by Mitchell Parrish
As you probably saw yesterday, we premiered a controversial video from artist EKDAHL who laid out in no uncertain terms how many people feel about the November 2016 elections.
We chatted with EKDAHL right before the massive premiere to take a deeper dive into this stunning film. We went deep.
See our conversation below as we discuss religious symbols, musical influences, Amazing Amy the contortionist & more.
You begin the video with an image of a scarecrow and a kid armed with a nerf gun wearing a don’t tread on me like a cape.
To be reductive, the scarecrow is Trump. But just as with Trump, the scarecrow is just a mascot for something far darker, more deeply interwoven into the lifeblood of the country: the politics of fear and division, blood and force, manifest destiny. The boy is the future, as goes for all the other children in the video.
The set is very interesting to me. You seem to be playing off a medley of 20th century American styles, from the 50s to present day. What is the relationship between timelessness & specificity (as in Election day 2016).
Yes! I always imagined the boy in a pink or mint 1950’s kitchen, like something out of a magazine from then. The American zeitgeist of the 50’s was, needless to say, very deeply conservative so it felt very organic to establish the doomed boy in such a room. A kitchen in a home- it’s a place of safety, familiarity, family gatherings, birthdays, etc. So to juxtapose the boy in a place like that with the ominous scarecrow looming outside felt right.
Yeah, I mean, there’s no secret… a conservative did not make this video haha. So, provided my obvious position, that a certain political party has always been leading an aggressive crusade to turn the clock backwards on society, having the kids listen to the song from an old 50’s radio was also a way to bridge the past to now.
I hear a lot of Flaming Lips & David Bowie vibes. When you wrote & produced this song, did you have any particular influences in mind?
I really like the Flaming Lips but I haven’t really done my homework on them yet. But wow, that’s very nice and I’m very undeserving. With Bowie, yes, particularly “Heathen” and “The Next Day.” “Black Star,” that thing is fucking paralyzingly good.
Most prominently I was listening to BECK and Nigel Godrich, Radiohead, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Courtney Grace is the woman who produced and engineered my song and did the female vocals. Our sensibilities were very close when we first talked about recording the tune.
There has been a lot of commentary on the most recent election. People are still writing, musing on, wrestling with the meaning of the election & the Trump Presidency. What were you NOT trying to do?
What I wasn’t trying to do was offer a solution. I would never know what the solution is, nor, as an artist, feel like that’s my obligation. I’m just here to fuck with metaphors and ask an audience questions. Anyways, I don’t think there is a solution– or at least one that is achievable by this current stage of human beings in the increasingly limited time we’ve given ourselves environmentally. That being said, we SHOULD all fight for a solution but with respect to this video, I was merely trying to express how people felt and more importantly ask the question: what is the National Character of our country? What has it historically been, hidden or explicit- and what will it become? There’s a battle for the Soul of this country and exploring the roots of that battle were interesting to prod at.
I gotta ask about the the elder contortionist. She’s wild a f. Who is she & how did you get her in the film?
Oh that’s “Amazing Amy.” She’s wonderful. I was looking for dancers in New York and she submitted to the project and after seeing photos of her I told her “yes yes yes yes.” But her presence, her quality and face would require a special role; something super thematic. So just a couple weeks before production I wrote in a new part for her. As a contortionist, I thought it would be fitting for her to represent “The Spirit” of America, or of the American Experiment. Working with her and the last minute inclusion of her part in the piece was a highlight of the project. She’s the most wonderful, tender person by the way and she loves to work! So if anyone wants to hire her for any video or stage projects just look up HERE.
As for the choreography, my childhood friend Zoe Stephens-North was choreographer. She worked with the dancers and let them interpret the song and build pieces together. Zoe and I discussed remembering the feelings of that day and the morning after election and what it felt like to ‘wake up,’ and the dancers interpreted it from there. They were wonderful collaborators and put a lot of time on set.
Do you think our system of government, or at least our perception of it, has fundamentally changed since Nov. 8th? And what role does religion play in that?
Haha, this is a rhetorical question right?
As for religion, Trump and Pence are satisfying their christian base (a dying voter demographic); trying to “restore religious liberty” by relaxing laws on tax-exempt status of Churches and allowing religious institutions to be involved in political campaigns. Which is poison. Like that’s insane. And unconstitutional. Then again the separation of church and state has never really existed anyways. But yeah the current administration wants to strangle the religious liberties of certain other faiths but never Christianity. Trump is like also the least “christian” human being ever. Like I will never understand how good people who identify themselves as Christian can look at that man and be like, “Yeah! He exemplifies the teachings and works of Jesus!” Like it’s fucking psychotic to think this motherfucker is Christian, in any sense of the word. There’s no God for him. Only himself.
The hyper-conservative agenda being pursued is so clearly a reaction to Change itself– to evolution itself. I understand the personal phenomena of feeling one’s sense of identity, one’s familiarity with the world disappearing and being compelled to resist that, or fight against it. But the world IS changing. As an example, no one is making people go to church less. A lot of people might not be going as often, perhaps people feel church offers less than before, but no one is telling YOU not to go! Like, there is no “war on Christmas.” That’s fucking insane. This American christian persecution-complex is so fucking absurd and it’s such a motivating factor behind republican goals and legislation. I can’t even talk about it. It makes me want to peel my face off.
The surrealism is palpable. It’s also playful towards the end; then you cut to children dying in a fake war. What is the viewer supposed to take away from the final sequence of the film?
Apocalypse haha. You’re right, at the end, the children salute and accept the world that has been force fed to them and they are subsequently forced to destroy each other. But of course not without red, white and blue confetti falling onto their dead bodies! You can’t have a proper societal collapse without throwing a gratuitous amount of patriotic shit into the air! The boy is now a blinded slave to a war machine, the kids have killed each-other, the “Spirit” has walked away, and the scarecrow is a looming bitch with nothing else to scare. But the dancing is fun and dumb! The final dance bit is suppose to be having fun with absurdity. Accepting the absurdity of things and throwing your hands up like, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” When absurdity and futility have you so far pushed back into the corner, there’s nothing else you can do but laugh at it. I think it’s the healthiest thing you can do in that position.
What can we expect from Ekdahl moving forward?
I have a few albums written and ready, it’s just a matter of funding to do them properly. Hopefully within the next 6-8 months something will be out. Definitely not as political haha. Looking to expand to a full band. We will see! Hopefully we’ll all be not dead!