Castle Black brings neon hues, dance moves to new single & music video for “Heart Can’t Feel”

Words by Jason Lee. Stills from music video directed by Jen Miller.

Let’s face it. We all contain multitudes. And it’s a good thing too. Cuz modern life is like a tap dance between these multiple selves and situations.

Cuz we’re all aware of the differing sets of expectations we all face in differing situations/settings and which of our “selves” to bring to the fore for each like the classroom vs. the club or the Zoom meeting vs. the dating app and so on which all gets back to the classic conundrum of Saturday night vs. Sunday morning and and even if the bar is your alter as social creatures we learn to follow scripts but where improvisation is a major element as well cuz it’s all a matter of balance…

..or put another way modern life is highly compartmentalized as witnessed in the Jen Meller‘s music video for Castle Black’s “Heart Can’t Feel” with it’s reliance of split-screen and multiple identities played by bandmates Leigh Celent (everything but drums) and Joey Russo (drums) which seriously just look at the grid on your Insta account it’s literal compartments and Leigh dives right in with the opening lyric addressing how we so often box ourselves in (“I was so right about it / that I was wrong in the end”) as in the video she attempts a couple dance moves and stumbles in front of two adorable yet disapproving pooches looking on skeptically…

…but then the video switches from black-and-white to color as in candy-coated neon hues as the screen splits into a grid with multiple Leighs pulling off fluid dance moves in each quadrant helped out to no small degree by pile-driving yet sure-footed rhythmic underpinnings (Joey’s resplendent beard alone could help get someone’s groove back tho’) doing high-class ballet moves in one split-screen identity while leg-thrusting and running-in-place like a leg-warmered Jennifer Beals in 1983’s Flashdance which “fun fact” used four separate dancers and of those being J. Beals themselves in the film’s iconic dance audition sequence I mean talk about compartmentalization…

…and when it comes to Heart Can’t Feel’s refrain “the heart can’t feel / what the eyes can’t see / so look away / look away / look away” it does seem to suggest sometimes you gotta filter certain things out and to compartmentalize just to make it through the day these days and what better metaphor than dance to stand in for societal expectations that we be pirouetting between multiple identities and realities all the time with some degree of grace and raise your hand if you knew that Leigh was a dancer/choreographer with training in ballet, tap, and jazz as an adolescent having recently returned to busting a move…

…and on a related note it’s interesting to note the tango between “Heart Can’t Feel” which is the relatively sunny second advance single from Castle Black’s forthcoming The Highway at Night debut LP and the album’s lead-off single, the dark slinky “Bright-Eyed” whereas Leigh and Joey are much more bright-eyed in the video for “Hearts Can’t Feel” than the former whose video features lots of masks and dark shadows so here we have an example of how Castle Black is fIcking with us but in the most appealing way by exploring new nooks and crannies to explore while retaining their core elements of gnarly riffage, piston-driven rhythms, keening harmonies and minimalist maximalism…

…and before moving on to the interview we can’t not mention the kick-ass tap-dance breakdown part of the video which even tho’ not a part of the original song is quite impactful both aurally and visually and should encourage more bands to buy tap shoes not to mention tying a perfect bow on some of the themes mentioned above seeing as tap dance is widely considered the first truly original American dance form and thus fittingly mongrelized (the mongrels in the video love it!) crossing the Irish jig with West African-derived step dancing before incorporating various forms of Caribbean movement and later still hop hop dance moves and now with no further ado the interview!


On “Heart Can’t Feel” the song:

One of the most powerful lines from the song, in my opinion, is the opening line ‘I was so right about it that I was wrong in the end.’ I feel like the world could be a better place if lots of people realized this. “Heart Can’t Feel” is definitely different from other Castle Black tunes, but it doesn’t feel out of place to me. It has a much brighter and frenetic danceable feel. I have noticed that the style of dancing that people do at a show during this song is very different from how I have seen people dance to other songs of ours. 

Our engineer thought “Heart Can’t Feel” was the most pop-leaning song on the new album. If you listen to the lyrics and follow the instrumentation, it still has that signature Castle Black heaviness and depth, all presented in bright and vibrant packaging. It’s not a sad song really, but it is representative of a moment in time that was difficult to get through and sometimes the only way to do that is to act like everything is great.

On “Heart Can’t Feel” the music video:

We knew we wanted dancing in the video. It feels like people should be dancing during the song and we wanted to have that energy in the video. Jen [Miller] already had an idea for having split screens of strong bold colors so we brought that together with the dancing for a really fast-paced piece. I danced regularly from when I was a small child through college, but after that, formal dance had been sporadic. This was the first dance that I had choreographed in a long time and it was really fun reconnecting with it, because my relationship with music was really born out of my relationship to dance.

I initially wanted to do the whole dance as a tap piece, but the taps would have competed too much with the song. The tap interlude was one of the last pieces of the video idea that came together, which required getting a good sounding take of the tap part and adding a section to the existing song file, with additional music underneath. Joey did a super job of recording my taps, adding the section to the song, and creating the musical backdrop from our mastered stems. We then had our friend Mike Abiuso, from Behind the Curtains Media, expertly mix in the taps and make sure the whole track still sounded good for the video.

On tap dancing:

I hadn’t tap danced in many years, but I still had shoes. I also had this 3 X 3 foot-ish piece of metal that I had leftover from when I was working on a picture frame project. This piece of metal is what I used as a surface in my apartment to practice, work out the parts, and record. It’s not the best surface to tap on, but it worked in a pinch. Now that the video is over, I have discovered and invested in a similarly-sized foldable made-for-purpose wood dance platform, which can easily be transported to shows (we have a version of the live song where I do a version of the tap part from the video). I would have loved to have known about this portable dance floor sooner but I have fond memories of the metal slab.

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