Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Here's what happens when Wallace Cochran and Jeff Stolz of Drakkar Sauna start playing their very idiosyncratic and complicated songs: You think of yourself differently. You find that there are a great many more bizarre characteristics to you than you were aware of before. There is a sick amount of stuff that has you feeling anxious. Drakkar Sauna songs aren't about you, but most songs aren't so that's nothing new, but they are about your hidden feelings and metered fears of aging or the place where that aging is going to take place. There's a scene in the relatively amusing movie "The Invention of Lying," where Ricky Gervais's character - a man who invents lying and almost more importantly the stories of the Bible - walks into a nursing home to visit his senile and depressed mother and encounters a trio of fellow residents. One mutters to him that he looks like that man's dead son, another comments that she's on pills that make everything look orange and the final woman says that every day is worse than the one before it. He later finds a way to make them all smile - with lies, naturally - but their uncomfortable concerns and states of mind seem to be established in something other than craziness and it's a condition that Drakkar Sauna can likely appreciate. The Western and bluegrassy-sounding songs that this eclectic duo has been making in their homes in Lawrence, Kansas, for a few years now are steeped in a kind of uncertainty as to the judgments that might or might not be handed down at the Pearly Gates someday. They are intimately involved with the wobbly and often substantiated off-the-walls thoughts about death and the relatively whimsical itinerary of fate, salvation, love and death as it's given to us in very uncertain terms. The group's latest record, "20009," seems to be something of a look at both the unpolished dimensions of youth and its ever-diminishing presence, replaced by a rightfully scary ending point that no one with any sort of validation or certainty could confirm as one way or another. It's a look at the future - a distant future that doesn't seem so distant anymore. The ripe old age of death is looked at in so many real ways. They sing, "Don't touch me, I'm old," on "Narcissus 30 - Apollo 11," and it's a look back at a life, an address to a family that perhaps doesn't recognize him any longer, just as he perhaps doesn't recognize himself and just wants something else to be happening. This old man's future - despite it happening here or in one thousand years in a setting unlike any that we can imagine - will be like that of the next old man one thousand years older. He will deal with heartlessness and the likelihood of familial distress, divorce, estranged children and continuous exacerbations of mental and spiritual strength. There's no getting around the general pointlessness of most everything and most folks will still have a hard time just enjoying themselves and the flimsiness of it all. "20009" and the band shine a light on so many ragged hearts and their fights for more lives, for better lives and the people closest to them. It's unbearable that we all die alone, the protagonists, seem to reiterate. There are so many distinct lines of wisdom and burning truths in every one of Drakkar Sauna's songs that it can be hard to digest all that you should be taking from these melodious odes that seem as if they should be played drunkenly or as if the truest lines were revealed to Cochran and Stolz in the midst of drunkenness. They sing, "We're all touch-deprived, especially you/I'm surprised you're still alive," and also suggest that "we have 140 ways of saying amputee," and both offer us the thought that we're only pieces of what we should be - lopped into parts that diminish wantonly as we move our innocence and bodies through time, as if we've forgotten to bring them along until they're long gone and we're just old and in a scary place sometime in the future.
Drakkar Sauna Official Site
Drakkar Sauna's Debut Daytrotter Session