DRAB MAJESTY: THE SADDEST THING EVER
photography by alex the brown
Yes. Deb is the vessel. She’s also a way to get away from myself, because I don’t want the songs to say ‘written by Andrew Clinco.’ I do well at some other things—I’m a sign painter, and I have been for ten years. That’s a skill, a trade, and that’s how I’ve made my money for the last ten years. I’m pretty good at that. I’m pretty good at basketball. But when it comes to making art, I don’t want to say I’ve figured this out. Because at that point, too, it becomes less fun. I don’t want the answers. My dad is a total theory-based guitar player, making decagons within chord structures and all this shit. I look at that, and I’m like, ‘Why are you trying to chart the sky? Why are you trying to chart the infinite?’ There’s no mystery anymore, and that sucks. Some people take comfort in that—they like the idea of regimens within the instrument. But the instrument to me is infinite. Because, once you start tuning the guitar differently, oh my God—all sorts of dimensions come out. Like: ‘This guitar is set up to play in standard tuning.’ Why can’t we go beyond the standard? Knobs are meant to tune to different things. I’m going to take advantage of that. As you can probably deduce, I don’t play in standard tuning. I don’t know what to do with a guitar if I get one in standard tuning. I mean, I can play Brian Jonestown shit, but that’s about it.
Let’s talk about the track ‘39 By Design.’ I know it’s about the Heaven’s Gate cult, the suicide cult from the 90s. I have a hard time making out the lyrics but I feel to a degree they are about taking solace in how assured these people were that there is an afterlife, as unconventional as the group’s ideas were.
I’ve taken a deep obsession with Heaven’s Gate for many years. The people who speak about them and have investigated their case have labeled them as heretics. Without really much consideration or compassion, they have kind of labeled them as insane and wackadoos. I’m not going to say that some of their claims were not pretty outrageous, but I do think they had some interesting tenets to their belief system—one being that the body was a vessel, a genderless vessel, which is an integral part of Drab Majesty. I basically wanted to write a song that sort of supports what they did, and ask, ‘How are we sure?’ Because the body is sort of a cheap suitcase, a flesh vehicle … how do we know they didn’t ascend to the evolutionary level above human? We don’t actually know. We can judge them for their deeds on Earth, but we don’t know if they ascended. The chorus touches on that, but the chorus also touches on the futility of [Heaven’s Gate leader] Marshall Applewhite as this person who had interior conflicts going on in his life and inflicted that on his followers as a way to feel comfortable with his own sexuality. He was a closeted homosexual and didn’t want anyone having any kind of sex in the cult. He made it so most of the male members became eunuchs as a way to mitigate sex entirely. So there were some things he wove into the story, and the ethos suited his agenda. But ultimately the whole record revolves around the idea of the kind of cult of one, and the relationships we have where we throw away all our belief systems and become subsumed by someone else—another body. We relinquish all autonomy to another person, and that’s how we demonstrate our love. We lose ourselves because ultimately cults are meant to strip us of ourselves. And I think that can happen without groupthink—it can happen between one and one person.
Do you think the style of music—the cold tone—lends itself to these ideas?
I find at this stage in the game that the icier, more brooding, dour color palette—or sound palette—gets the message across more, I guess. Again, it’s kind of what comes out. I do have control in the production techniques and the guitar tones. But to me it just seems like the only answer at this stage. I take extra time in making sure the guitar work sits in the mix in a way that’s very, very wide—very stereo, very chorused, meant to envelop you. That’s important as a way to bring a listener in. The drum machine is machine-like and the bass has these forked basslines that are pulsing, and the guitar is supposed to be this smoke—this oscillating, moving, human element, really. That’s very conscious. I think the guitar and the vocals are working in tandem to deliver the message.
Were there any other themes or ideas you purposefully were trying to weave into the record?
The final song is called ‘Behind the Wall,’ which brings [the album] back to something very concrete for me, which is the passing of my grandmother about a year and a half ago. The song is literally about me visiting her in the mausoleum and that wall … and being on the other side from her, realizing her body is on the same plane as mine, the same level height as me. There she is lying down horizontally at my chest height, on the other side of this marble slab. That is a tactile and tangible way to understand life and death, to have the body not necessarily be underground—there’s something about it being on this Earth, and on eye level, and knowing that if I had some tools I could remove this plank, and there her body would be behind this grid.
It’s almost like she’s mid-ascent.
Exactly, but eternally mid-ascent, and she’s behind the wall. It’s not even a metaphorical wall, but a basic wall. The lyrics go: ‘Life is haunted / In a gridded vault / Marble slabs and placards / Of a grave gestalt.’ So that’s kind of describing the mausoleum space, where there are like 100 bodies behind a wall.
What else did you explore on the record?
‘Not Just a Name’ is kind of a way for me to go back to certain pet names or cult names that most of the members were given in Heaven’s Gate. And it also just points to pet names that one has in a relationship—you come up with these names for your significant other, and it’s not just a name. It becomes a representation. The name given by your significant other—or by your cult leader—becomes a representation of love and experience and sacrifice. And every time you’re called that, it’s a reminder of that—of being stripped of your autonomy.
And do you have a negative view of that or positive? Or neutral? Of the idea of people possessing each other that way?
No, I take no stance. I just like to point at it and say, ‘Look at that. That’s interesting.’ I don’t find it to be negative or positive—it’s neither for me. It’s just quite interesting. A quite interesting phenomenon. I’m probably secretly celebrating it more than condemning it, but I like weird shit and I love when humans do weird things. I love human behavior so much. Ultimately, for me, at least, way more can be gleaned and exprienced from it if you laugh at it and look at it as an absurd thing, than if you really take it and say, ‘God, this is the saddest thing ever.’
DRAB MAJESTY WITH XENO AND OAKLANDER, CHASMS, TAMARA SKY AND DJS REMY MARC + BRIAN TARNEY(RESTLESS NITES) + LIL DEATH AND DAIS RECORDS ON SAT., JUNE 17, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 9 PM / $16.50-$20 / 18+. GET TICKETS HERE! DRAB MAJESTY’S THE DEMONSTRATION IS OUT NOW ON DAIS. VISIT DRAB MAJESTY AT DRABMAJESTY.BANDCAMP.COM.