The last time I looked into Featherface it was because I wanted to find out why the hell you would call a band Featherface. The answer was it came to them in a dream, but it also turned me onto a delightful local indie-rock band that I've kept a light eye on.
Last week I had the chance to take a peak at the band's new music video for their song "I Saw You Dancing" when my Black Lodge music-journalism counterpart Ramon Medina sent it along to me. I'm not exaggerating when I say it may be the best Houston music video I've yet covered.
In part, it's because director Randall Hopkins put together a real, gripping narrative. Thus far only Jennifer Grassman has really managed to do that locally, but even her ghost-centric, ethereal outings don't come close to the creep factor of "I Saw You Dancing."
We open on an urban setting with a beautiful, but tear-streaked dancer played by Jessica Bell. She's smoking on a dock, pretty in the way only something that is truly broken can be. She's confronted by a figure sporting horrific facial wounds played by Aaron Brandenberger, who swipes at her snarling. Is he a zombie or is he a drunken ex-boyfriend bent on some kind of vengeful taking?
"Both," says Hopkins. "The song pretty much screamed it out to me the first time I heard a recorded version of it, and both the song and the visuals were going to be kind of forever linked in my mind whether or not we ended up doing the video.
"The idea of a trained ballerina dancing across an empty, possibly post apocalypse urban landscape was compelling to me, and marrying that with a more intimate take on the zombie mythos I thought would be a cool juxtaposition," he says. "I've always loved zombie stuff, and I'm really interested in exploring new territory with that."
It is an incredible setup, watching Bell exercise precise control over her delicate movements amongst the refuse of the street and pinned against a cloudy night sky as she spins around a light post. Her dance is part self-defense, part-accusation, and part plea as she lithely flows around the pathetic figure of Brandenberger.
There's something so damned unsettling about the video. It seems to sum up the total breakdown of all that is good and decent. On one hand you have a classically trained dancer, something that represents the absolute acme of civility and society. She's pure art, designed only to display her skills in conjunction with the highest forms of other arts. Dancers of such caliber are like living Faberge eggs.
And here she is pursued by something as mindless as hunger and violent as rape, but even he is stopped for a moment as her gentle, brief touch to entice him to join her pierces the red curtain of his murderous mind. It's like that scene in Boys Don't Cry when you think that just for one second Brandon Teena will be spared in a moment of quiet and compassionate appeal... then the gun goes off and the wall gets new paint.
Just as in the end, one girl's art, no matter how magnificent, isn't enough to hold back a savage land's hordes. Surrounded, she's taken in a shot that could've come right out of David Lynch's brain.
"It touches on a lot of the elements of the song that we wanted to be there," says Featherface keyboardist Steve Wells. "The song is basically about the way that emotions can color a situation in a way that either makes it out to be much more sinister or much more perfect than it really is.
"The zombie being mindlessly strung along by the girl's beautiful dance is willful ignorance at its best," continues Wells. "We think Randall's video complements the song perfectly."
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"I Saw You Dancing" is an emotional kick in the soul that touches on themes dark and strange. Featherface has raised the bar on local music videos, and it's going to take a lot for another act to top their near-perfect tale. Check it out below.