Silent Lions, “Runnin' Me Down”

Silent Lions are a Detroit-based duo concerned with the darker side of The Black Keys-esque heavy stoner soul-rock — Dean Tartaglia samples synths, plays bass and sings over Matt Klein’s rowdy drumming. Their last EP The Compartments houses six diverse tracks including lead single “Runnin’ Me Down,” for which they’ve just premiered a new haunting video. The scene follows a possessed woman get up from out of bed and thrash around her apartment in tightly choreographed movements. It isn’t exactly clear what force animates her body, only that she’s powerless against it and must drag her limp feet wherever it takes her. Talking about the inspiration that went into the video, and band life in general, Tataglia and Klein offer some of their own words below.

Can you comment on the process of putting together the EP? What were some ways you derived inspiration/ideas

Tataglia: When we went into the studio to record The Compartments, we were just starting to hit our stride as a live band. Having just come off our first extensive tour, we felt more in the pocket than we ever had up to that point. And even though most of the arrangements we brought into the studio were fairly skeletal, you can hear a fresh/new/roomy energy from track to track. I often forget that we were barely a band for 8 months when we went in to record our last EP. It was such an exciting period of growth and possibility; we had gained a good deal of "new band buzz", yet people still couldn't quite put their finger on what genre we were. With The Compartments we countered that idea by not giving a direct answer. A lot of what was played in the van on that summer tour served as inspiration and made its way onto the record in a very visceral way, whether it be g-funk synths, acid jazz sax solos, QOTSA riffs… And within the genre manipulation, we discovered our core "heavy-soul" sound, unchanging from track to track.

The video's pretty eerie. Before making it, what was the kind of "horror" you were going for? How did the choreography come about?

Klein: We decided on the well-worn 'girl in an apartment' video concept, ideal in no-budget indie terms and an opportunity to combine cinematic visuals with the atmospheric side of our sound. That simple idea immediately brought many classic horror and suspense films up including some all-time favorites like Evil Dead and Halloween. “Runnin' Me Down” has the pace of a suspense film, with a slow-burn opening, sudden choruses, and a brief quiet moment before the chaotic climax. While the look of the video comes from horror, the psychology and heart of it lies in 80's dance flicks. There's no more of an effective way to represent inner emotional turmoil on-screen than the 'anger dancing' of Footloose. We deliberately didn't want to make a video that had a storyline with questions and answers, or one with a horror flick end-twist. It's much more interesting to create an emotional story and leave people with something more ambiguous to think about. And I think fellow movie geeks will appreciate seeing the influence of Suspiria, Flash Dance and Ghostbusters in the same video.

Your music incorporates a lot of electronic elements. Have those sensibilities developed over time, or was that your frame of reference from the get-go?

Tataglia: Our producer Zach Shipps (formerly of Electric Six) introduced us to that world more or less. He has been the biggest outside influence on our sound (even going so far as to suggest we just keep it bass and drums). With our first record The Parliaments, during the mixing process, he came back with a layer of synths and effects over our arrangements that I loved. He really helped to bring out the atmosphere we were searching for, and in his words, "take the recordings out of the garage and into outer space". Since then, after each studio session I re-record synth/electronic/noise parts into a sampler for live recreation. The process has enveloped itself at this point, where I bring already sampled synths/noises to lay over the basic tracks. Our point of reference in the studio is definitely more in the hip-hop world, and trying to understand the importance of the mix when adding atmosphere to empty space on a track.

What were the circumstances that led to your formation as a band?

Klein: Dean and I both were in several bands coming to natural conclusions back in 2012, and had met through friends. He had the songs that eventually became our first EP and asked me to drum with him, not really having any expectation other than both never having been in a two-piece band before. It was a different and challenging way to put song together and it continues to inspire our approach today. Dean had met Zach Shipps through playing with The Sights from Detroit, and knew he would be the perfect match as producer and third man in the studio with us. He helped focus our sound on our first record and experiment more on our second. We're excited to record our first full-length with Zach this summer at his studio in Ferndale and keep pushing our songwriting and sounds further.

What are your plans now that the EP is out? New recording projects in the works?

Tataglia: We have done upwards of 80 dates promoting the new record, with this batch of spring dates as our last for now. In June we will be moving in with Zach Shipps for a couple of weeks to record our first full-length record at his home studio in Detroit. After that we only have a handful of shows booked, sporadically throughout the summer… so there is probably a lot of BBQ and swimming in our near future.

The Compartments EP is out now on the band’s own label, Nah Collective.