Words by Jason Lee
Photo by @brooklynelitist
No time to waste! Let’s get straight to the vital stats…A Very Special Episode (henceforth AVSE) released their second full-length Freak Me Out on EWEL Records (recorded and mixed by Jeff Berner at Studio G) back in late June 2023. We reviewed their first album, Fix Your Hearts Or Die, here. They also have a remix album that came out in-between the two.
Let’s just say Freak Me Out live up to its name. It’s got quiet parts. And very, very loud parts too.
The LP even comes with an official advisory warning you to store valuables and breakables in a safe, undisclosed location before putting on the album lest you be tempted to smash these items against the wall during the many highly-climactic climaxes of songs such as “Heaven’s Gate” and “$5 Cove,” and the whole damn entirety of “Poison” and “Strobes” not to mention the album-closing“Petals” which concludes with squalls of shuddering, thudding, spiraling-up-into-a-funnel-cloud-of-pure-white-noise sonic mayhem.
In other words, AVSE knows their way around a musical climax. But at the same there’s songs, song segments, and interstitial bits on Freak Me Out that sound more like the vapor trails left behind by the aforementioned sonic booms—ambient, shoegazy lullabies like “Neon Stars” that’ll make you wanna crawl up into a ball and seriously re-examine THE CURRENT STATE OF YOUR EXISTENCE AND OF HUMANITY IN GENERAL. Suffice to say, we like the album.
But be forewarned, there’s some sort of cultish subtext thing going on with this record too (exhibit A: “Heaven’s Gate” and the band’s promise to fill all your holes (!) not to mention the blatant occult imagery scattered across their music videos) even as AVSE unconvincingly insist “this is not a grift / it’s self-discovery” but you’d better be ready for some deprogramming just to be safe. And somehow, in the midst of all of this, the three-piece combo have stuffed the album full of more hooks/riffs/catchy bits than herbs and spices likely to be found in an extra-spicy three-piece chicken dinner combo.
Speaking of three-pieces, the three pieces in question are Kasey Heisler (bass guitar, powerful pipes, signifyin’), Patrick Porter (electric guitar, occasional bass, lots of pedals) and Chayse Schutter (sticks and skins, cymbalism, vocal feature on “Perfect Rain”)…
…and guess what we threw a few questions Patrick’s way re: AVSE’s BRAND SPAKIN’ NEW MUSIC VIDEO (you know we’d get to it eventually!) for the aforementioned “Petals” which given it’s spooky, hand-crafted horror movie vibe was quite appropriately released on Friday the 13th but it makes just as much sense that we’re featuring it Saturday the 14th cuz here is a band that’s a always bit askew, i.e. a bit “off” but in the most “right on” manner possible like on the swirling, falsetto-featuring, trippy psyche-pop of “Cabin Fever” which happens to be one of your author’s fave-rave songs of 2023 period…
…and lastly it behooves us to note how much A Very Special Episode FREAKIN’ RIPS HARD onstage, hard as any band we’ve seen in the preceding several years and that includes a Cannibal Corpse we went to a few years back so just imagine a more shoegazy noise-punk version of the home-invading Florida death metal vets and you’re on the right track but don’t take our word for it cuz they’re playing LIVE TONIGHT at local cult headquarters The East Williamsburg EconoLodge as brought to you by BandNada so don’t miss it yo…
Patrick Porter: Ever since seeing the indie analog horror Skinamarink in theaters at the beginning of the year, I knew riffing something aesthetically similar would make for a great “Petals” music video. For follow up creative inspiration, I did a (relatively shallow) deep dive into a few different silent films, with classics such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Dementia, and Häxan along with some newer stuff like Brand Upon the Brain!
More fun facts, I started the 1:12 scale replica of the East Williamsburg Econo Lodge during the 2021/2022 winter when Omicron hit and I cracked thinking we might be headed toward another long term dark period. Weird ass, highly specific art projects are apparently one of my coping mechanisms. Thankfully it wasn’t the case that we had to go into a real lockdown, so I ceased that work for a long while. (Although, you can see the EWEL piano in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment at the beginning of our NPR Tiny Desk Concert contest submission.)
[Petals] is one of my favorites from Freak Me Out, definitely my favorite to play live, but being a non-single and last track on the record I don’t think it’s received the attention it deserves alongside “$5 Cover” and “Strobes”.
And finally, to wrap things up, a quote from AVSE’s bio for a major online streaming platform:
Similar to their sound maturing, their lyrical content has also evolved. Unlike FYHOD, Freak Me Out has less direct cinematic lyrical themes. The cinephile influence is still there, but those influences translate to real-life scenarios. Songs like “Heaven’s Gate” even pull inspiration from a docuseries about…cults? “At some point, I realized that local music scenes and cults had some fun parallels,” Porter notes. “They require faith, financial sacrifices, and public humiliation,” he jokes. More seriously, “Scenes are mini utopias that are community-based, where everyone believes in the greater cause of culturally shared music.” This community mindset permeates through Freak Me Out, with subtle nods to peers throughout.