Husband and wife duo The Handsome Family have shared their video for Gold, the latest single from their forthcoming 10th studio album Unseen, due for release on 16 September via Loose. Watch it above.
The black and white video is a road trip across a modern America – empty of people with non-stop signs to tempt the weary traveller. Where most people carry on driving you can imagine The Handsome Family stopping to stay a while…it’s cut through with vintage footage of cowboys and an impoverished world cast aside by modern society, the people you imagine inspire their very stories. Like David Eugene Edwards, Johnny Dowd and Jim White, all of whom featured with The Handsome Family in the cult 2003 documentary Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus , they bring a with them a Southern gothic spin that’s as raw as the cloying dust from those forgotten roads.
Gold is a modern-day murder ballad and we know how much this duo love a good murder ballad. In 2013 we featured a Simple Folk Radio Show starring Rennie Sparks in which she shared some of her favourite records. She also elaborated on how to enjoy a murder ballad.
To enjoy a murder ballad you have to be willing to see it as art and not newspaper reporting. These songs are about life and lust not about death and dust. They make your heart beat fast and your skin flush. They are, perhaps, the remnants of ancient pre-Christian blood/sex rituals and are designed to make you want to roll in fields of blooming heather, not to become the next Ted Bundy. Here are some of The Handsome Family’s favourite examples of this centuries-old form of nature-worship” – Rennie Sparks, The Handsome Family
In 2015 Rennie and Brett Sparks saw their song ‘Far From Any Road’ about “fire ants on their drive way” picked by American actor Matthew McConaughey to be the theme tune to the HBO TV smash hit: “True Detective”.
Rennie Sparks describes an event that personified the band’s strange experience of being propelled into a surreal state of limbo by their post True Detective fame, when she miraculously disappeared in an airport. Rennie stated:
“At the height of True Detective S1 excitement I disappeared one afternoon while waiting for a flight at O’Hare. A middle-aged businessman, McDonald’s bag in one hand, rolling-bag handle in the other — walked up to me and, without pause, turned and sat down on my lap. A second later his French fries and rolling bag were on the floor and he was sputtering apologies, insisting he’d seen an empty chair. This strange invisibility felt similar to the night Brett and I watched the series in our little house in Albuquerque, feeling oddly alone. I have learned to embrace my power to vanish. As a songwriter you have to be willing to disappear and let your songs outshine you in order to embrace points of view bigger than your own. It was great that a song written about ants in my driveway became a song about cops in Louisiana. That’s the best any songwriter can hope for.”
And so Rennie happily remained invisible, even as the band became visible to millions, with Youtube counts for The Handsome Family’s ‘hit’ song climbing to twenty million and more. The song was in the top 10 in US and UK Spotify charts and spent months in the iTunes top 100 in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, South Africa, and the Ukraine.
‘Unseen’ continues The Handsome Family’s embrace of things beyond easy view: the slow dive of the sun, enormous bugs awakening in thorny yards, sirens and coyotes that cry out to the purple sky. ‘Unseen’, an epic western gothic masterpiece, draws from real life events.
Unseen, the new album from The Handsome Family, will be released 16th September on Loose. Available on 180g pond green vinyl, CD and download.
Photo Credit: Brandon Soder