Video Premiere: Mucca Pazza Mixes Marching Band Punk With Prog Rock

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 30, 2017 4:23PM

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Mucca Pazza

Mucca Pazza’s mixture of marching band melodies with art punk bravado and live shows that can only be described as controlled chaos is impossible to forget once you’ve experienced it. And while they’ve been mainstays on the Chicago scene their fanbase stretches far and wide, including everyone from Andrew Bird (who they have collaborated with) and NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (who have sung their praises and invited them to share a stage).

At this point, the band’s predictable unpredictability means it's hard for them to truly surprise people familiar with their work. The band’s latest single “Barbarous Relic” turns even that on its head though, introducing elements of prog rock into the mix, a new vista for this group of manic merrymakers.

We asked percussionist and composer Andy Deitrich to tell us how this new song came about, and we discovered it's not exactly a brand new creation.

“'Barbarous Relic' is an outlier in the Mucca Pazza catalog,” he says. “It’s a march in 7/4 meter, difficult to play, and full of non-idiomatic melodies and rhythms. Conceptually, it’s a battle between two rather obvious characters, one heroic and soaring, the other mysterious and angular. It was composed in 2009 after the financial crisis. I was reading a lot about macro economics and the field’s warring schools of thought, and the title is a reference to that battle ground.” Mix in Deitrich’s fandom of bands like Rush, Yes, and Weather Report, and the resulting song starts to seem less of an oddball in the band’s creative catalog.

In order to craft a video that fit the challenging new song, the band teamed up with Matthew Shelton. And the undercurrent of turmoil that Deitrich built the tune upon seems to have found an emotional mirror in the visual artist. Shelton told us, “The opportunity I was given to ‘score’ the song visually came along during the most nerve-wracked and troubled period that I have witnessed in the world immediately surrounding me. The worries are too numerous to detail, but among them are questions of the efficacy of art during times like these and, ultimately, the fear that our grander notions of the role of art may not even survive, much less flourish.”

Dietrich was eager to collaborate with Shelton.

“The first time I saw Matt’s graphic stills and vignettes I thought they were gorgeous. So when someone suggested we contact him to create a video for the song, I immediately felt it would be a great match," Dietrich said. "His kaleidoscopic digital fantasies invoke mystery and oddness with an earnest soulfulness. We gave him some footage of the band to play with, and some vague direction about incorporating lots of secret society imagery. We checked in a couple of times along the way, but I really wanted Matt to create his own visual narrative to accompany the audio. I was hoping we’d get a video that was as much a departure for the band visually as the song is sonically, and Matt delivered, giving us something uniquely wonderful and strange.”

Shelton took that openness and ran with it.

“My approach was to turn these fears into a source of inspiration. The images are colorful and trippy, but don’t seek to hide from the darkness with escapism and fantasy. The kitschy silliness of the band’s performances is only skin deep; beneath this style is an aggressively resourceful creativity that flies in the face of the role a modern rock band is expected to play," Shelton said. "Within the band’s repertoire, this particular song seems especially well-suited for this ongoing battle, with equal parts of joy and menace in the composition. I sought to create a visual uneasiness and confusion that would reflect these perilous conflicts that this song captured.”

Take in the visual wonder that is the video for “Barbarous Relic” above. And see Mucca Pazza at Martyr's this Friday, Sept. 1, where they’re throwing a Slavic Soul Party stating at 9 p.m.