This release immediately caught my ear after pressing play. Loved the beat and when I learned more about the artist, I had to share. “Disintegrating In Your Soul” is featured on several SOHH playlists right now. Stream the track while you read the back story.
“This was one of the first songs I wrote for the album and it really set the tone for the rest of the release. I was very motivated to compose new material about a very important time in my life, but I hadn’t quite found the right songwriting groove to represent what I was feeling/processing until this track. I remember writing disintegrating in your soul in just a few hours and going out to a lake outside Berlin (where I was living at the time) to listen to the initial demo. I ended up listening to it on repeat for about 50 times, and I just knew this was going to be the album’s founding pillar. Not that much changed subsequently – the final version ended up sounding quite similar to the original demo.
The song title also came to me right away as I was working on the track, which is pretty rare. Usually I stress myself out way too much about song titles after an album is finished, but this time I knew right away that this was the appropriate title for it. As I was writing the record about my personal experience of immigrating to the US as a 13-year old, I was thinking a lot about how much that initial cultural shock shaped my identity. A lot of uncertainty, anxiety, and a feeling of vulnerability entered my being, in a sense “disintegrating” in my “soul”. That song title felt like the right symbolic representation of what I felt in those formative years.”
– Mirza Ramic (Arms and Sleepers)
former kingdoms is the upcoming new album from Arms and Sleepers, out 10 May 2022.
While Arms and Sleepers celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2021, Mirza Ramic—one of two original co-founders and now the group’s sole member—celebrated another milestone: 25 years since he first arrived to the US as a refugee. Born in Bosnia & Herzegovina and having fled the war-torn country with his mother, Ramic immigrated to the US as a 13-year old and arrived to Tucson, Arizona in July 1996. The family would eventually make it to Boston, Massachusetts where Ramic would go on to meet the other half of Arms and Sleepers (Max Lewis), but the first two years living in the Southwestern US shaped the core of an American immigrant identity. Exactly 25 years later, in July 2021, Ramic sat down to write an album dedicated to the memories of first arriving in the US, far removed from everything he was previously familiar with and at the footsteps of a new life ahead.
Titled former kingdoms, a reference to all the places left behind upon arrival to the US, the album attempts to capture a moment in time – an immigrant’s journey to America and the initial shock of facing a completely unknown geographical and cultural environment. Writes Ramic, “I remember very vividly arriving to Arizona with a few suitcases containing our lives, exhausted from the four flights to get there from Eastern Europe, and in absolute shock experiencing the scorching desert heat and endless highways. In that initial moment, life felt unbearable. It took a lot of energy and focus to make it through the first few days.”
While the family had hoped to end up somewhere on the US east coast, especially as Ramic’s mother was a piano teacher, refugee quotas and family ties only allowed for immigration to the western half of the US. They would spend two years in southern Arizona after having lived in Prague, Czech Republic the previous two years. This drastic change in itself was emotionally suffocating. Continues Ramic, “While we faced challenges living in Czech Republic as refugees, I felt at home there: the language was similar to my native tongue, I was familiar with the everyday norms and customs, and I generally understood the way of life there. In Arizona I felt like an alien that landed from the far outskirts of the universe – almost everything was unfamiliar, different, and strange. The first few months, and really the entire two years that we lived there, felt incredibly heavy and surreal.”
This fight for survival as immigrants in the US—both in the practical and psychological sense—is a familiar tale for many and is the central theme of the album. former kingdoms is a melancholy-filled remembrance of a life-changing experience that created new lives, new identities, and new prospects. It is an album that sits at the crossroads of the quintessential American dream and the harsh reality of American survival. And it is a personal reflection about a unique journey into the “new world”. Ramic writes, “I have always felt very conflicted about my identity as an American, or Bosnian-American. On the one hand, the US took us in when nobody else would – other western countries had simply closed their doors on us. This, along with the fact that a path to citizenship was much clearer and expedited compared to European nations, is something I can never forget. On the other hand, we had minimal support from the US when we landed in Arizona. We were pretty much on our own, and when you’re starting from 0, that’s brutal – especially for a single mother with a child. This was in stark contrast to the refugees who did manage to make it to places like Sweden, Norway, Canada, etc. – they were taken care of by governmental organizations so that they could integrate into the new society with some sense of dignity. For us, it often felt like our dignity was shattered: we were regularly treated like barbarians by doctors, social workers, and teachers, and we were thrown into the belly of the beast with little support or care. It is what it is, but I also can’t forget that that is what it was.”
Ultimately, being forced to leave one place behind to start a new life in another is traumatizing and confusing. The new Arms and Sleepers album attempts to memorialize that experience through music and offer a glimpse into one person’s long and emotional immigrant journey.