Crow Follow – Massachusetts urban cabaret and velvet shaman swamp rock project releases striking new visual on Wednesday, August 3.
America’s roadsides and highways are littered with reflections. Their soundtrack is constructed out of the force and mechanical purr of a revved engine, and inspired by the tender nature of a beating heart powered by yearning and desire. A labyrinth of corridors emphasizes the journey over the destination. An asphalt maze of heavy trucking and weightier longing reveal a quest to reclaim love and new growth amidst decay.
“‘Indiana Line’ has a few layers,” muses Crow Follow ringleader Tim Sprague. “On one level, it’s a road trip song made of little scenes seen out the window as you drive through the wreckage of American family farming and the post-apocalyptic shell of American industrial culture. ‘Indiana Line’ is also, more deeply, a song about the immortality of love in the face of death and wrecked dreams.”
“Indiana Line,” which first hit the streams earlier this year, will be featured on Crow Follow’s forthcoming debut album Red Velvet Radio, set for release on September 30, with a celebratory party later that night at The Burren in Somerville. The LP features a handful of prior singles cultivated and crafted from the pre-pandemic age to now, with three new tracks that cement Crow Follow as one of Boston’s most eclectic musical projects, a group hellbent on bringing a glowing brightness to some otherwise dark tunes. That quality shines bright in a kaleidoscopic grayscale on “Indiana Line” and its new visual, directed by Sprague with a guest turn from collaborative vocalist Ruby Viens.
“Rather than vamp majorly off of a performance video vibe, ‘Indiana Line’ sketches the dream vibe of a mystic road, desperate farmland, and eternal love using lo fi animations, black light lip sync, and slow motion dance moves,” says Sprague. “While arty in the brain, it stays gritty in the execution.”
Crow Follow vocalist, percussionist, and co-conspirator Agent Judy describes the visual storyline as “the pursuit of love never ending,” adding: “Things may decay, but we stay loving, we stay fierce, we make art and life from whatever surrounds us. There is always a way. We run down the trail by the marsh and we glow in the dark. We are still alive. Barreling down the highway past torn up farmland in flames, wandering coyotes, and dusty skeletons with red hot hearts. Dystopia may dominate the landscape but we are headed home, we are still in love. We are making the future.”
That future, at least on the immediate horizon, includes the “Indiana Line” video, followed by a new single just after Labor Day, and the album surfacing as September turns to October, a traditional transitional period linking summer to autumn. The transitional nature of the season is not lost on Crow Follow. They view “Indiana Line,” the lead track off the LP – which also includes tracks like “Cadillac,” “The Wrong Devil,” and a Linnea’s Garden collab called “Doom Buggy!” that has independently racked up tens of thousands of plays on Spotify – as a true turning point for their creative endeavors. And a new path forward.
“Indiana Line” sets a tone for Crow Follow’s “take no prisoners,” shaman vision vibe; a loose, propulsive track that barrels down the musical highway with carefully reckless abandon, taking inspiration from the angular style of John Hovorka (Turbines, 2×4’s), Lou Reed, the tail of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” and the “Big Boys Don’t Cry” earworm lyric in the 10cc song “I’m Not In Love.” Toss in some Stones and what comes out of the cauldron is unmistakably Crow Follow – pop music with a seductively sinister coating wrapped tightly around a heart of gold and a tireless pursuit of love.
“Crow Follow was founded on the idea of performing songs that come from a deep place that feels a little dangerous to articulate from,” Sprague says. “‘Indiana Line’ sits on that map with a red pin holding the cliff notes for stories of both love and fear. It wrote itself really fast, in pieces. I was looking to write a super simple song so I took that pulse and dropped it into an Em vamp that just hung in like a diesel on a long upgrade. Once the truck vibed in for the first verse, I knew we were on a ‘Radar Love’ vein. I ad-libbed the front end poem – kind of inspired by Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” to set up the vibe – and after that it was all trucks on the night road, Zombie passions, and oil drum fires. I wanted to quote the Stones’ song ‘Can You Hear Me Knocking’ because it’s so cool, and the gender twist of putting that toughness to a female voice just makes it better all around. As the song came together with Crow Follow in practice all the wails and sleep talk phrases grew in organically. Agent Judy’s double rattle take on the zombie drag race vibe was pure inspiration on her part.”
That led to some pure inspiration for the visual, which takes the band out across New England beaches, woods, marshes, bridges, rivers, and graveyards, and across the local stages of The Midway Cafe and O’Brien’s Pub. As Agent Judy calls it, the song is “a train roaring down a track at full speed. Relentlessness. Determination. The fever of love at any cost. Reflecting the imagery.” And the video follows suit, elevated with a star turn by Viens, the daughter of longtime Boston music scene luminaries Wayne Valdez and Linda S. Viens.
“When Ruby Viens came into the studio, I was struck by her intensity and unique sense of style and visual power,” says Sprague. “I knew I wanted to use that intensity as the skeleton to hang the video for what was turning out to be a freaking wild song! I invited her to come do greenscreen lip syncs, and we went out on location to get some motion/emotion dance footage. This inspired me to bring in the rest of the band out for slo mo spins and jumps. Finally Agent Judy and I collaborated on getting her black light lip sync shots while we were up in a motel on the Cape, and some shaman dance footage down in East Boston. I had been drawing little lo-fi animation bits to illustrate the song. I glued it all together to make a mosaic rocket to ride this crazy song into orbit. Each piece was crafted with a faith that it would lock together in post.”
All told, the “Indiana Line” video illustrates elements mentioned in the lyrics; the burning hearts, the skeletons, coyotes, the truck on the highway, the girl running under the bridge. The glow of love. “It also echoes the relentlessness of the music with cycling imagery cut to a tight beat,” adds Agent Judy. “Color, light, and action packed with rugged suburban landscapes that are easy to imagine in a not too distant dystopian life woven with frequent reminders of devotion and, of course, love.”
As we barrel down the highway, through Indiana or Anywhere USA, what we see is up to us. What we’re hearing as we see it, as we look into the immediate distance, that’s now up to Crow Follow.