Danny Denial shocks. The artist is sensational, confrontational and prolific. He’s the type of artist that will be discovered again and again as time’s decades roll forward. While at times he considers himself a lo-fi artist, in reality he participates in its highest forms. For to make something dazzling to look at that lasts years in your brain’s digestive tracts is to be sublime. Danny Denial is sublime. And he brings that energy to his band, Dark Smith, a brash group of punk players who, despite the social risks, continue to wear their beating hearts on their rolled-up sleeves.
To whit, we are proud to premiere Dark Smith’s latest music video for the song, “Seamstress,” a chilling track with an even cooler visual component. We caught up with the front man of Dark Smith, who will play main support for The Black Tones on Dec. 27th at Neumos, to talk about the video and the group’s many 2019 accomplishments.
Your new video for “Seamstress” is a continuation of Dark Smith’s last video for the song, “Waiting.” Before we jump into the new one, how did you come up with the idea for “Waiting” and its psycho-slavery concept?
“Waiting” came out of a desire to play with our look, that over-dark, all-black, gothic sort of palette we’ve gone through the past few years. We wanted to inhabit a very white, very sterile space and, in building the story of why, we created “The Waiting Room” with filmmaker Rajah Makkonen and Lovecitylove. In this world, the members of Dark Smith are captives of faceless scientists and forced to play “Waiting” on an infinite loop. We still don’t quite know why! But we loved how the video connected with people, and the idea that performers become enslaved to the expectation of performance. It’s why we want to explore this world further, this month with “Seamstress” and hopefully a continuation of the story next year!
Your videos are often so elaborate. In fact, you’re one of the most vivid and accomplished music videographers working in the city. How do you muster the personal investment for these works?
Thank you for saying that! I often feel like my visual work isn’t always received so well – because it’s the “lowest of lo-fi” but somewhat high-concept, narratively. If I had money, I’d definitely be more of a maximalist, but I’d tell the same stories I would with a bigger budget. Filmmaking has helped me navigate the music world, in a way, and I still consider it my first love. I don’t think I would have continued making music this long without the visual component.
Dark Smith’s music is often subversive, using pop or rock delivery systems for counter-culture ideas. It’s rebellions. How does it feel on a day-to-day basis to create this work and to release it, vulnerably, into the world?
It’s definitely a double-edged sword – I often feel like the work that gets the most attention is the most overtly political and statement-heavy, but then it’s met with the heaviest dose of backlash, contempt and online trolls. But I think I’ve developed a thicker skin to it the last couple of years. I think part of putting out confrontational, counter-culture music is letting go of the fear of people hating. Because there will always be people who hate being challenged.
In that vein, what made you want to release this video around Christmas?
It just felt like the most un-Dark Smith thing of us to possibly do! We love playing with people’s expectations. Our drummer Nozomi called me almost a year ago when Seattle got snowed out and *demanded* Ashe and I get footage of him singing “Seamstress” in the snow. Who knows why? We didn’t even have a storyline for any of the Degressive videos yet. Then came the “Waiting” concept months later, and now that it’s been a few months since that came out, it felt like the right time to put out a snowy dreamy love song about insufferable pain! Merry Christmas from Dark Smith!
The new video features your guitar player singing lead, a divergence from most of the Dark Smith songs. Your voice sings backup for much of the track. What made you want to experiment with these dual singing voices?
Ashe and I love singing parallel hooks together, like in “It Gets Worse” and “Seattle Is Burning.” But when he showed me this song as a demo, it just felt so fully-realized and sublime the way he wrote and sang it. It was never really a question, he had to sing lead. I love bands who have multiple voices, like the Sonic Youth thing where there are “Kim” songs and “Thurston” songs. I want to do a bit more of that. I really love Lia’s voice, too, and want her to sing more on the next record!
“Seamstress” thanks the Northwest Film Forum in the end credits. Can you talk about NWFF and explain what the institution means to you as a working artist?
I love the Northwest Film Forum so much. We first partnered on my feature film Kill me to death, which I would have never been able to finish without them. They are the most integral resource and communal space for filmmakers in Seattle, and their whole team is the best. I’m super-excited to announce that I’ll be teaching my very first workshop Visual Albums & Music Videos on a Guerrilla Budget on February 1st!
Dark Smith has had a big year! Opening for Mudhoney at KEXP one minute and now playing main support for The Black Tones Nov. 27th at Neumos. What does this mean to you as a burgeoning artist in the city?
It’s pretty awesome, and incredibly humbling, too. When Dark Smith first formed, honestly, I just thought we were going to play house shows and a few dive bars, so 2019 has just left me reeling. But I’m counting our blessings and reminding myself that nothing lasts forever. And enjoying the fact that I get to perform with my three favorite musicians in Seattle. Everything else is sprinkles.