Floating Room: Tired and True

Floating Room is the musical project of Maya Stoner who describes herself as an Uchinanchu American artist based in Portland, Oregon. Tired and True is her new five track EP on which she is joined by a handful of other musicians. All the songs are composed and sung by Stoner who also plays guitar.

Her vocals are supported by guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, with some slide guitar on one track and a bit of trumpet on another. The opener ‘Freakshow’ is the most pop-like and is a bit of an earworm. For all its melodic catchiness, this is a song about frustration, disillusion, and insincerity – deep emotions bubble under the shiny surface of the music as she sings, “Everybody loves a freakshow / They don’t like the freak though”.

Tired and True (cover painting by Ona Greenberg)

What’s impressive is that every song here manages to create a lyrical and musical palette of its own and each track sounds quite distinct from the one before. ‘Held Open Door’ is presented as a ‘meditation on dimming innocence set to jagged guitar pyrotechnics’, ‘Dancer’ has another strong melody, ‘Warm Death (HIFI)’ flirts with shoegaze, and ‘Gun’ rocks out.

None of this sounds remotely Okinawan so I was keen to learn about Stoner’s connection with these islands after listening to her music, and then reading her astute and insightful contributions on social media where she often addresses Okinawan issues. So, I did the obvious thing and got in touch to ask her about it directly. She got back to me with this answer:

“My ojiichan (grandfather) and obaachan (grandmother) both play sanshin and I think that’s where I got my musicality from. My mother is from Okinawa and that half of my family lives there. Okinawan music never fails to cut straight to my heart in a visceral way. Even though my own music sounds very different from it, when I hear the traditional music of my people it just makes sense to me that it is an intrinsic part of me.”

Floating Room’s Maya Stoner

Stoner was happy to talk more with me about her background, and, like her songs, she has a lightness and ease that is very engaging but also a clear underlying passion and an uncompromising concern about her heritage. Of her time in Okinawa she says:

“One of my favorite Okinawa memories is when I sat across from Misako Oshiro in her minyo bar Shima Umui and watched her perform. Another formative experience was visiting tents where water protectors maintained a 24-hour presence to protest the new US military base in Henoko. I was asked by the activists to share my knowledge about the bases and history of US-Okinawa relations with other Americans. Though I do not have a huge following I feel a responsibility as an Uchinanchu American to always shed light on what is happening there and the atrocities my own grandparents have lived through.”

Despite some of the dark themes that run throughout her writing on Tired and True, listening to these songs is ultimately an uplifting experience. This is a fine thing. Now it will be interesting to see further developments when there’s a full-length Floating Room album. There might even be some sanshin next time…

Tired and True is produced by Mo Troper and Floating Room. The EP is out now and is released independently by Maya Stoner on digital and vinyl.  


Explore posts in the same categories: Okinawa Overseas, Roots Music from Out There

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