A three-piece indie-rock band sends ten people mysterious notes inviting them to see a house show at an undisclosed location in Colorado Springs. When they finally arrive at the secret address, they find the band, Human Inferior, performing a set behind a projector screen. The attendees receive a copy of the band’s new album, a hand-embroidered shirt and album cover, zines and a tooth.
Yeah, sure. Why not? It’s 2020, the year that wrapped its car around a tree and is currently stumbling around in the dark, looking for an all-night diner.
“It was very successful,” says Human Inferior bass, piano and synth player Harrison Parham. “People understood the vibe. It was kind of creepy and a little bit anxiety-inducing, but in a positive way, because you're around people who are experiencing the same thing as you.”
Parham says that most of the people invited to the show didn’t know each other so, in a way, it was like attending a traditional concert way before venues shut down because of COVID-19.
"We all know pretty separate people living pretty separate lives," he says. "So we invited people from all different backgrounds and ages. So everyone there didn't know everyone else there. It was a very specific list of people, too, in which each person was unfamiliar with people around them just to kind of give them that vibe of...being lonely and unaware."
Everyone was required to wear black and white. The audience never saw the members of the band, only their silhouetted forms behind the screen. The setup imparted a sense of disconnection, which was heightened when the band provided diffraction glasses, which break light into prismatic visual patterns.
While anxiety provided an undercurrent at the show, Parham and his bandmates — guitarist and vocalist Nathaniel Britton and drummer Caleb Mcmillian — made sure the performance space (the driveway in front of a garage) was COVID-19 safe and socially distanced. Attendees were required to wear masks, and hand sanitizer was provided.
Making music listeners nervous in the service of art is one thing; exposing them to a potentially fatal respiratory virus is another thing entirely. To paraphrase comedian Bill Hicks, what rock band wants its fans dead?
Parham likens the experience to going to a haunted house. Sure, it’s scary, but that's part of the fun.
“It’s kind of the same idea but with anxiety and loneliness,” he says. “We felt this was the perfect time to do it because of this whole virus thing, which is putting a lot of people in that situation in which they’re detached from others and not able to do the things they want to do.”
The bizarre show, held on July 11, doubled as a release party for Monochromic People, an album of eleven songs divided into four suites, baroque-style. The tracks cover a lot of sonic territory, and Parham says that the sound has been described as a mix of the Strokes, Death Cab for Cutie and Maladroit- and Pinkerton-era Weezer.
“We tried to make something a little bit more unique than just copying sounds,” he says. “There’s more of a raw sound from what we put together, because the three of us all have very different musical tastes.”
The members of Human Inferior are longtime friends, and the album took about four years to write and record. It’s meant to convey a sense of loss inspired in part by the bandmembers having gone their separate ways after they graduated from high school. But because of COVID-19, they’ve all found themselves back in Colorado Springs.
“It’s just a kind of feeling of not knowing what you’re doing, being very confused, but also feeling lonely and secluded,” Parham says of the thematic elements touched upon in the record.
As for the teeth they handed out to attendees, the band isn’t saying much about their origin, or whether they came from humans. All Parham would say is the teeth added to the general uneasy vibe the band was striving for.
And that they ordered them online.
“Amazon has everything,” Parham says.
Monochromic People can be streamed on Spotify and purchased for $7 at Bandcamp. The band donated half of its take at the show to Black Lives Matter and asks that anyone deciding between buying the album or donating to BLM should listen to the album for free and donate to the latter, or spend money at a black-owned business.
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