Confluence, a Musical Journey and Documentary

The Infamous Flapjack Affair, an indie-folk band of four Oxford grads, journeyed on the Colorado River through national parks, making music as they went.

Confluence. It is the point where two rivers meet. For the Infamous Flapjack Affair, confluence is both literal and metaphorical. Their documentary project follows the band on a trip through the Colorado River Basin. They interacted with the different people, places, animals, sights and sounds they encountered on the journey. All of these factors converge to create half of the music band’s new album. The music is a confluence of their adventure and experiences. But, it is also a literal title, as the focus surrounds the endangered Colorado River Basin. For Ben Barron, a vocalist and banjo player in the group, they went on this experience because “we have this tool of music and we went on this journey trying to see what we can do with it.”

Confluence, The Infamous Flapjack Band at the Colorado River Headwater in Rocky Mountain National Park
The Infamous Flapjack Affair Band at the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Madeleine Ballard

And what do they hope to do with the environmentally inspired tunes they have created? “I think what we’re hoping to inspire is a will to dig into things… the parks, in nature, in the river, in issues, really looking to understand them and maybe fix them.” The cellist James Mitchell hopes this video catalyzes a movement to the National Parks. By planting this seed, he also wants younger generations to explore the park system and learn about the importance of the environment. Sarah Noyce, the fiddle player and vocalist, feels that “the vastness of those spaces is awe-inspiring… Ultimately the idea is that these are democratic spaces all people can enjoy whether or not you’re from here.”

Guitarist David Carel wants to give all people of any background “the opportunity to connect to the national park system. And just take advantage of the fact that we have this unbelievable gift as a country of these natural spaces that have been protected and they’re for us to enjoy in all sorts of ways, including through things like art that we don’t normally associate with national parks.” For such a rich project, the artists naturally gravitated toward the medium of music to tell the story. Noyce spoke about why music is so important to her, and why she thinks it is the best vehicle to carry their message. “I think that music is something that’s timeless. Partly because it aims to connect to with core of the human condition or basic humanity, which I think ultimately remains unchanged throughout time.”

The National Parks and music are similar in this way. Music is timeless and the beauty of nature has been praised throughout history. Barron says “National Parks provide this incredible asset in that it’s this common heritage.” We can all relate back to nature and have the ability to go and visit such amazing places. The band hopes to get people outside and exploring the gift of the National Parks. Simultaneously, Barron says “we need to be thoughtful and deliberate in how we interact with the planet.” And maybe, if we interact more with our planet, we will be more environmentally conscious in everyday life.