Climates

Single premiere: Climates take us to the "End of Nights"

—>>> CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO CLIMATES’ NEW SINGLE “END OF NIGHTS” RELEASED TODAY!!! <<<—

In 1999 Universal Pictures released an apocalyptic-themed thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called End of Days that the Washington Post panned as “all fire-and-brimstone bunk, a tired compendium of involuntary crucifixions, grim messages carved into human flesh, fly buzzings, ominous choral chants on the soundtrack and at least one head twisting.” 

Fortunately, Climates’ new single “End of Nights” has nothing to do with this movie (not even one head twisting!) but still it provides an interesting point of comparison. Whereas Y2K-era-end-of-the-world scenarios tended to be big, loud and stoopid (e.g., Satan trying to impregnate one of the hottie high-school witches from The Craft in order to spawn the Anti-Christ) in 2021 as depicted by Climates in fitting-to-the-times form, we’ve come to realize that the apocalypse may be a little more quiet and insidious, to the point where it may have already started (“I feel apocalyptic at night / and I sleep fine”) and anyway it may be time for a good house-cleaning (“pick up pieces / take them to the morning / waiting on sunrise”) especially for those among us that stand to lose the most (“watching all your empires thriving / hope the walls are high enough where you sleep”) who may finally be held accountable for their excesses (it’s beyond the scope of this piece, but you may wanna check out the Red Bull Music Academy article linked here on apocalyptic themes in ‘90s hip hop, which were plentiful, in terms of how these themes tied into racial injustice and societal reckoning).

Returning to Climates, personally, I consider “End of Nights” to be a worthy new entry into the established canon of doomsday songs—songs that often make one think hey the end times could actually be kinda sublime in a goodbye-cruel-world-let's-throw-ourselves-into-the-abyss kind of way, or even straight-up exciting-and-energizing-in-a-wiping-the-slate-clean-and-starting-over kind of way—joining the likes of David Bowie’s “Five Years,” Prince’s “1999,” and heck even Nena’s “99 Luftballons” if you’re up for a new-wavey doomsday and who isn’t. In fact, I'd say Climates combines elements from all these aforementioned musical approaches to the apocalypse because “End of Nights” brings together a nervy new-wave vibe (the band could write earworm pop hooks in their sleep apparently) with Five Years-style wistfulness alongside a 1999-ish drive to party 'til the wheels fall off as in “something perfect / if only for a moment / end on a high note.”

In other words, we're talking levels here folks. “End of Nights” opens with a catchy crunchy note-bending guitar riff played by the band's newest member whose name is Mitch (we’re on a first-name basis here!) soon joined by a pulsing rhythm section and the chiming opaque tones of the band’s other guitarist Molly (aww, Mitch ’n’ Molly!) and already you’re given some idea of Climates’ gift for mashing up sparkly pop and post-punk grit (there’s a reason they refer to their music as “glitter grunge”) a compelling contrast that’s only reinforced by bassist/vocalist Theadora’s twisty, melodic basslines and her airy-yet-penetrating pipes with her voice swathed in warm reverb (production/engineering duties are filled by the dream-pop-team of Digo & Jennica from the band Colatura) and from there on the song moves through multiple build-ups and breakdowns (the guitar intro reappears later, but enmeshed under many more musical layers) and it all feels highly cinematic even if there’s no ominous choral chants (but there are some nice harmonies!) 

Speaking of levels, I had a nice conversation with Theadora recently which greatly informed everything I've had to say about the song so far, and she used this striking phrase describing “End of Nights” as being about “clarity as things get darker” (levels!) and that really unlocked the whole song for me ("darkness as enlightenment” is one of the most appropriately-twisted optimistic takes on recent times I can imagine). So, besides the whole apocalyptic angle, you can also take “End of Nights” as being about the night itself, and more specifically, the fellowship of nighthawks and “creative people who thrive at night” (makes sense to me as I sit here at 4am finishing up this writeup) who already understood all about “darkness resetting things, making things truer” before the rest of the world caught on, living an after-hours existence at the “end of the world” in the sense of existing at the figurative end or edge of the world, off the grid, under the radar, otherwise removed from daytime’s demands and rituals. 

And finally, speaking of The End Of The World as an actual geographic place…when I mentioned to Theadora how her band’s music strongly evokes actual physical spaces in my mind, or simply space itself (how perfect is the name Climates then?!) what with their songs’ highly ambient, environmental atmospherics and the tangible sense of open space that you can often hear in their songs (composing her songs on bass has something to do with this as Theadora revealed to me, given how it leaves so much open space to work around, and suddenly I feel like listening to some King Tubby tracks) a sense of open space that makes me think these songs would be perfect for the soundtrack of a road movie, especially one with its protagonists traveling through the American Southwest, and as it turns out, Theadora loves this part of the country and its vast, wide-open landscapes, inclined as she is to take cross-country road trips whenever given the chance, and as it also turns out, the cover image of “End of Nights” is a shot of the night sky taken in Arizona by her truck-driver friend Keith Blevins, a friend she met at a Loves Travel Stop somewhere in the Western US (the cover image was edited by Theadora adding the superimposed sunrise, again, layers!) a guy who's also a photographer who captures evocative images of "for spacious skies and purple mountain majesties" alongside his other big-rig adventures, and then add on top of all this the cover image of the band's 2020 single “Super 8” which was taken in Sedona, Arizona, an image shot by Keira who also happens to be Climates' drummer (Sedona, in particular, is a fave place of Theadora's natch) and it just goes to show how powerfully music can communicate deep-seated associations and emotions and even specific places and landscapes and climates, especially when you've already somewhat on the same wavelength as your audience. Cool.

It’s just these kinds of unexpected synchronicities that tend to reveal themselves late into the night when the layers of the mundane world are peeled away. And so I’ll close here by declaring Climates to be a 21st century indie rock reincarnation of Arizona-based story-song master and country music giant Marty Robbins (harmonies! reverb! moodiness! wide-open landscapes!) which is a thought that would only occur to me at 5 in the morning, and more importantly, I’ll encourage you, dear reader, to click the link at the top of this page and go listen to the new song by Theadora, Molly, Mitch, and Keira before the apocalypse hits so you better snap to it. (Jason Lee)

photo credit (top of page): Francis McNeill

 

   

Climates cover version of Daria theme song

Daria - Could they make the holidays any more vulgar?
Jane - I hope so.
Daria - What?
Jane - The more debased they become, the less reason to celebrate them, and the less reason for my family to get together, until presto! I'm finally alone on Thanksgiving with a TV dinner

******

“Depth Takes A Holiday” (Daria S03/E03, aired 1999) opens with the exchange quoted above between our anti-social hero Daria Morgendorffer and her partner-in-sarcasm Jane Lane as they watch a TV ad for show-within-a-show “Sick Sad World” featuring a pitchman hyping a story about a massive Nativity scene constructed at the mall in the month of August. The half hour that follows is a surreal parody of the “very special holiday episode” (VSHE) that’s a fixture of TV-Landia around this time of year

The typical VSHE features a cast of characters—usually a biological family or a ragtag surrogate family—who together overcome a series of serio-comic misadventures on their way to a happy, heartwarming holiday celebration; or more typically for the 21st century, on their way to a disastrous, uproarious failure to meet the heightened expectations of the holiday season. Either way, what’s rarely questioned in these episodes is the sacrosanct nature of the holidays themselves, and their vision of an ideal world often based more in fantasy than anything resembling reality.

Daria, of course, breaks with VSHE conventions and parodies the heck out of them instead. A groundbreaking animated series that turned the Bechdel test on its head and set a new standard for realistic hot takes on high school (not to mention its fantastic soundtrack that'll never make it onto a DVD or Blu-Ray release) “Depth Takes A Holiday” departs even from the show’s own conventions with its wholesale flight into fantasy. Centered on an array of holidays in human form—Halloween is a goth rock chick, Guy Fawkes Day is a Sid Vicious lookalike, etc.—the plot revolves around several of them escaping “Holiday Island” through a wormhole behind a Chinese restaurant in search of fame as a hip-hop-punk-electronica band in the suburban purgatory of Lawndale. It’s up to Daria and Jane, with the help of an overgrown Cupid and a cranky Brit-baiting Saint Patrick’s Day, to restore the (very relatively speaking) natural order of things by ushering the errant holidays back to their island. Like I said, pretty surreal stuff.

True to form the episode’s Holiday Island turns out to be its own sick, sad world with its own sick, sad Lawndale-like high school chock full of weirdos and petty rivalries between the holidays. A bizarre, tossed-off seasonal affective disorder fable, “Depth Takes A Holiday” is also the perfect teachable moment for late 2020. The lesson being not to believe the holiday hype and that you're usually better off just staying the f*ck home. Besides to do otherwise is to risk the ire of a girl in a pleated skirt, combat boots and Edna Mode specs who's expert at tossing off withering disses delivered in monotone. (A question for another day: did Daria invent SoundCloud rap?)

Speaking of Daria in the present day, the Daria-loving four-piece who go by the name Climates recently put out a cover of the show’s iconic opening theme song “You’re Standing on My Neck.” It’s perfectly suited to the Brooklynites’ self-designated “glitter grunge” sound, “Seether”-style harmonies (sounds like the Breeders) and feminist politics. Their cover version can be heard on SoundCloud and on Spotify or purchased wherever records and tapes are sold (yeah better stick to streaming for now). It's lucky for all involved that Splendora bequeathed to the world those five “nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah-nyah” notes that ring out Close Encounters-style at the start, and bridge and the ending of “Standing On My Neck”--a clarion call to tribes of disaffected kids, and to girls and young women in particular who appreciate the “strongly layered female characters” on the show.

Once you’ve had time to fully take in the Climates version of the theme song and it’s source material you may want to check out this article on Splendora. Another Brooklyn-spawned-all-female band, led by two sisters who today work in Manhattan’s high powered publishing industry, they never quite received their due and disbanded soon after Daria hit the airwaves and cable boxes of America, languishing in no small part due to limited resources dedicated to the promotion of female bands at the time. It’s a shame as their one and only full album release from 1995 is a solid piece of work. One can only hope that better is in store for Climates--despite some minor obstacles like a pandemic that makes it impossible to practice or a band member relocating to Seattle--because even with just a handful of songs on record so far they’ve already proven some serious songwriting chops and an ability to command a stage. This interview with Climates from Chez Nous highlights some of the challenges still faced by female-identified bands but they appear prepared to power through. 

And finally, after ingesting every recorded version of “You’re Standing On My Neck” and watching the five-season run of Daria in full, you would be well advised to check out the Climates’ single below released earlier this year. “Super 8” is a song that has some interesting things to communicate about the nature of fantasy and reality and the porous line between the two--the throughline to my ramblings here if you're being generous--with lyrics revolving around the idea that our lives are at their most "real" when our lives feel most like we're living in a movie. Super 8 film is a consumer-oriented motion picture format that spawned the home movie explosion of the ‘60s and ‘70s--you can hear the sound of an old-style film projector in the intro of the song--technology that led directly to the videotape boom of the ‘80s and ultimately to our current show-me-your-phone-video-or-it-didn’t-happen social media era.

Maybe it's overreaching but I'm putting it out there that this song speaks to a transformation in our collective consciousness that's still taking place today where we continually narrative our very own “very special episodes” 24/7 to an adoring audience, or an ignoring audience, but who can really tell the difference half the time. Either way the song is a moodily seductive banger that’ll mash up your mind with its killer earworm chorus: “big things get in the way / we’re filming away." 

Although admittedly I sometimes hear that first line as “fake things get in the way" and don't know which is correct but maybe this sense of ambiguity and uncertainty is the realest thing of all. (Jason Lee)

 

 

“Picture this in glitter and smoke
hold the camera steady
Candy-flossed clouds, who’s the boss now
sugar on the lenses and the roses in the ground”