Campbell spins dark days into gold dust on 'Kokomo Danglies'

Andy Downing

“Dystopia Punk,” the new song and video premiering today (Thursday, Aug. 20), is an outlier on Campbell’s forthcoming album,Kokomo Danglies, with the trio bashing its way through a loud, angry punk ripper that feels at odds with the rest of the album, particularly its beachy back half.

“A lot of the feelings on this record are things we’ve felt for a long time, but they’ve been amplified being at home, reading the news,” said Sean Gleeson, who joined Colin Giacalone and Elijah Jones for late-March recording sessions (Campbell, named for the Franklinton street where the band members live and record, typically features a rotating cast, which was scaled back amid the ongoing pandemic). “We’re in the midst of a pandemic where people aren’t following protocol and it’s just furthering that spiral. Peaceful protesters are being called rioters. … I’m generally a happy person, but with that song in particular, it was a point where I was really, really upset.”

In a sense, “Dystopia Punk,” with its lines about corrupt cops and guillotining landlords, serves as a pressure release valve onKokomo, a loose concept record due sometime this fall that opens with its narrator penned up in the city and then follows their journey to the oceanside, at a far remove from the social and political issues currently filling news sites. The music follows this arc, tensions slowly ratcheting over the first handful of songs before spilling out in “Dystopia,” which is then followed by mellower tracks that hit like a long exhale. “Take a breath, feel the breeze,” the band sings on the record’s back half. Contrast that with the words uttered on the album-opening title track “Shit is really going south” and one starts to get a better picture of the journey undertaken.

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“I was reading a lot of Thomas Pynchon when I was writing this stuff, and specifically the book V. has this reference to this place Vheissu, which I think is another term for Vesuvius, but basically it’s this holy place that may or may not exist, and it’s basically a utopia,” Gleeson said. “The whole concept, for me, was you end up in this place … watching the world you used to know as it’s totally engulfed in flames, almost like you’re watching it on a TV on the beach. And it could be the afterlife. It could be a physical place. It could be in your head.”

For the band, the recording studio served as this place of remove in late March and early April. In that space, its members could find a degree of peace amid the coronavirus threat and the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I do feel like writing this record allowed us to find that space,” Gleeson said. 

The sessions also reshaped the band members’ expectations for Campbell, which started as a loose side project. “We never intended this to be a band, because we’re both in other bands,” said Giacalone, who also plays with Gleeson in Mungbean. “It was just a recording project, a way to get people to come over, kick back and write whatever comes into their head.”

“We had a rule: Don’t think about it. Just do it. And if it sucks we can change it later,” Gleeson said. 

“Right. You can pitch-shift it, fuck with it and throw it in somewhere,” Giacalone said.

“Turn shit into gold dust,” Gleeson said.

“Yeah,” Giacalone agreed, “play alchemy on the mixing board.”

Watch the video for "Dystopia Punk" below.