beautifully messy human
Hailing from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, Graeme Miller is a Leeds based artist who is finding himself in high demand of late. Describing himself as a ‘Messy Human’, he is a versatile artist whose unique vision champions the preservation of human imperfection in the form of art. During his time in Leeds he has performed spoken word as a member of the Context Collaborative, released a handful of tape-recorded singles and is the active fly-on-the-wall photographer for BabyStep Magazine. His most recent endeavour has been becoming a hand-poke tattoo artist, with an emphasis on the therapeutic value of tattooing. Whether it be expressing himself as a poet, musician, visual artist or tattooist, Miller works to deconstruct the flawed contemporary ideals of vanity and perfection that consume even the best of us.
His new single 'Traphouse' sees Miller mark a fluid progression in his signature sound, embracing a far more introspective gaze that feels world away from the anthemic heights of tracks like ‘Dome Days’ and ‘Showpony’. Rather than replicating a style that's served him well, Miller has successfully adopted a more vulnerable sound, coupled with a distinct humility that sees him confront themes and emotions that we often prefer to push to the back of our mind. Miller steps firmly out of his comfort zone both thematically and stylistically. The audacious move to name a folk song ‘Traphouse’ is a true testament to the artist's distinct pursuit of stylistic exploration.
The waking seconds of the song propel the listener into the frantic dervish of the ‘Traphouse’, an eerily claustrophobic setting envisioned with the piercing sound of urgent and often unsettling panting. The shrill metallic urgency of the tape-hiss is perfectly tempered with dreamy vocals of joyous abandon, imagining a world of ‘bluer skies’ far beyond the confines of ‘Traphouse’. This lyric is symbolic of a running theme throughout the track, where Miller extrapolates an intentional asymmetry between industrial and ethereal imagery in a track lurched from heartache (and maybe lockdown). The artwork visualises the cluttered atmosphere, where a tree is surrounded with a barrage of obscure symbols, colour and figures. This sense of confinement and restriction is mirrored in the lyrics, which often act as a guttural response to the mundanity of day-to-day, an existence of ‘working nights’ and ‘wasted days’ that we can all relate to. Miller like all of us yearns to escape this humdrum reality, fleeing ‘far away’ from the ‘Traphouse’ and seeking refuge in a place where ‘treetop’s fill bluer skies’.
This is however a tangible naivety to such escapism, of which Miller is very conscious of. The second verse sees Miller confronting these issues head on, acknowledging some troubles ‘cling to tight’ to simply run away from. Such a realisation is noted at the end of the second verse where he expresses a medley of emotions and realisations, as dazed and detached lyrics are sung over wobbly guitar licks, buttressed by a wave of dreamy vocals.
There is a conscious shift to the major key shortly after the second chorus in the bridge. Wielding chaos in the palm of his hands, Miller transforms feelings of trepidation into acceptance. Miller is now much more comfortable in his own skin, adopting the true slacker spirit by taking refuge in ‘an extra hour sleeping in’.
‘Traphouse’ isn’t a ballad for doomed youth, nor is it a novella for the lovesick. This song is a reminder that when we are met with a flood of panic, we need not yearn for transcendence. The very act of staying ‘afloat’ is enough, Miller’s expression of this vulnerable message is what makes his music so tangible and his lyrics so relatable.
Graeme Miller is an imperfect artist and beautifully messy human.