by Laurie Gallardo
This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Rather a bold statement, but the self-titled debut by Marriage At Nevers pierced my dark heart with jagged arrows splitting all the right morbid ventricles. (High praises from the self-proclaimed “elder goth.”)
Before the pandemic, Shawn Jones (The Lovely Sparrows) and Minneapolis music artist Derek Van Gieson (Witch Watch, Murder Shoes, An Atlas For Disappearing Youth) had been mulling over their latest creation in Jones’ Lockhart, TX studio, followed by placing finishing touches on tracks via socially-distanced “electronic sorcery” until it was time to bring in vocalists Dana Falconberry and Doris Blade for their outstanding contributions.
The album is perfectly haunted, reverberating with bits of ’80s darkwave/gothic shimmer, experimental machinations, and curling into the darkest folk corners. And now, KUTX premieres the Van Gieson animated video for the LP’s opener, “Telescopes.” Recently, I chatted with Jones and Van Gieson about the video, and how the band and the album came together.
Scroll down to watch the video premiere of “Telescopes” from Marriage at Nevers
LG: Tell me the tale of “Telescope.” In its brief moment as a video, it managed to crawl beneath my skin – in the best way. The animation is wonderfully eerie, and, if I may be allowed to do a callback, it’s reminiscent of artwork I became attached to through The Lovely Sparrows.
Derek Van Gieson: “Telescopes” is the last video of the album release campaign, and the only one of eight spots done in black and white. While it does mirror the lyrics to a large degree, there were plenty of details to fill in. Things like time period, fashion, location, etc. I’m fond of drawing women with crazy big hair and neo Victorian garb, so I was in my element with this one. And of course, there’s the creature element. Shawn and I share a love of the strange and supernatural.
The music was written first and then the lyrics second. Usually, I’ll fill up a few pages of spontaneous phrases and word association until a key phrase or line reveals itself. When I discover the story, I save the line and tinker with the rest until all the events have played out theme wise. I think that line for this one was the first line- “It’s up to me, what I must do with you”. You can go anywhere with that. I chose a sea monster/alien exploitation angle.
If the artwork looks familiar, I’ve done most of the album sleeves for The Lovely Sparrows.
Shawn Jones: Actually, he’s done all but one!
LG: You mentioned that Marriage At Nevers began in the studio. What do you feel was the impetus, the inspiration, in putting it together?
DVG: My last band was about to break up and I needed a change of scenery. I flew down to TX with a handful of songs in various states and we began hatching something that we knew we had to revisit.
SJ: Me and Derek have always shared a love of very specific pop culture references, spooky shit, and the Smiths vs. the Cure debate.
LG: Shawn, how long have you known Derek? And what inspired the project name?
SHAWN: I’ve known Derek for a good while now. He did some real oddball art (still does), and I was a huge fan. I had a feeling he was a fellow David Lynch lover, and I was right. I hit him up to do Sparrows album art, thinking he wouldn’t even respond. This coincided with a gig I was playing in Prospect Park, where he lived at the time and he came out to the show! We ditched the people we were supposed to be impressing- and wandered back to his studio where he made some mean hot toddies and showed me what he was working on. We were fast friends.
DEREK: I pulled the band name from the Grove Press edition of Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras. I’m a sucker for doomy tragic romance.
LG: Tell me about getting Dana Falconberry on board! And where, oh where did you find Doris Blade??
SHAWN: So, me and Dana have been friends for a very long time. We both like to say we met in our early awkward, gawky small house party days, where we would avoid people and mostly play with the host’s dogs. Since then, we’ve shared the bill many times, and shared band mates- but never truly collaborated. We hung out quite a bit more since we both moved to Lockhart, but it took COVID and this project to make a recording happen. She’s always been a good sport for my hijinks, so I told her about this project- promised to pay her in the finest of Bries and Gruyères, and she generously agreed! All of her vocal arrangements are 100% her, she really made them her own and the songs are all the better for her being on board.
DEREK: When I came to TX, I didn’t really have a plan for vocals, I just knew I wanted to record. As fate would have it, Shawn and I ran into Doris Blade at a record store in-between sessions. Shawn knew Doris from his Austin days and asked her what she was doing. She happened to have a few hours to kill before going to a party in town and she laid down some tracks very quickly. She’s a real pro, I couldn’t believe how brilliantly she killed it.
LG: Will there be more videos in the future? And…what about a feature-length story?
DEREK: Shawn and I were talking about taking things up a notch for the next album, so I’m sure we’ll increase our visual game as well. I have some wacky ideas I have yet to tell Shawn about!
LG: As the pandemic hopefully subsides sooner than later, do you see live performances in the near future?
DEREK: There’s an element of wrangling involved, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. I’d love to!
SHAWN: I am definitely a fan of the live show. I think probably as we work on the next album, and as Covid slows down a bit- we will figure out a way to make it happen!
Marriage At Nevers is available via Bandcamp.
“The two creatures are playing a game that is ingrained in ancestral blood, and for them, playing this game with no distractions is truly living free.”
In another world, Soccer Mommy would’ve played just days ago to a packed crowd at Emo’s for her May 5 Austin show. Now, she’s reimagining what her visit to Austin might’ve looked like with a new music video for “crawling in my skin” — all in retro 8-bit style, of course.
The video features the pixelated avatars of Soccer Mommy and her band performing on Congress Avenue Bridge. In quintessential Austin style, swirls of bats swoop around the band and flutter into a golden sky while a crowd bobs along to the music. The city skyline appears in vibrant yellow and blue tones that evoke the album art and themes of color theory, Soccer Mommy’s recent sophomore album.
Soccer Mommy is the project of Nashville singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, whose confessional indie rock is at times lyrically reminiscent of ’90s-era Liz Phair and Fiona Apple. Released this February, color theory expands on the pop sensibilities of its predecessor, 2018’s Clean, while still maintaining Soccer Mommy’s guitar-driven sound. The record sees Allison turn inward as she examines her mental health, and bright power chords disguise the harsh emotional truths at the album’s core. On “crawling in my skin,” she details her experiences with sleep paralysis and anxiety, singing “Sedate me all the time / Don’t leave me with my mind.” The track’s catchy hook dilutes the underlying desperate melancholy of the lyrics.
Soccer Mommy was slated for a North American tour this spring in support of color theory that — needless to say — has been postponed. But she’s since found other ways to stay connected with her fans. She does frequent, personable livestreamed sets where she answers fan questions between songs, like who’s her favorite “Buffy” character. (She’s between Spike, Faith and Tara.) Allison brings her own distinct style to her virtual endeavors — take for instance her “Stardew Valley” livestreams where she walked viewers through a session of the farm-themed roleplaying game. An ill-fated “Club Penguin Rewritten” concert initially crashed the online gaming platform’s servers out of sheer popularity, but the second attempt proved successful with Allison appearing onstage as a pigtailed, guitar-wielding cartoon penguin while songs from color theory played.
So, it’s only fitting that the video game trend continues with a music video tour that features Austin and four other cities from the postponed tour getting the 8-bit treatment. On her decision to place Allison and co. atop Congress Avenue Bridge for the Austin video, director Bella Clark said, “I know Austin’s Bat Bridge is kind of touristy, but it’s also for some reason something everyone I know from Austin has brought up at least once.”
As for Allison, she’s been spending her time at home much like the rest of us.
“Quarantine for me has basically consisted of playing video games on my Game Boy, watching “Firefly” and “Buffy” and writing and recording demos. I’ve gotten to do a lot of cooking with my roommates, which is fun,” she said. “I’m missing tour but decided to try and focus on writing and relaxing while I can’t be on the road.” – Sophie Allison
While Soccer Mommy’s spring tour would’ve kicked off right after a SXSW appearance and wrapped up with an Austin show in the final days of its run, the “crawling in my skin” video brings things full circle. The video’s old-school charm may point to the ’90s, but its real nostalgia comes from its representation of a more recent time period — one of live music playing in the Austin night air, bats and all.
— Annie Lyons, KUTX
Austin folk outfit The Deer adds a healthy dose of whimsy to their psychedelic folk with their new music video for “Swoon.” The video follows the dreamlike journey of a woman after she travels through a wardrobe and discovers a lush green paradise hidden just beyond reality. But all is not as perfect as it seems — she’s quickly immersed in the hostility simmering between the combative cat and dog inhabitants of the forest, who all don Wes Anderson-esque animal masks. In a storyline reminiscent of Shakespeare, the tension boils over following the romance of a cat and dog.
The Deer are no strangers to mixing seemingly opposite elements. On their fourth album, Do No Harm, the band blends a myriad of genres — folk, psychedelic rock, dream pop — into catchy and cohesive tracks. Look no further than the song title of “Interstellar Frontier” to understand The Deer’s talent for wistfully spaced out soundscapes with a homegrown country appeal. Synth notes harmonize with rollicking fiddle and mandolin while frontwoman Grace Rowland’s voice floats gracefully above. The band is the creative effort of Rowland, upright bassist Jesse Dalton, guitarist Michael McLeod, drummer Alan Eckert and string player Noah Jeffries.
“Swoon” is the third single off Do No Harm, which was released in November 2019 on Keeled Scales.
Of the track, Rowland said, “‘Swoon’ is a song about what we perceive as opposites — dogs and cats, night and dawn, right and left — and is a metaphor for breaking the cycle of oppression. When we view each other as enemies, we take our eyes off of dismantling the larger structures that control us every day.”
Directors Zachary Scott and Drake Howard brought a playful touch to their vision for the video.
“Swoon has such a strong whimsical vibe. We wanted to match that by creating a world that felt like a dream. We took elements of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to explore the themes of the song,” the pair said. “We have two warring families, one of cats and one of dogs. Our protagonist finds herself stuck in the middle of this conflict, watching two star-crossed lovers be punished for their love.”
The video pulls from these familiar stories and expansive themes but zeroes in on the personal nature of the conflict by showing it through the eyes of a newcomer. Closely framed shots display the protagonist’s emotions, and lingering slow motion adds to the direness of the situation. The bright setting and storybook aesthetic grant a levity to the subject matter, creating a surreal effect for the heroine and viewer alike.
In the wake of SXSW’s cancellation, The Deer will still be playing a number of showcases the upcoming week. The band performs at 2 p.m. during the free Black Fret day party on Thursday, March 19 at Shady Grove. On Friday, March 20, they’ll play at 6 p.m. at Central Machine Works and at 9 p.m. during the Keeled Scales showcase at Radio Coffee & Beer. You can also catch the Deer’s 11 p.m. set during the Nine Mile Records showcase at Beerland on Saturday, March 21.
— Annie Lyons, KUTX
Austin R&B outfit Nané descends into the darkness with a stylishly cool music video for their latest single, “Wolverine.” With seductively haunting vocals and screeching guitars, the track explores a new facet of the band’s Western soul sound, complete with moody black-and-white visuals that revel in the song’s drama.
With only a handful of singles under their belt, the group has made big waves since its inception in early 2019. Frontman Daniel Sahad named Nané for a term of endearment used by his family in the Dominican Republic. The name weaves warmth and a familial spirit right into the band’s funk-infused DNA. He’s joined by Ian Green on guitar, Scott McIntyre on bass, and JaRon Marshall on keys. With a fondness for psychedelic guitars and danceable grooves, Nané’s crafts a richly textured sound, reminiscent of soul groups like Alabama Shakes. But Sahad’s charismatic vocals are the real treat as he moves smoothly from alluring half-whispered falsettos to powerful howls.
On “Wolverine,” Sahad showcases his range over a thrumming bass line as he wrestles with the darker side of the human psyche.
The Moyo Oyelola-directed music video follows a young man forced to face down the mirror version of himself, represented by a twin who literally tethers the pair together, like a scene out of Jordan Peele’s “Us.” The shadow self leads a troop of masked demons, who wreak havoc on the protagonist, shredding the wispy plastic walls of his home with their bare hands and ripping into a grotesque feast while he sits trussed up between them. Marked by his stillness, he seems disaffected by the chaos erupting around him — but there’s a simmering resentment just perceptible in his eyes. Moments of release come with shots of the protagonist screaming underwater, but Nané takes care to let the tension build before reaching a resolution.
“In this video, we watch the internal struggle of our hero as he battles with his demons. They destroy his home, tie him up and celebrate their victory, until our hero finally summons the courage to take ownership of himself and ultimately burn down their playground,” Sahad said. In the final stark shot, the character slowly rises from the ashes and gazes upward, finally in control.