Seattle-based dance-punk band The Gods Themselves are known for their ’80s-inspired sound and retro fashion, and the video that accompanies “Saved,” the first single from their upcoming fourth studio LP New Excuse (out May 1st), goes heavy on both.
In the video, Astra Elane (vocals, guitar) and Dustin Patterson (vocals, baritone), both dressed in bright colors, look whimsically out windows as they belt emotive lyrics like “I can’t stand to be myself / can you make me someone else?” and “Your eyes are open and I’m out of my head” with exaggerated gestures and dance moves. “I won’t save your life again,” Elane sings in the chorus, to which Patterson responds, “This will be the last time.”
The band — which counts The Talking Heads, Blondie, New Order, and LCD Soundsystem among its influences — has been around since 2014, after Elane’s previous project Atomic Bride came to an end. She originally worked with two other members and recruited Patterson based on a video of him coming in third at Seattle’s Amateur Elvis Competition (he was “intimidated” by her at first, she says, but she talked him into it). They’re also now working with bassist Andrew Imanka.
We talked to them about their past, present, and future projects, as well as the time their song “Tech Boys” got them onto a Parts Unknown episode about Seattle’s tech takeover.
AF: What is the song “Saved” about?
DP: “Saved” was originally called “Disembodied Voices,” but our producer Stephen Hague disliked the title so much he encouraged a rewrite! The song’s about a desperate relationship of shifting power dynamics. Many of our songs begin one way and, through collaboration, become something totally different, like a Pokémon evolving.
AE: Dustin had a great idea for this track about hearing a song on the radio. When Stephen suggested we change the name, we started re-working the lyrics a bit. Fun fact: the chorus lyrics were initially supposed to be just a placeholder, but they ended up sticking and inspiring the title of the song!
AF: What was the inspiration behind the video?
AE: Locations were a big inspiration for the vision of the video. We found these two great spots on Peerspace and kind of built the storyline around them. We knew we wanted the imagery to match the sound, so locations had to be stark and colorful. We also wanted some sexy dance moves, so I hit up my choreographer friend Kat Murphy, who directed all the dancing for our “Tech Boys” video. Kat flew up from LA and brought in two other incredible dancers, Shay Simone and Charlotte Smith. Our director Domenic Barbero, who had been the DP for our “Cool” video a few years prior, captured all the magic. We love Dom’s eye and knew he’d make us look amazing.
DP: The original concept was to show the two of us apart, and then we come together at the end. The song is a bit like that – we sing back and forth, separate until the big coda. We knew we had to shoot it quick, with only a couple locations, so we found the most interesting locations and built the idea around that. One location was a funky Korean karaoke place in Pike Place Market. To contrast it, we found an old White House that is often rented out for wedding photos.
AF: I saw you were on Anthony Bourdain’s show — what was that like?
AE: It was surreal. I still remember the day we got the e-mail from the production company. I had to keep reading it – I thought it was a scam at first. The producers and crew are a fantastic group of people. They flew out from NY several times to meet with us and to shoot our Capital Hill Block Party performance. Later in the summer, we met with them again when we shot the segment with Tony at Pacific Inn Pub. We were super nervous, as we had months to anticipate this life-changing fish and chips meal, but when he actually sat down and started rapping with us, all inhibitions immediately melted away. He was completely down to earth and just easy and fun to talk to. He was indeed hungover and was “very much looking forward to hitting up the weed store and smoking a joint in his hotel room” after our big lunch. Crew did a spectacular job editing down a near two-hour meal to thirty seconds. In the end, we were sad to say farewell to those folks.
DP: He was very rumpled from the night before. I think he had been out with Mark Lanagan from Screaming Trees. He was such a pro, though, from the moment we started shooting: calm, curious, very generous with his time. His team warned us not to bring up punk rock because he could get going pretty far down that rabbit hole. Of course, we asked him anyway. He was very candid about his New York days. He also recommended several horror movies, including one with his girlfriend Asia Argento called Stendhal Syndrome which he praised as “indefensible.” There was a sweetness to him that was so charming. It was a shock when he died and a heartbreaker, too. He’s someone you feel you know right away. It was a big break for us. I think about him often, wishing he had just held on.
AF: What inspired the song “Tech Boys” that led to that encounter?
DP: I was a contract designer at Amazon during the inaugural Prime Day. The experience was so uniformly negative, I actually left designing for a while to walk dogs around Seattle. I was left with this lingering resentment about how that company treats its people. My anger would flare up all the time in practice. The song was a channel for that anger. It’s pretty heavy-handed. I don’t resent all tech boys (or girls). It’s more about an unexamined corporate culture that devalues and dehumanizes its employees and gentrifies entire cities. But that isn’t as catchy. It’s funny because some tech people really hate that song, but some find it really funny and love it.
AE: I remember vividly how grumpy Dustin would be coming to practice after working that shit gig at Amazon. Around the same time, we were seeing many artists and musicians getting pushed out of their homes in Seattle to make way for new high rises to house the ambitious tech bros. It was disheartening. Ironically, we both work for different tech companies now, which treat their employees better than Amazon, and the fact remains that there are assholes everywhere, just as there are benevolent people everywhere – be it tech worker or artist.
AF: What inspires your distinct fashion style?
AE: Mainly the retro vibe comes from the music we are influenced by but we dig style and swag and try to deliver that in our music and appearance.
DP: Astra and I both love to dress up. The stage is a great excuse to do that. I have a closet full of cheap suits: pink, white, patterned. Crazy shoes. One of the best parts of being in a band is looking the part.
AF: What’s behind the name of your band?
DP: Our name is from a book called Catch 22.
AE: Lies! It is in fact from an Isaac Asimov novel The Gods Themselves. In the story, there is an alternate universe where the alien beings function in a triad. To reproduce, two males and a female are required. The name was fitting for us when we started as a trio…with two dudes and a chick. It’s a mouthful of a name. Many folks refer to us as TGT now.
AF: What are you working on right now?
DP: We’ve got a few more videos on the way, including one giallo-inspired video in which we are stalked and murdered by a masked killer. So all the haters can really enjoy that one.
The Gods Themselves release New Excuse on May 1. Follow the band on Facebook for ongoing updates.