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"I was leaning towards the shadows all along"-Riggs tries to explain how his darker side has shaped his music and his life. Raised as a Jehovah's Witness in Indiana, Riggs started questioning the larger issues in life at an early age. Riggs' views about life and the goodness in God were altered after seeing the film Elephantman. The film documents the struggles and severe deformities of real life Elephantman, John Merrick. "I think it was the complete sadness of it that this gentle, artistic soul was locked in the body [of] what some people considered Leviathan. You know like the devil, it was…painful. As a little kid you just don't dream that horror is alive." Some time after seeing the film, Riggs moved to Louisiana, where he took up drugs and eventually dropped out of school in eighth grade. Foregoing school, he joined and played with a couple of metal bands, Acid Bath and Golgotha, before settling down with Deadboy & the Elephantmen in 2000. The gothic blues sound was a natural progression from the metal bands for Riggs - he used to listen to twangy country with his grandfather, and he picked up the blues from sneaking into the local bars and clubs in Louisiana.
The second member of Deadboy & the Elephantmen is the spunky, twenty-three year old Tessie Brunet. Brunet, originally from Louisiana, was introduced to Riggs through a cousin in Louisiana. After playing one gig together, they both realized they had something. Brunet moved back home from New York City to play full time with Deadboy & the Elephantmen. "She had never really played drums before, and she came over and it worked really well because everybody we played with tried to go nuts. They were all really good and I'm not that good on the guitar. It kind of fits because I'm primitive the way I play, but its good and it makes us different," Dax says.
Riggs' and Brunet's personalities create an interesting dynamic on and off stage. Riggs has a powerful onstage presence with a unique, low voice that melds blues and thrash. Brunet offsets his vocal power with a firecracker visual display that is shocking from a girl that looks small enough to fit in an airplane's overhead compartment. Riggs describes Tess as, "Fiery, opinionated. She'll tell you to fuck off way before me. She is way in that direction, where I am more likely to slither off." One strongpoint for the band is in the relationships they develop through tension, whether it's amongst the notes and lyrics or their presence on stage.
The duo's lack of musical training is the root of their sound on, We Are Night Sky. Riggs called it a 'New York Dolls kind of attitude.' He never learned how to properly play the guitar, and Brunet has only been playing the drums for three years. Undoubtedly, the imperfection makes the music interesting. "No one has ever taught me how to play the guitar or write a song. It's just something I've dreamed up. I think I can do it, so I do it." The primal rhythmic structure in the tracks and the blues-infused rock sound of the record has been compared to the White Stripes, but it's a lazy journalistic comparison. Deadboy & the Elephantmen's sound stands alone, rolling through sleepy ballads and fuzzy rock that seeps into your brain and heart only through time and repetition. The record doesn't allow you to get bogged down on one ballad - tracks ping-pong in intensity and style throughout the record, displaying the band's diversity in influence and talent. Those points withstanding, no one track pops off the record and screams repeat. However, We Are Night Sky is a record of potential from a band that is doing everything right - unique sound, interesting background, humble and signed to experimental label Fat Possum. Riggs hinted to expect more from his band than just one promising record, "If music was not in my life, I would be just an empty person with really nothing to say. My joy is in writing songs and that chill I get when I feel like I've done something that matters." Guess there's no looking forward to a Louisiana song-writing collaboration with Britney Spears and Deadboy & the Elephantmen. Damn. SEE ALSO: www.deadboyandtheelephantmen.com
SEE ALSO: www.fatpossum.com
A contributor of feature articles and the occasional review, Amber Cartwright calls New York City home. Find Amber on the Lower East Side at Motor City with a whiskey in hand, chatting it up with the leather clad bartenders.
See other articles by Amber Cartwright.
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