Tunng on “DEAD CLUB” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024  

L to R: Sam Genders, Ashley Bates, Becky Jacobs, Phil Winter, Mike Lindsay, Martin Smith

Tunng on “DEAD CLUB”

Delving Into Deadly Taboos

Jul 27, 2021 Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue) Photography by Pedro Anguila Bookmark and Share

Who knew mortality could be such a lively muse?

British folktronica band Tunng was not merely compelled enough by death to dedicate a concept album to it. As if that wasn’t daunting enough—because those who make concept albums are often compared to the few all-time greats that can pull such intricate projects off, like Pink Floyd and The Who—Tunng also recorded an eight-part companion podcast about shuffling off this mortal coil. What’s more: those episodes were thoroughly researched by the musicians turned hosts, and featured guests like Dame Sue Black (considered to be England’s eminent forensic expert), famed mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown, and author and palliative care physician Kathryn Mannix.

And yet, the music on Tunng Presents…DEAD CLUB is arguably the greater feat. Yes, the concept album boasts surgeon-precision sampling of the podcast interviews. But better still is its eerily sung, synth embalmed take on alt-folk. Murmuring keys and throbbing-wound droning, for instance, engulf frontman Sam Genders’ chant like singing of gory lyrics on opener “Eating the Dead.” Horns moan in mourning as strings creak, meanwhile, on the death-throw evoking “SDC.” Then there’s the chill-up-your-spine baseline of “Three Birds” on which Genders and co-vocalist Becky Jacobs harmonize about the practical hunting of birds, before their lyrics take a swift supernatural turn. Most gripping of all, however, is Genders’ cheekily astute chorus over the murkily seductive rhythms of one of the album’s lead singles.

As Mike Lindsay—multi- instrumentalist, in house producer, and musical mastermind yin to Genders’ literary lyrical yang—recalls: “I was getting a ham sandwich when I heard Sam singing about ‘death being the new sex’ and how it’s coming to fuck us all. My mind was blown when I heard his chorus for that song.”

When Genders thinks back on new album highlight “Death is the New Sex” he mentions learning about palliative care while working on the companion podcast. He also recalls wanting to make progress with death discourse, as it were, by figuratively linking it to a subject worth aspiring to. “I wanted to write about how sex has become less risqué, and how people have become freer with their sexuality, and safer when it comes to STIs as a result. We haven’t come that far when talking about death.”

Indeed, many of the experts they had spoken to for the music-inspiring podcast implored Tunng not to think of death as a taboo. When it was all said and done, however, Tunng became momentarily squeamish about releasing an album that explored mortality in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that has claimed millions of lives. Thankfully, the album was met with widespread critical acclaim (some of the band’s best yet), along with an outpouring of positive fan feedback. Fulfilling as such professional payoffs were, Lindsay experienced far more meaningful personal breakthroughs while working on the project.

Case in point: he recalls supporting his friend after her father recently died. Staying by her father’s side during that painful period “changed her relationship with her Dad. He opened up to her a lot with that finality,” Lindsay says. What’s more: Tunng Presents… DEAD CLUB helped equip Lindsay to not only exchange hugs and tears with his friend as she mourned, “though that was part of it.” He says he was also able to stay up all night and talk her grieving over, adding: “We had a deep conversation about death, even though it was something I avoided talking about before.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]


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