The illustration on the cover of Narcissa’s debut EP, Terrific, looks like a ’50s representation of the American Dream. There’s a guy with a crewcut, his shirt is buttoned up to his neck, and he’s about to light his pipe while standing on his neatly manicured lawn in front of his white mid-century house.
But the four songs on Terrific, which the post-rock band released earlier this month, portray a much different version of the American Dream — one that lets people down.
Mike Jones, Narcissa’s singer and guitarist, says idea of having a house, 2.5 kids and a dog is not so much a reality for a lot of people, particularly over the last few months since the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world.
“Everybody else in this band and most of my friends are struggling,” Jones says. “It's hard times. And we wanted to reflect that with this music and show people that things aren't what they seem, basically. So that was the main gist of the EP and the main unifying theme.”
Jones says the lyrics reflect that as well, particularly with “Feeder” and “Weezy,” which reflect “that sense of disillusionment and being told something your entire life, and you finally become older and you're just like, ‘Wait a second, what's going on?’ That was really important for us to come across and make sure that was clear in the main theme of the entire thing.”
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On the heavy yet intricate post-rock-meets-math-rock cut “Feeder,” Jones sings, “Carry on, my wayward soldier, there'll be peace when you are dead,” which he says is about the “war machine that is America.”
“The fact that they use these people, take their lives and then use them as propaganda to keep that going,” Jones says. “Yes, it's offensive to me, and it's really infuriating.”
Jones points to Rage Against the Machine, one of his favorite bands as a teenager, as an inspiration for using music to reflect the times and voicing opinions through song. While Jones says he and guitarist Rudy McGouirk, drummer Paul Duncan and bassist Sam Neff grew up on Rage, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, they also bonded over metal and math-rock bands.
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Narcissa initially formed over two years ago, when Jones, who says he likes bands that are heavy but also have a good sense of melody, posted an ad on Craigslist looking for musicians to form a post-rock band in the vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Jones also listed a few obscure bands like London instrumental experimental rock trio Three Trapped Tigers, which caught the attention of McGouirk.
“It was like an instant connection,” Jones says. “He was immediately like, ‘If you know who this band is, we should at least be friends, if not start a band together.'”
The two guitarists found Duncan and Neff through Craigslist, and the four played together for about a year before deciding on the Narcissa moniker after throwing names in a hat. In 2018, Narcissa recorded a demo, but Jones says the band decided not to release it on Spotify or Apple Music since they weren't 100 percent happy with the quality of it. They ramped things up on Terrific, which they finished recording in mid-March, just as places were closing because of the pandemic.
Initially, the bandmembers weren’t sure when they would release Terrific, but Jones says they eventually felt like they needed to release it in early August through major streaming services “because I feel like it's got a good message to it, and that people are going to really be able to relate to it right now.”