Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The fog machine was purchased at a Minneapolis Guitar Center on the day of the first day of the fourth installment of the Barnstormer 4 tour. The opening night happened on pissy, cold ass night in northern Minnesota, up near Duluth. We expected to see moose, we kid you not, with each new county road our GPS navigation systems took us on, curving deeper and deeper into timber wolf country, back into the woods where people get lost and search parties never find them. The fog machine was purchased on a whim by the East Village, Manhattan band Guards and our Barnstormer tour hasn't been the same since. We now travel with one. The liquid fog solution now exists as a line item on the tour budget and it cannot be stricken. We bring our own fog and we can't believe that we put on three previous tours without the stuff. You see, this first night did it for us. We were out on a piece of land that wasn't forsaken - as rich as the soil below us must have been (and we saw how dark brown, how dark black it was when we ripped up a huge patch of it in a muddy, late night mess of a buried van) - but more forgotten, or left alone. Richie James Follin, Loren Ted Humphrey, Kaylie Church and John Fredericks, with the professional help of the great Paul Kostabi (Follin's stepfather), turned this big old barn into a white wonderland of mysterious curios. There was a black bird that could have been a prop from one of Vincent Price's horror programs and there was the volatile music of the group, fueled by powerful explosions of light and exposure to the raw elements of the human condition. The songs that Follin writes aren't made up of night terrors, per se, but more so the cumbersome fears that beset us during the hours that we're awake, mostly those hours that are pushing the bewitching ones, when the soles of shoes striking the pavement behind a person sound menacing and when our senses are heightened to a point that makes us jumpier than we'd ever need to be. We aren't thinking that people are out to get us, but more that those we don't want to leave are out to leave us. The songs on the band's debut EP and those that they've yet to record, but have been honing live for a good amount of time now, are experiences of people roughing it and getting roughed up a little bit. Follin shows them going through the index of what they're capable of feeling, hitting on the various mixtures, doing it in an accelerated manner by giving us the send-up and then smoking us with a burst of hot emotion. There's disbelief and there's desperation, as well as those feelings of little to no power, when we're fit to be tied and we've had the vigor smacked from us. These are the parts - these outbursts, these blurtings, like the ones on "Resolution Of One" and the uber-anthem "I See It Coming" - when the fog gets thick as wool in the room and we start inhaling it, as if we're taking in the nights that bred these situations. The black birds start squawking and flapping around, perching on gargoyles and cocking their heads knowingly, menacingly down upon their subjects and the strangers. Everyone who's about lets their limbs prevail - through the cold and the incessant rain, through the pain and the desertion. All that's really desired in Follin's songs is a happy ending to something that's straying, something that's going slightly askew, something that's flying with those black birds through the fog created.