May 29, 2020 (updated)
For the past couple of years, it seems like each day leaves behind a trail of turmoil. Climate change, political protests, mass shootings, white supremacy, and other atrocities rise to the top of an endlessly forlorn news cycle. And this whole time, the young, the good, and the cautiously optimistic watch in horror on handheld screens as capitalistic initiatives imprison, slaughter, and terrorize any shreds of hope that attempt to bloom. While we’re at it, might as well throw in a global pandemic which pressures everyday workers to have to choose their health and the health of their communities over making enough money to pay the rent.
Among those affected is Charlotte DIY rock band Hectorina comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Gilbert, bassist Zach Jordan, and drummer John Harrell. Each have spent recent years channeling their frustrations into creative outlets, with Gilbert releasing insightful singles and music videos for his upcoming solo album, I’ll Be The Lakebed; Jordan working as a member of JPH, who just issued their droning, healing Distantimacy project; and Harrell who ventured from behind the drums to release his solo album, La Vida.
This brings us to Hectorina’s newly released track, “Ancient Dust.” Although the track was recorded and the lyrics were written in 2016 during the Clinton/Trump election cycle, “Ancient Dust” always felt a little too bleak and angry to include in their past efforts. Frontman Gilbert said, “[Muck and the “Watermelon Seeds” single] were both fairly political projects but this one’s always felt so angry that we held it back. But now, when things are so grim for everyone, it seems like the right timing.”
The song was meant to be the opening track to Muck and was recorded live at Fidelitorium Studios and produced by Daniel Hodges, who ran the bass through two full stacks with two extra inputs, giving the song its signature grind. Gilbert finalized the recorded vocals while in quarantine these past few months, connecting the hectic anguish he felt in 2016 with the overwhelming despondency of 2020.
“Our whole society, especially America, is falling apart around us and we’re not even noticing. It’s beamed into our brains through all available technology and we’re desensitized to it. We’re kneeling at the feet of capitalism, licking it up, crawling back for more. I think I’m a liberal rock-and-roller but I’m helping make Jeff Bezos a trillionaire. Tragedy, epidemics and wars are how big money makes more money,” said Gilbert, referring to findings released last week which showed that American billionaires’ fortunes increased by $434 billion during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It seems like a conspiracy, but it isn’t, it’s so blatant that people look to conspiracy as a possible explanation. The government is just letting us die so that the wheels of the prophet can turn again and they’re being really honest about that. This song is a rallying cry for us to wake up.”
The track doesn’t so much begin but appears– as cyclical and frequent as the daily news headlines– with fuzzy guitar mimicking the approaching doppler of an emergency signal. The grating sets the apocalyptic tone of the track, urgent and warning. The skin-tight, hollow taut of the drum portrays how thinly stretched our days are becoming. Gilbert’s angered vocals rise up above the ambush of gnashing strain, bringing to mind the screeching, sci-fi of Black Francis in the Pixies’ 1991 album, Trompe le Monde (French for Fool the World). The guitar fishtails violently into the outro, an anxious carousel of frantic terms as the emergency siren’s frequency and Gilbert’s screaming cries reach their climactic destination.