Tucson's Human Behavior asks you to peer deep into your soul and examine its makeup through the one conduit they're certain you're comfortable looking through: the TV screen.
That's just part of the premise behind the band's captivating video for "Chapter 1" from its forthcoming album, Bethphage. The video is enthralling for a few reasons. It supports an excellent song, built from intriguing lyrics and a deep musical groove. It's ten minutes long, including an extended musical break, the sort of stuff omitted from modern music videos. There's a quality to the production that is frequently absent from the low-budget efforts of most folk-punk bands.
And there are the TVs, as present in the video as they are on Human Behavior's tour stops.
"When I was younger, I wanted to work in the film industry," says band's front man, Andres Parada. "Music took over, and I really regret it sometimes. Luckily, I'm able to make video art and project it while we play. The footage I don't personally film is old home videos. I think that the home videos are a way for me to share the naivety of my religious upbringing and set the tone for our performance."
According to Parada, Human Behavior performs "music about God that a lot of people consider sad." Bethphage, expected to be released in April 2015, is broken into two long tracks separated by eight chapters.
"The album is inspired by Jesus overlooking Jerusalem before his final entry, and weeping," he explains. "This is right after he sent his disciples to steal a donkey for him to peacefully ride into Jerusalem, where he knew he would be killed."
"Although I'm not Christian, I can relate to Jesus' fear of death," the singer continues. "I can also appreciate the beauty in preparing for death, rather than losing to it or running from it. This album explores the universal fear of death. Human or God, death is waiting for you and it's absolutely terrifying."
That kind of heady material has listeners dubbing Human Behavior a "dark folk" band. But Parada considers them more than a band -- it's a collective of artists who bring more than musical skills to the venture. Some create physical art for the band, such as shirts, album covers and posters. Others focus on the performance, which borders on theatrical; as Houstonians who caught Human Behavior in October at Black Barbie can attest to that.
The band numbers 11 members in all, but the video features only Parada and Morgan Anderson (vocals), Becker Pattowitz (violin) and Ronald Strange (banjo). Rachel Martin and Max Winston appear briefly "as our sexual rhythm section," Parada says.
"Aside from music, everyone in the band pursues art in other forms, which means getting everyone together for a tour is almost impossible with how busy we all are," he adds. "Instead, we tour four to six members at a time and adapt the set to fit the arrangements we have.
"This means that no tour has been the same, because we've never toured the same lineup twice," Perada continues. "So, even though we're rotating in and out, we all record together and tour when we're able. Words of the day: collective, cult, family."
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That background is interesting but not necessary to be wholly mesmerized by the "Chapter 1" video. The simplicity of what you're watching, combined with the crushingly honest lyrics, pulls you in. And, though the singing relinquishes itself to a six-minute musical incantation near the four minute mark, you just go with this completely ballsy move, watching and listening for whatever comes next.
"We definitely discussed the ending of the video for a while," Parada notes. "Everybody recommended I make an edit for the video that wasn't so long. That felt wrong. It felt like I was catering to a convention that has no real basis other than, 'People are impatient.' I think that my favorite art demanded patience from the viewers, and that's something I wanted to include in my own work.
"So, instead we decided to make the video drone just like the song does," he adds. "We wanted the image to become irrelevant. We wanted it to become almost meditative in its repetition. This would guarantee that people who watched it were investing their time, and hopefully emotions, which I think is the start of a real relationship."
The band was able to do that because it worked with Zach Zdziebko, a filmmaker with some serious credentials to his name, including camerawork on Comedy Central's Nathan For You and Adult Swim's The Eric Andre Show. Most touring folk-punk acts don't have access to talent of that caliber, but Parada once had a clumsy chance encounter with Zdziebko, which resulted in a lasting friendship.
"I met Zach in Hollywood," he singer opens. "He was an unpaid intern on the set for the Garfield movie, and I was on a tour of the studio. I accidentally broke his Odie coffee mug, and a friendship was born. Our bands started playing together -- he plays in The Manx -- and one day he mentioned possibly making a video with us. I took it as a promise.
"I can't say enough how amazing it was to work with him," he adds. "We all felt important, and he was constantly trying to adapt his vision to our aesthetic. We're super-excited to keep working with him. One day, I'll replace that Odie mug."
Parada says the TVs were essential to the video and are a staple at shows, where the band actually amplifies its music through them.
"TV definitely prompts people to sit down and surrender," Parada says. "We knew that we wanted to incorporate the TVs into the video from the beginning. We wanted the perspective to be self-aware, and kind of pointing fun at how self-indulgent music videos are -- people watching TVs inside of TVs. The TVs are slowly becoming our twelfth member."
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