As the year comes to its close and we welcome the cool temperatures and the grey skies, definitely our favorite weather, we turn to the Pacific Northwest and the band AgesandAges. Mick Cullen of Subterranean Radio, our dealer in all excellent and underground, passed along the music video for the band's song "Navy Parade (Escape From the Black River Bluffs)," and it is everything we could hope for.
The video chronicles songwriter Tim Perry as we watch him meander troubled through a day of work, support groups, and what we're fairly certain is a half-hearted suicide attempt from bridge spanning the Black River. His plaintive, wailing voice echoes lonely across a landscaped we've always wanted to visit, but it's not alone. All around Perry are the voices of a community that simultaneously tease and encourage.
In the end, despite some real pain that permeates the presentation, that's the overall sum of its parts. It's not the big old hug you get from a Polyphonic Spree song, but it is a warm pat on the back, a gentle, "Hey man, shit happens, let's go see if the answer is in the bottle of a bottom."
While we were entranced, the thing we were most reminded of was Don Hertzfeldt's existential short animated film trilogy about a man named Bill. Just like "Navy Parade," Bill's life takes him through what appears to be a one way ticket to a fatal nervous breakdown and back, but as we follow both Perry and Bill they seem to find a place in the world to thrive.
Sure, in both cases there remain a myriad of mental landmines and a pretty good stock of despair, but hope is like morning light after a night of very bad drinking. It has a knack for finding you wherever you are, and AgesandAges have set that hope to music for all to appreciate and clap along too, though they will not spare us the fall that makes that hope so very necessary.
Check it out below.
We had a chance to talk to Perry about "Navy Parade." Click on over to Page 2 for the interview.
Rocks Off: Could you tell me a bit about the conception of the video and the execution?
Tim Perry: As far as the execution goes, we were able to do this video on a tiny budget because there were a bunch of people who were willing to dedicate their time and energy to make something good for no money. That's Portland DIY at its finest. As far as the conception goes, we wanted to depict a day in the life of a troubled man (played by me!), from the cold and musty hall of a support group, to the waiting room of a doctor's office, to his job in a cafeteria serving a bunch of high school kids, to the bar where he went to drink it all off, and lastly right out the exit and into the elements...only this time, his troubles weren't the only thing that followed him. More elaboration below.
RO: Even though the whole thing starts out feeling fairly hopeless, in the end there's a great sense of community and support. What do you think brings everyone together?
TP: We wanted this video to represent the overall theme of the album, which is essentially one of community and support among a people who really have no connection to the rest of the world. The songs on the album talk a lot about leaving one place (in this case, civilization; a state of mind; a broken world) and arriving at another (a new world; new life; new beginning). But things rarely end without conflict or struggle. The video for this song starts with the struggle - the turmoil this person feels within himself and the alienation he feels from the people around him. But as he goes about his existence, he crosses paths with some people who can truly relate and who truly care. They share the same song. This is what connects them and brings them together. And so the video ends with a new beginning.
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RO: Would you consider the video an accurate representation of everyday life?
TP: Well, no. I mean, it was dramatized a little bit. We wanted to make it unclear as to whether the dude in the video was living inside his own head, or if in fact some of the people around him were actually interacting with him. And so at times people seemed wrapped up in their own rituals, yet at other times they seemed to sing along...to relate. We wanted to create that question: am I reaching anyone or am I going through this alone? I think we all face this question a lot in our daily lives and we tried to represent it in the video.
RO: Is this the image you had in your head when you wrote the song?
TP: No, the song was actually an homage to my grandfather, who grew up in Poplar Bluff (through which the Black River runs) and how he joined the Navy as a means to serve his country and to get himself the hell out of there and into the world. He fell asleep on watch one morning in Pearl Harbor. He was sent to his post, at which point he would have most likely been dishonorably discharged. But about an hour later, America was attacked and the country needed all the soldiers it could get. Nonetheless, he felt ashamed and he carried this guilt around with him for a long time. Guilt can be a weight that hangs on you everywhere you go as you struggle to try and work it out of your system. Alicia Rose (the director) and I felt that this was the most important part of the story and so we developed a storyline that we felt would get the point across.