San Francisco-based hardcore unit Western Addiction have released the video for the title track of their new Fat Wreck album, Frail Bray. We’re pleased to report there’s no crowdsurfing footage, mosh-cams or life-on-the-road scenes. Because the men of Western Addiction rock harder, they obviously think harder than most of us. For “Frail Bray,” the band addressed depression via a silent film from the early 1900s.
“‘Frail Bray’ is about low-level, persistent, lifetime depression,” frontman Jason Hall explains. “It’s something that never really goes away, a creep you reluctantly share life with. We used the 1915 silent film Les Vampires to tell the story. The woman in the video is subliminally haunted by depression. Therefore, all the characters in the video are actually just her. The ‘creeping’ takes on several forms. We stumbled upon the film, and it had some magical affinity with the song lyrics. The group of criminals in the movie were prevalent in La Belle Époque, a ‘golden age’ of time in Paris before WWI. The lyrics mention a play on that era, ‘Helle Époque,’ which could represent a ‘beautiful hell’ that you just have to live through.”
From the lyrical invective to the juxtaposition of eras, Western Addiction have now forced the planet’s hardcore bands to work harder. Hall discussed the concept of the video as it relates to his band and how hardcore might be the perfect genre for not the end of the world, but a new beginning.
Who came up with the idea of juxtaposing the ’20s film against Western Addiction’s very real present?
JASON HALL: We often use public domain footage in our videos. We like to take totally unrelated ideas and then apply them to our songs to make something new. It is painstaking to wade through hours of film, but worth it. I was looking through footage, and this seemed visually interesting and serendipitously related to some of the subject matter. The film is about crime, but we re-imagined it to be about an inescapable feeling of dread and paranoia. I would love to make a video someday that is a complete extension of something I dreamed up. But that would be very expensive.
The LP title sounds like a synonym for “death throes.” Does the song rail against the dying of the light? Or is it waiting for sundown, so to speak?
I can see how it could be interpreted as a final whimper, which it technically is. But we see it as a glimmer of dawn. The record is about hope, rejuvenation, possibilities, utopian ideals, etc. Our last record, Tremulous, was about complete despair, and I made a decision to try and see the future in a different way. Without hope, you have nothing. So why not take a shot at the positive? We can either give up or try. Let’s try. Oddly enough, this was all planned pre-pandemic, and like our last record, it just happened to align with the universe.
Frail Bray is 11 charging tracks in less than half an hour. In a world where we’re advised to stay at home, this disc feels positively bracing. How are you holding up during the pandemic? Is it hard for you as musicians and humans to articulate your rage? Or does depression leave fissures in Western Addiction’s psychic Teflon?
We are holding up well and actually lucky to be healthy and alive. It feels very odd to release a record during this time. I feel guilty for promoting the record when so many are suffering. We are proud of what we made, but there are bigger issues at hand. I’m just hoping some of the songs bring a bit of comfort to restless souls.
It’s never hard for me to articulate intensity or what I find upsetting in the world. I always think that I will mellow with age, but it seems to be going the opposite direction. Depression and emotional sensitivity definitely make it tougher because you are constantly aware of the world. Feeling everything is exhausting. I’m not complaining, but I know that I’m built different, and sometimes I would just like to enjoy life versus questioning everything. A wild show is quite fun, and I don’t feel angry when we are playing, though. Everything we had planned—shows with Propagandhi and Bad Religion, European festivals, etc.—is canceled or postponed until next year. That was tough to give up, but hopefully it will get better. I’ll be yelling at you in the not-so-distant future. We’re willing to hibernate for now to keep perspective.
Is the timeline we’re living currently a beautiful hell or something else far more disturbing?
I actually think about this often. This is by far the most troubling era I’ve lived through. But on the other hand, I do see some necessary, evolutionary change. America is coming to grips with its actual, real identity. We are seeing the beginnings of racial justice; capitalism got a karmic knockout. I’ve been reading A People’s History Of The United States and rewatching The Untold History Of The United States by Oliver Stone. While none of this is “new information,” it’s good to be aware of the brutality that our country was founded upon. I know the story, and it’s still stunning. People are so funny about preserving this false impression of the past and romanticizing genocide and manifest destiny. This is the perfect opportunity to shed the past and start a new culture that respects all people moving forward. I’m not saying [we should] forgive the atrocities, but maybe “admitting” them and deciding to be different and better would be a nice start.
Watch “Frail Bray” below.