Video Premiere: Church Fire “fear my bad time”

Church Fire in December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Ahead of the release of its newest album puppy god, Denver industrial darkwave dance darlings Church Fire are setting forth a couple of music videos. The first is a collaboration with Tom Nelsen of Echo Beds and Sense From Nonsense and a video for the song “fear my bad time.” Nelsen’s gift for inspired, micro world building and futuristic horror filmmaking seems particularly apt for this particular Church Fire track. The video displays the band in distorted pixelated form, explorers virtually exploring a desolated alien landscape as though using avatars through early 1990s technology. The song itself is a rush of rhythm and burnished, glitched out harmonics charging and then floating over a stream of pulsing rhythm. It’s a song about deeply baked in commodification of even the very basic essentials of life and finding ways to subvert that power dynamic, a theme that Nelsen helped to express through the use of archaic aesthetics to reclaim the means of expression as a path to bypass oligarchic colonization of our creative impulses in showing Church Fire operating on the edges of the ruins of the near future like the post-apocalyptic Max Headroom rebels we can all be. Watch the video for “fear my bad time” on YouTube below and go catch the Church Fire album release show for puppy god at the Hi-Dive on October 15, 2022 where the trio will celebrate the new record and sharing the stage with Xadie James Orchestra, Dragon Drop and Sell Farm. For more information on Church Fire visit its Instagram page and to download the album on release day visit the Witch Cat Records Bandcamp also linked below.

Never Kenezzard’s Video for “GRAVITY” is a Mesmerizing Interpretation of Its Genre Bending, Psychedelic Doom

Still from the video for “GRAVITY” by Never Kenezzard

“GRAVITY” finds Denver’s Never Kenezzard pulling us through a winding road of heavy rock cast in warping, colorful tones. It’s a musical parallel to lyrics that conjure images of being an astronaut on a perilous trip to orbit and plummeting back to earth. It is a bit like a psychedelic doom analog to Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The accompanying music video to the single draws upon guitarist/vocalist Ryan Peru’s knowledge of video production, cinema and music history. The hues are a shifting array of keyed colors to fill in areas of a negative image so that the band looks like it’s performing from another dimension in a 1970s Hammer film. It recalls the early music videos of Black Sabbath in which oil projections are overlaid on the band for a primitive visual effect but one that gives it a sense of mystery and otherworldly visual aesthetic. Peru is an expert of manipulating VHS video sources and processing them for projections in the live setting and that expertise in mixing mediums gives this offering a much better than intentionally amateurish feel.

Fans of Voivod’s late 80s music videos will also appreciate the cuts and experiments in style that run throughout not to mention how both the music and the visuals evoke a mood of experiencing something from a future where everything has fallen apart and put itself back together from the ruins of technology and culture. As is usual for the band, Never Kenezzard in this song doesn’t try to pummel you with heaviness, its shifts in pace and tone are creative and serve a sense of storytelling. Fans of the aforementioned as well as Unsane, Naked City, Queens of the Stone Age and Sleep will find something to appreciate about Never Kenezzard’s disregard for the conventions of noise rock, sludge metal and jazzy death metal. Watch the video below, connect with Never Kenezzard at the links provided and look for the band’s full length album The Long and Grinding Road due out in Fall 2021.

Plague Garden Debuts the Video for “Dead on the Floor” From its Forthcoming Album Requiem of Souls

Plague Garden at Shag Lounge, December 26, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Denver-based deathrock inspired post-punk band Plague Garden is on the cusp of releasing its sophomore album Requiem of Souls on May 7, 2021. But for now you can get a taste of what you’re in for with the video for “Dead on the Floor” filmed entirely in Colorado and starring, in addition to the members of the band, Justine Ruppert. The video was edited by Angelo Atencio of Plague Garden and it has the hallmarks of long lost, indie horror movie from the 90s. Those knowledgeable in the haunting mortuaries of Colorado may recognize some of the striking scenery. The album is a step forward for the band and its blend of icy synths, soulful vocals and buzzy yet funeral guitar tone should appeal to fans of Catastrophe Ballet period Christian Death and early Death In June. Watch the video on YouTube and listen to tracks on the group’s Bandcamp site where you can order a CD copy of the album.

Video Premiere: “Gold Dust Falcon Crest” by Dog Basketball

Dog Basketball, still from video for “Gold Dust Falcon Crest”

For the last year and a half Zack Marshall has been writing, producing and recording his forthcoming EP due fall 2019 under the name Dog Basketball. The Denver-based project was adapted to a live band including Jack Long, Ben Eberle, and Kylie Ludvig, members of Denver punk/hardcore bands Use the Sun and Screwtape. Marshall, a former member of his high school band Use the Sun, took a departure from his roots in emo, pop punk and math rock in favor of a more pop-oriented, mellow, abstract electronic sound.

The EP’s lead single, “Ghost Dust Falcon Crest,” is reflective of the, as Marshall says, “moody/off-kilter electronic indie pop w/ jazz and ambient influences.” Using samples and field recordings of “bones, coins, birds, metal gates, etc for either percussive purposes or atmospheric / impressionistic purposes,” the single will remind some listeners a bit initially of IDM artists that favor the use of organic sounds in their tracks like Boards of Canada but the song quickly evolves into a delicate, introspective pop song. While tempting to compare the song to some music by Microphones, for which there are certainly resonances, it might be better compared to Clairo’s brand of lo-fi pop and its intimate and personal character.

Ahead of the November 22 release of the EP, mixed and mastered by Berlin-based producer Dan Taro, formerly of Denver and who contributed production elements, Dog Basketball is releasing the video for “Gold Dust Falcon Crest.” Looking like a cross between a 1980s public access art or nature video with the glitches and visual quality to match the gloriously refined amateur sound of the music. It’s a complete aesthetic. Directed by Nick Goforth, the video was filmed in Estes Park, Colorado and inspired by the genre of found footage and “lost tapes” that you can find all over YouTube and the internet in generally if you go looking and which has been the subject and aesthetic of multiple movies, often in the realm of horror. While not horrific minus large cockroaches toward the end, the video is meant to convey a sense of being followed by something out of sight. Like the song, more impressionistic than defined, it invites the imagination to contemplate what it might mean and where it might go from finding the mysterious book. It draws you in to the kind of mystery the lead character in the video is experiencing and thus a sense of wonder. The video and song are analogs of one another while complementing each other perfectly.

Watch the video below and catch Dog Basketball at DIME in Denver on October 25 and on November 1 at 40 West Studios for a Halloween-themed video game soundtrack covers set. Follow the project at the links provided below.

Video Premiere: “Fan/Pool” by Earth Control Pill

Earth Control Pill, August 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Earth Control Pill is releasing its first music video for two songs paired together, “Fan/Pool.” The project, which is comprised of Kathryn Taylor (formerly of political punk band Future Single Mom and noise/performance art duo Sex Therapy and noise rock group Born Dumb) whose unearthly drones are hypnotically soothing and reflect a kind of collage aesthetic abstracted to soundscapes. In the video, like a lo-fi David Lynch short, Taylor (in blue gloves) and friends undertake some kind of benevolent ritual. The cast includes video director Laura Conway in teal gloves, Mattie Gonzales of New Skin Magazine in pink gloves, artist Meghan Meehan (Conway’s partner in monthly DJ night Night Shift) in yellow gloves and, later, performance artist/musician Coleman Mummery of Goblin King of the Pop Stars comes in first wearing teal gloves and switching to purple. At times the video treatment by Conway and Anna Winter, with contributions from filmmaker Kim Shively, is reminiscent of the surreal quality of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Troll 2, like it’s out of phase with normal reality. The song is a little different for Earth Control Pill too as it’s more a conventionally jaunty melody that almost sounds like music for a kid’s show and the video captures the dancing and silly antics friends get up to when no one is watching. The informal sacredness of those moments done in an environment decorated as if from weeks of thrift store finds turned into something magical so everyone who goes there knows they’re in some place different where the mundane stuff of everyday life doesn’t belong. The visual effects are subtle and humorous like the reverse effect of the cigarette un-ashing back to Taylor’s face. There is a darkness and lightness to the video that may or may not reflect the purity of the moments on screen but done as a private thing to share among friends. Nothing nefarious, just a little silly at moments. Dreamlike and subtly humorous like an inside joke at no one’s expense, the video helps making music that might seem abstract much more accessible.

Video Premiere: Chimney Choir’s Fantastical and Poetic “An Alternate Life”

Chimney Choir, photo courtesy the artists

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Colorado-based avant-pop band Chimney Choir. But as the seasons are crossing over from the heart of summer to the cool of fall, the group has gifted us with a new single and video with “An Alternate Life.” The video depicts a mythical humanoid opening a suitcase filled with a mysterious, glowing white energy that opens a gate to an expanded universe, an alternate dimension of wondrous creatures and a luminous nightscape of rich colors that evolves into a daylit world wherein the sun is embodied as a curiously ominous figure. The conventional logic of symbols and imagery is challenged in a playful way that offers an alternate interpretation of myth, personal and cultural, set to a bright, expansive melody, textured rhythms and vocals harmonies that embrace us with the introspection of the coming cold and the warmth of the dreams and hopes we harbor for the future. As the title suggests the song and its entrancing animated video is about our ability to dream of a life beyond the one we have right now and the inherent possibilities in that faculty to create the world we want. The single comes ahead of the band’s plans for the release of its new album as outlined in Chimney Choir’s statement on the video and the new record.

“’An Alternate Life’ is the first music video and single from Chimney Choir’s upcoming album, (light shadow). The single, which includes lush alien strings, syncopated bubbly synths, mishmashed beats and evocative vocal play, accompanies a swirly colourful cartoon world drawn by Tom Varani and animated by Evan McCandless. Chimney Choir is currently fascinated with the tilted turning of the planet, human beings’ search for their place in the cosmos, and the mind-bending interplay between light, motion, and time. The new single is emerging around the Autumnal Equinox, when the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive an equal amount of light and shadow, when a brief moment of equilibrium occurs between the ‘Yang’ of summer and the ‘Yin’ of Winter. The (light shadow) album represents the deepest down and the farthest in that the band has ever gone in both collaborative writing and sound design. (light shadow) will be released on Winter Solstice, December 21st and Chimney Choir will be having an album release party on December 31st at The Mercury Cafe in Denver.”

As per past album release parties, Chimney Choir will have an utterly unique experience that will involve theater, the participation of those in attendance and special guests making it, truly, an event of the season. Watch the video for “Alternate Life” below and follow Chimney Choir at the links provided.

Church Fire’s Video for “Mechanical” Is A Testament to the Power of Transformation in Our Lives

Church Fire at Titwrench 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Denver’s Church Fire recently became a trio with Kate Warner (formerly of Mirror Fears) joining Shannon Webber and David Samuelson in crafting a sound that melds noise, industrialized hip-hop influenced beat making, electronic dance music and emotionally charged pop. Church Fire also infuses its performances and words with political content that dives deep and examines deeply rooted issues of systemic, cultural and personal issues that can be tricky to examine much less untangle in a way that the band, with its visceral presentation doesn’t abstract so much as clarify in a way that isn’t intellectualized even as it doesn’t lack for sophisticated thought and nuanced emotion as manifested in art.

Recently the band released its video for the song “Mechanical” from its fantastic 2018 album Summer Camp Doom Diary. Visually it’s striking and on par with the more imaginative dark fantasy and horror cinema. It also represents well the feel of the band’s shows that operate as a cathartic, mystic, pagan ritual dance. It’s a song and video that embraces and works through, integrates and transcends personal and cultural darkness in a productive way that doesn’t preach yet doesn’t wax vague in its meaning. Church Fire is nothing if not direct. We recently sent some questions to the band regarding the video done with Cheyene Grow of the video collective 75 Ohms. Read on after seeing the video immediately preceding.

Queen City Sounds: How did you come to work with Cheyene Grow and why was working with him a good fit?

Shannon Webber: Cheyene and Ryan Peru (75 Ohms) are fantastic visual artists who have veejayed a lot of shows we’ve played over the years. We love their glitched out retro VHS style and the way they live-loop video recordings and add fascinating and fun effects. Having seen what they do live, it was really exciting to have the chance to visit Cheyene’s studio in Colorado Springs to do some filming, and we couldn’t wait to see what he’d do with the footage. Cheyene’s been active in Colorado underground scenes for years, dragging a huge analog setup to shows to create live visuals like no one else. The splicing of organic, live footage with retro neon effects and glitchy visual noise feels like a natural visual representation of our music. As an artist, we trusted him to take full creative license to create a new version of our music through his visual art. ‘Mechanical’ is about transformation in a lot of ways, and we were thrilled to see how Cheyene would transform the song.

There’s a kind of “lost VHS tape” quality to the video. Was that an aspect of the video you discussed with Cheyenne? What do you like about that kind of aesthetic?

This style is pretty quintessential for Cheyene and 75 Ohms and it has a lot to do with why we wanted to work with him. In our music, we like to get lost in darkness and light and to hold more than one extreme at a time, and Cheyene’s video techniques do the same. Using direct footage of something as simple as our heads gives it a natural, intimate and raw feel. Combined with his visually noisy techniques, bright colors, distortion and glitchiness, one gets an experimental, dark and exhilarating feeling watching the clips. It adds a striking intensity to some already pretty intense but simple headshots and keeps the momentum of the video and music going strong.

While not new and it now occurs to me resonant in ways with the name of the band and pagan black metal, there is a kind of tribal pagan mystic aspect to your performance garb including an antler crown. What is the significance of that for your band? With a lot of those early Norwegian black metal bands there was some reference to cleansing the land of non-native religious structures built over traditional Viking holy places and thus a call for a return to an older, more primordial native spirituality. American black metal bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, of course, are more obviously oriented toward nature and the preservation of that as part of holistic view of our existence. 

Our identity as a band definitely continues to grow and has developed a lot even after changing our name to church fire in 2012. When David made this crown, it felt like a portal was created for us to step into when we perform and write. The crown itself, actually preceded our aesthetic. Initially, it wasn’t an idea inspired by anything in particular and honestly had no greater vision behind it other than it was curious to us and felt powerful. It was a very organic transformation for us. I think the image and feeling of the crown and our masks have felt more powerful for us as time goes on, and allows us to let go of our everyday identities and step into the new worlds that we’ve created with each other through our music. It feels transcendent and liberating to us but is not connected to any existent culture, image or community for us – not intentionally, anyway.

That said, after we stepped into the crown, the flowers, the lights and the masks, we have been able to even more fully relish in a dark, earthy but surreal experience. There is a sense of the divine feminine and of the power of nature in those images, of a softness, a strength, and a darkness, and that’s where we come from when we write and perform. To keep these unshakable, powerful and ancient images in our minds when we create and perform makes our own experience with our art more fulfilling and transcendent, and we hope others tap into those feelings and are inspired as well.

Church Fire’s Shannon Webber at Hi-Dive for December 29, 2018 release of Summer Camp Doom Diary. Photo by Tom Murphy

“Mechanical,” tell us a bit about what inspired this song and its tones and sense of urgency.

I was sitting on a beach in Oregon watching the waves roll onto the shore, sifting through rocks and shells, thinking about how drastically these artifacts have changed over more time than we can fathom; how they used to be huge and jagged, perhaps, and are now smooth and small and have creatures living inside them. I started thinking about all the ways that we transform throughout our lives and beyond our lives, transitions that we have no awareness of having undergone whatsoever; how some of the most powerful things that make us who we are, make reality what it is as we know it, are really tiny, delicate waves washing over us, so small we can’t even feel or see them; and that this version of everything we see, feel and know to be true is only what it is in this instant and instantly is forever changed again under a new wave.

We fancy ourselves in so much control, able to eliminate our desires if they don’t suit us, able to cure illness before it ever afflicts us, but the waves will still take over. It’s beautiful to be tiny and insignificant. It’s unrecognizingly powerful to transform and to be changed by the earth and Her elements. In writing the song, the meaning started to transform as well. In watching Cheyene’s video, the meanings continued to change, touching on gender and identity and transformation of these aspects of ourselves as well.

In 2018 Church Fire played a kind of one-off, special set that was some kind of black metal/noise/industrial set. Was this video a kind of precursor to that or inspired by that? What about the sorts of feelings you’re able to conjure playing that side of your music do you feel are different from and/or complimentary to what most people have seen/heard from Church Fire? I feel like your live performances always had that dark yet cathartic quality and that your latest album brought that out more in your recordings.

We’ve been secretly playing some doomy sludge guitar/drums drek for fun for a few years now, and when we were asked to play the Noise vs Doom festival last year it seemed like the only appropriate way to show up! [The] March 14th [show] at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, with The Drood, blackcell and DJ Mudwolf, [was] our first show with David playing drums and Kate Warner (Mirror Fears) on electronic music. We’re not a duo anymore! We feel honored to work with one of the most talented and hard working musicians in our scene and to transform our own music and push our limits in new ways.

Statement from the visual artist (Cheyene Grow)
One of the many things I find compelling about Church Fire is how they can simultaneously occupy seemingly diametric spaces. You could argue they are too noisy to be pop, too poppy to be noise. Too theatrical to be punk, too punk to be theatrical. Too goth to be cyber, too cyber to be goth. The list goes on.

I wanted to embody that contrast with visuals that would occupy conflicting spaces. So went for a look that felt aged and dirty, while also being clean and cyber-futuristic. Shannon has an intense and very engaging stage presence that I wanted to feature. So, instead of trying to put forth an actual narrative of transformation (which the lyrics capture well), we went with a performance piece and tried to incorporate transformation elements into the performances and the visual effects. The video glitches serve as way to mechanically degrade the image and make it feel like old film, while the core image maintains a certain high-end integrity.

The next Church Fire show is at the Hi-Dive on April 10 with HXXS, Morlox and Feigning