Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The way that Vampire Hands' Colin Johnson describes his band's song "Me & You Cherry Red" has a ubiquitous owning up with nearly all of the rest of the Minneapolis group's output. Of this song, he writes, "This song comes from America's "Horse With No Name," sometime I spent living in Milwaukee, and an overall obsession with water. Just lying in the bathtub thinking about that song and the lyric, "I been through the desert on a horse with no name it feels good to be out of the rain..." or whatever it is, and just doing the opposite. Personalities like waves just washing over you, feeling crushed by people, or being drowned…" It seems as if the thought should just trail off into the expanse and become something ephemeral that we have to put our hand, formed into a bill or a shade-making awning, up to our eyebrow to watch it as it disappears far off over the land, never to be seen again, the burning light and distance eating its lingering composite whole. The idea of personalities knocking against someone like waves, and maybe shuffling their clothing, causing a weird body temperature collision or disturbance as the figurative water hits the comfortable skin, or pushing them backwards to assert their presence is very present in the wispy and dream-like words that Johnson delivers through a charged up haze and drone. The feeling of being crushed by people or being drowned as a sentiment is attained in the songs that Vampire Hands makes and it's literally the same thing, at the same time. It's drowning and it's a social drowning that feels as if no one has the slightest amount of choice in the matter. You can be watched, publicly viewed as a sinking rock and there's no reason to expect any assistance in getting out of disaster's way. You're going under and it's going to jostle and it's going to be impacting. It's going to leave you with body bruises and soon enough, you'll be in over your head and everything going on above the water will take on a muffled quality, as if everyone on the other side of the surface was being suffocated by a pillow or two. There's no real good way of knowing who's suffering more - them or the drowning victim. The band gives off an impression that they can find a house that is both a paradise and seriously burning like hell, all up in flames and the most perilous place to be at this very instance. The couches should still be sat in, the bath still looks inviting, the fridge still full of incredibly fresh things to eat. The band gives off the impression that we should be more panic-stricken than we already are and that there doesn't need to be any kind of reasoning or explanation for the presumption. Just freak out, but do it lowly, do it so that it makes the kind of ripple that will enter the frame as a black streak, curling through the placid water like a viper. It's a spooky blowing through the curtains, as if the darkest parts of the sky are lowering and moving in closer, undetected, thanks to the shadows and the oblivion. It makes for a Fleet Foxes feeling, if Robin Pecknold and the beardos wanted to make people shiver in a different way - a way that gets people jumpy and running up the stairs from the dark basement even if there's nothing to worry about. Or is there? People should always be worried about and they always have the capability of getting closer than you'd like, to rattle the cage.