About three years ago, Adrienne Clark and Anthony Darnell, bandmates in Seattle new wave dance pop group Killer Workout, replied to an ad from a man who had bought out the stock of a closed-down video store. Interest piqued, they rolled up to find a garage full of thousands of their favorite horror and sci-fi VHS tapes.
“The guy told us we had to take everything, but I didn’t realize how many VHS he actually had. He had a giant garage—well over two thousand VHS tapes—but we were in a 1998 Corolla, so he gave us 30 minutes to go through and grab as many as we could,” remembers Darnell.
This was the beginning of Clark and Darnell’s collection of campy horror, sci-fi, and action VHS, a passion and aesthetic which has spilled over into their music as Killer Workout—from the band’s namesake to their forthcoming 3-song EP, Four : Three, which references the 4:3 aspect ratio common in ‘80s and ‘90s VHS tapes and television. “The name Four : Three doesn’t tell you too much, but it gives you a clue of who we are. Like, we’re sitting in a room right now with a hundred VHS tapes of horror movies. We’re kind of obsessed,” says Clark, laughing. “We’re big cinephiles and whenever we’re collaborating, we reference films and visual art that could inspire the work.”
This inspiration is clear in video for the song “Figure it Out,” premiering today. It’s one of three music videos the band commissioned from @video_macabro, a popular Instagram personality who cuts up and collages obscure VHS movies and posts it with interesting music. “He’ll take some weird Japanese robot movie that you’ve never heard of and put dark dance music to it,” said Darnell. “It just really resonated with me, so we asked him to do all three videos.”
For “Figure it Out,” the director spliced together scenes from 1979 film The Driller Killer, a slasher flick about an artist who’s driven into insanity and begins killing people with a power drill. The effect is undeniably perfect for the song – the unison eighth-note bass and drum patterns have ’80s vibes, but with a twist unique to the band, which includes guitarist Reed Griffin, bassist/vocalist Jon Swihart, and drummer Bob Husak (who also collects and sells vintage vinyl, books and tapes).
“With some of the newer stuff we’ve been trying to play with structure,” said Darnell. “I thought, we’re stuck in a rut of emulating this [post-punk] sound, why don’t we try and play with some of these elements—make it darker than it typically would be, more haunting.” The EP arrives June 26 – they’ve already released its first single, “Too Late.”
On “Figure it Out,” Clark’s otherworldly keyboard line connects the straight-ahead post-punk vocals to some far-out dimension, while the heavy, reverb-y guitar conjures up a horror movie score – as they say, “Tangerine Dream-style.” Lyrically, this song began as a way to process Donald Trump’s election. Over time, Darnell says its morphed into more of a reflection on the balance between fitting in and standing out, which, against the backdrop of a misfit impaling someone with his drill, adds a layer of deliciously dark humor, a la Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”
“It’s a song about realizing everyone is a big nerd like you are, so what does it matter [if you fit in or not]?” said Darnell. “I mean, I’m into weird horror movies and sci-fi stuff that a lot of people think is weird or too obscure. But everyone has these fears and anxieties. So ‘Figure it Out’ has a hopeful message against a dark backdrop.”
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