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Wanton, not evil: Strangled Darlings evoke a dark, fervent world in new album

  • Author: Katie Medred
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published August 5, 2015

Strangled Darlings is a duo from Portland, Oregon composed of George Veech (vocals and mandolin) and Jess Anderly (cello, bass, backing vocals). The pair released their fourth studio album, "Boom Stomp King," in July and will return to Alaska this week as the first stop on their album tour.

The nine tracks that make up "Boom Stomp King" are fervent, tortured little songs that communicate a sort of confrontational bleakness. Veech summarizes the pair's music -- and the music they hope to make in the future -- as "wanton, not evil, but wanton."

"I don't think people say this enough about art, but there's a violence to art that doesn't have to do with physical violence," Veech starts, before grasping for examples. "Like, Quentin Tarantino's (films) -- not the dialogue, but what he sees. Uh, he's too obvious -- I guess what I'm getting at is there's aggression … that … people don't talk about very much. They'll say, 'This is a love song,' 'This is a sad song,' 'Here's a song about drugs,' 'One about money,' but if you talk about aggression … There's an inherent aggression in everybody … and that can be expressed in melody and progressions."

It's not that "Boom Stomp King" is aggressive or violent, per se. The album is more zealous or fervid. Think Pentecostal Glossolalia -- it won't make sense to everyone, but it will register deeply with a few.

However, there is one thing Veech admits he could have used more of this time around. "The one mistake I might have made," he says, is "there are not enough hooks. But there's a hell of a lot of layers down there, so, to me anyway, it falls together at the end."

Veech says he does most of the writing, but he's the first person to call Anderly "the musician," and their distinct roles generate an interesting tension in their creations. The crooning and the withering and protesting of Veech's lyrics are often cradled and swayed by Anderly's textural, backbone arrangements. She plays cello, violin, drums, bass and guitar (and probably other instruments, too) on this new album.

"I'm a latecomer to music and (Jess) plays both foot drums and a melodic bass line when we're playing -- a lot of the instrumentation comes from her. It's the arrangement," Veech explains during a layover at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this week. "The arrangement of the presentation is everything. We definitely do that collaboratively, but she has more muscle, if you will, to control how the song comes out, because it's bass and drums. That is the part that moves the song."

Veech and Anderly have been playing together since 2009. The pair recently quit their jobs, sold most of their belongings and moved into a "tiny RV." The songs that make up "Boom Stomp King" largely deal with cutting the cord to material belongings and status.

"To do that requires a bit more energy than you might imagine. It's not like you get that piece and it's there, you have to push stuff out and it feels like you're leaving something behind, like you're leaving people behind. But those are not people, those are objects."

According to a lengthy press release that came in advance of the phone call with Veech, "The goal was to head out into the ocean of America, away from the safe harbor of Portland. The duo now lives in a 20-foot C-class RV traveling from Walmart to Walmart in between their heavy full time tour schedule across the United States."

In the release, Veech adds, "It's America, the only place you can park for free is Walmart. So we are the beneficiaries of indirect corporate sponsorship, which kind of suits us."

Despite the doomy, gutted idiosyncrasies of "Boom Stomp King," Veech says he's always looking forward, playing with sound, and he has an idea for the group's next album.

"I'm already working on a new one," he laughs before signing off. "And -- I say this to freak people out -- the next one is going to be a pop album."

We'll hold them to it.

Strangled Darlings

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8

Where: Tap Root Public House

Tickets: $8 at the door, 21+ only

Katie Medred is a freelance music writer living and working in Anchorage. Visit her blog, Beat & Pulse, Alaska, at beatandpulsealaska.tumblr.com for more.

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