And loses, but keep in mind that Nick Cave, whose latest incarnation Grinderman is responsible for "Heathen Child", has never really said for certain whether or not he is in fact a demon toying with our souls until he consumes them. So no, O'Death doesn't beat the creepiest man in rock and roll with their music video for "Bugs," but that doesn't mean theirs doesn't haunt your nightmares afterwards.
Our discovery of O'Death is part of an ongoing exchange program that Rocks Off utilizes with Mick Cullen of Subterranean Radio (live via Intertubes every Thursday from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. courtesy of WRLR FM in Round Rock, Ill.). We gave him Alyssa Rubich and the Folk Family Revival; he gave us Erland and the Carnival and O'Death.
To use Cullen's own description, O'Death is the banjo-iest band in all of New York, and honestly we have no idea how difficult an achievement that is. Their music is a combination of Americana and punk that brings to mind a gruesome death by hillbillies. Everything about the band seems just slightly off, somewhat skewed, as if the Elder Gods had just walked through the song on the way to a mind-flaying.
Still, it grows on you (like most cults do), and we find ourselves drawn down into the warble and strum of "Bugs." The video takes you through what we can only describe as a combination of The Wicker Man and The Blair Witch Project, and is as disturbing in its simplicity as it is catchy in its melody.
O'Death's banjo master Gabe Darling sat down with us for a few questions about the video, and begrudgingly answered a few.
Rocks Off: When you wrote "Bugs," is this the vision that was going through your heads?
Gabe Darling: No. I don't think so. The song has broad themes. I think they mostly pertain to unavoidable ends and our inability to deal with them. This an attempt at a visual response to those lost, clinging feelings. That of the metaphorical dying light and our aimless hunt while it's happening.
RO: Frankly, the whole thing feels like a remake of The Wicker Man. Is there a big pagan influence in the way the video is shot?
GD: I love The Wicker Man. The original, for those sorts of imagistic and thematic leanings and the remake, for its horrendous, unintentional comic turns. I've always loved rudimentary and vague images. That must be the only connection. Paganism has come up a time or two though, but it's a spiritual thing. I'm not a believer in spirituality but I do love spiritual/religious imagery.
RO: What exactly do the heads on strings represent?
GD: Don't we all feel some need to separate our head from bodies and lose them? Not enough that we don't want them back ultimately.
I think we all find ways to separate ourselves from our overbearing minds in ways. I often wonder what the point is in wasting our time on over thought and useless speculation. Introspection has its necessities but it can also make us want to kill ourselves. I and everyone I know are victims of this.
RO: What went into putting together the costumes, and what were your inspirations for them?
GD: I was keeping a studio space for a while and doing a lot of sculpture; garbage assemblage, castings of bodies, and I got a conviction to making costumes to use in a music video.
The wood mask was a bed frame that I chipped with chisel and hammer over a long period of time and reconstituted into a mask. The white mask was rough poly-urethane cast over a previous cast I had done of our drummer's head. I wanted to push the natural and unnatural together in some way. I think I always do.
RO: Ultimately, what do you want viewers to take away from the video?
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GD: I want them to take away whatever they want to take away from it. There's too much emphasis on conveying interpretation in general. Interpret or don't; that's up to whoever is taking it in.
"Bugs" is available on O'Death's latest album, Outside.