Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are days when all you want to do is just quit. Right there, you just want to give up and just jump off a very tall building. Okay, not really. What you really want to do is just go home, eat some good food, throw your phone and your computer and your television against the wall until they can no longer function, sit down with a book and just feel the silence envelope you like a boa constrictor, wrapping us up so that we can never get loose to buy another phone, another computer or another television set.
This is our new reality, where we are by ourselves and happily free of everyone else's chaos, everyone else's problems, opinions and declarations. We are able to just exist with our own repercussions, whatever they might happen to be. For, when we break all of everything down, we are just this odd, elongated and bulgy-in-places body taken care not to fuck too much up. We are this self-servicing hunk of skin and bones and hair that is relatively dependent on itself to make it through to wherever it is that it's headed.
Chris Otepka, the lead singer for the Portland-based indie rock band Heligoats, a project that he's been working on for over 12 years now, has a very quirky and a very imaginative head on his shoulders and he tends to think about and write about the workings of these bodies - more specifically, it seems, his own, the one that he knows most intimately - in very, well, intimate ways. He thinks of them differently than most people do. He seems to hear these bodies talking to themselves, not hearing voices in his head per se - though that might happen frequently as well - but more so hearing these bodies communicate as if they were municipalities, with neighborhoods and precincts and factions in conflict with one another at all times.
For any peace, they may look to the outside. Otepka sings on his next to last album, "Goodness Gracious," "If the home is where the heart is then the attic is the brain," and while somewhat unassuming, what could be taken from such a line and its surroundings in the song "Heat Vents" - where the veins are and nasal passages are likened to the heating vents of a house and it's suggested that we may be breathing in heated ghosts - is that this, all of this is very complex and maybe we can't help but feeling that we're not in charge, that we're never really going to win anything.
Although Otepka seems generally to be a very warm and fun-loving man and these qualities are on display in all of the peppy, feels like we're running a race or out on a boat in a fast-moving stream of consciousness songs, he initiates all of these ideas of stubborn reality into them, turning them subtly dark. When he sings on "Fish Sticks," "To me, every inch of the lake is a 50-foot cliff," he's writing about the contrast of two people - one, who was baptized in the river then later started having kids and found their inner-self and the other (Otepka or the version of himself that he sings in the first-person) who was thrown off a bridge, started having seizures instead of children and found their inner-fish. It's the Heligoats. It's a tale about swimming in it, about living through the many confusions that we just blink at and wonder how we can just start over, to wipe the slate clean and start the fuck over.
*Essay originally published August, 2010