Long-running folk-rock act gets personal by telling others' stories

When Dave Buker & the Historians launched a crowdfunding campaign for its 2015 album, For Every Heartbreak, one of the donation options included a custom song. “You tell us a personally relevant story, and we will write you a song about it,” the band noted on its Indiegogo campaign.

Fast-forward to 2019, and four of those songs have made it onto the Historians’ new album, It Moves in the Dark, which Buker and Co. will loose into the world the same day as the Americana-inflected indie-pop band’s record release show at Rumba Cafe on Friday, April 26.

Given that much of It Moves centers on others’ experiences, one might wonder whether Buker feels more disconnected from the new material. But, in fact, the opposite is true.

“This is the least personal record, although I feel the most invested in some of the lyrics,” said vocalist/guitarist Buker, seated alongside Historians drummer Joe Spurlock and temporary guitarist/vocalist Jay Alton, who also produced the album (bassist Timothy Jennings and Buker’s wife, vocalist Leanna Buker, round out the lineup; multi-instrumentalist Paul Valdiviez played on It Moves but recently left the band). “When somebody would tell me a story, I’m only going to be able to write about it if I can relate. … I would think, ‘Oh, I remember that feeling,’ and I could sink into that. So it’s personal in that way.”

Throughout It Moves in the Dark, relationships break, fizzle and fade away, and they do so in ways that betray Buker’s observant eye and empathic heart. “It moves in the dark, covering your eyes and buried under your clothes/And she can’t see it as she moves through the light/Carrying the only thing that’s pure in the world,” he sings on the title track.

“‘It Moves in the Dark’ is about a friend of mine who cheated on his wife when she was pregnant with her first child, and it was somebody that I would not expect that from, and it affected me a lot,” Buker said. “I didn’t know how to write it. I couldn’t write it from his side or her side. That was too personal. I felt too upset to do that. So I wrote in that third person, like it was this thing that possessed him, because that’s what makes the most sense to me somehow.” 

The “it” in the song, then, is the infidelity itself — it’s the act, or whatever caused it. “That’s devastating. That’s stuff you will never get past. The older you get, the higher the stakes are,” Buker said. “I couldn’t have written that song when I was younger. I couldn’t have reflected on other people’s stories that way when I was younger.”

On album track “Found Some Light,” Buker reflects on that wizened perspective he’s gained in his 30-plus years. “That’s me looking back a dozen years ago and thinking about how I held this weird grudge that I didn’t need to, and now I feel like, ‘I hope everything is cool, and I hope everything’s working out for you.’ … You need so much space sometimes to get there,” he said. “I mean, that’s the Historians name. That’s the reason we carry that moniker, because you’re documenting those things. Who’d be making a documentary about stuff that happened yesterday? That’s not really interesting. It’s got to have time to develop.”