It’s a high-concept outing and concerns the title character, Franz Von Holzhausen, Tesla's chief designer and the inventor of the company's yet-to-be-released Cybertruck. Over the course of the record, we learn that Franz is crushed to death by the Cybertruck in an industrial accident at the Tesla factory, then brought back to life by his boss. Musk uses the battery of the dumbest-looking truck of all time to reanimate his dead underling.
Of course, because what could possibly go wrong in this scenario, Franz and the truck merge into a single entity and embark on a killing spree. Musk laments his failed experiment. More hijinks and murder ensue.
Larson, the primary synth player in Elay Arson, says the album is unabashedly critical of the ego, the reaches of genius and the popular conception of Musk. Personally, Larson has little regard for people who started life out on third base and spend time and money planning trips to dead planets like Mars or infeasible public transit systems like the Hyperloop.
“The guy says really goofy and kind of dumb things on Twitter routinely,” Larson says. “Electric cars are cute, but if it were up to me, all transportation infrastructure would be trains, buses and small shuttle services.”
Larson adds that he doesn’t hate Musk outright, and says the industrialist comes off as an affable guy with a good sense of humor. He just doesn’t buy the idea that Musk is as smart about everything as some people think he is. Larson likes the concept of electric cars, but he takes issue with what he sees as exploitative labor practices by Musk.
“The cult of personality around him is a little bit silly,” he says. “It’s kind of fun to make fun of for me more than anything else.”
Franz marks a significant stylistic departure for Elay Arson. It’s more vocally driven music and includes guest appearances from Hard Men Working Hard, Becca Star and CZARINA. The group incorporated a more overt metal sound and approached genres it hasn't tackled before. They vary rather widely thematically. While Franz tells a sci-fi nightmare of a story, a prior album, Spirit | Death, addressed aspects of Larson’s Indigenous heritage, for example.
“We try to change from album to album and not intentionally, but we get bored after we write a whole album in a certain style,” says Devin Harrison, who adds the metal guitar flavor to Elay Arson. “It’s a kind of natural-feeling progression, but this album is a pretty far departure, especially getting into the dubstep stuff and some more guitar-driven tracks.”
Larson says he wanted to make an album that was a little sillier than his previous work. Franz also sprang partially from a desire to collaborate with the Australian group Hard Men Working Hard, with whom Larson has worked previously. The group writes silly songs like “Straight Pride,” which pokes fun at toxic masculinity. The track's rapped lyrics and synth-pop style is a far cry from the moody vibe present across Elay Arson albums.
Larson says that Hard Men Working Hard is good at taking concepts and developing them into full satirical songs, so he worked on an idea that would play to that strength.
“I gave them a silly ballad, and they were like ‘No, no, no, we want to do something cool and heavy, like you do,’” Larson recalls. “I tried to come up with something humorous and silly, but also something I could take in a darker, heavier direction.”
He racked his brain and came up with a murderous, sentient Cybertruck. It came pretty quickly after that. He wrote up a story treatment and three songs in about 48 hours. Those songs are being released as demos to accompany the finished album. The group also created a handful of fake movie trailers to accompany the songs.
Larson says Franz pays homage to John Carpenter’s 1983 horror flick Christine, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, also about a vehicle with consciousness and a thirst for human blood.
“Once I realized the similarities between my initial idea and that film, I tried to incorporate a little more of that source and meaningfully differentiate with what I realized had already been done with a 'murderous sentient vehicle' concept before,” he says. “Silly concept, dead-serious execution.”
For the record, Larson says he’s not worried about dying in a Space X (Musk’s space exploration outfit) drone, space laser or missile strike once the album drops. For what it’s worth, once the idea of Musk's potential revenge was broached during the interview, Harrison was quick to say that he really likes Elon Musk.
“He does fun things,” Harrison says. “He always has some crazy idea that he's trying to flesh out — going to space, going to Mars. Other billionaires are just running their little businesses.”
Hear Franz at the Elay Arson Bandcamp page.