Video Premiere: The Spider Ferns – “In Violet Bloom”

Posted by on June 30, 2016

The Spider Ferns are a husband-and-wife electronic pop duo who make their home in a converted barn in the woods of Skagit County, some 80 miles north of Seattle. On the surface, their music combines a slick, trip-hop nostalgia with a dreamy Northwest haze; sort of like if Portishead lived deep in the forests of Washington State.

Vocalist/bassist Kelly Fleek’s lithe, crystalline soprano is often described as ‘sensual’ or ‘seductive.’ Can this journalistic trope be avoided?  There is a sensuality here, to be sure, but to characterize Fleek’s tone as merely alluring is to miss the layers of unquiet knowing behind the captivating mask of pleasantness.

“In violet bloom of spring and tide / A resistance grows along,” she sings. “A distance measured in heavy footfalls / Crowning business, building walls / We have lingered too long.” As a Seattleite, I am tempted to interpret these lyrics as an indictment of our collective complacency toward the encroaching socio-economic conditions which are increasingly squeezing marginalized people out of the city. But in the second verse, the image turns, and instead of building walls we are breaking them. Is this a nod to the Northwest’s graying anarcho-punk streak, which can often be found smashing windows in lieu of activism? Or is it a call to the wilderness of an ancient future, where persistent blossoms have the power to burst through concrete?

With a band like The Spider Ferns, I’m confident that the answer is all of the above, and then some. In addition to being a prolific visual artist and musician, Fleek is the mother of two grown children with husband/guitarist/beat-programmer Alton. This matriarchal perspective contextualizes her songwriting within a long, invested view of social history, family dynamics, and notions of growth and legacy. Below the surface of this inviting, meticulously structured pop song lies a living system; all complexity with no end or beginning.

To create the visual component, the Fleeks enlisted John Theroux of CTPAK Records and CTPAK Film Crew, an adept digital painter who frequently provides visuals for the duo’s live shows. Theroux’s gently shifting palette settles on a leafy purple forest, hypnotizing us into a feeling of safety and comfort, but that’s not where it ends.

“Resistance calls,” Fleek sings, opening her eyes and closing the song.