Rolling High

by | Aug 13, 2021 | MUSIC

Richmond rockers Flight Club’s highly visual return to action as COVID-era restrictions are slowly lifted kicks into a higher gear at The Canal Club this Saturday night. But the many video clips they’ve already released for brand new album Until The Sun Drowns have only increased the anticipation for long-deprived fans.

Richmond rock band Flight Club released their first full length studio album, Until The Sun Drowns, on Friday, July 30 through Open Your Ears Records. This weekend, they’ll celebrate their new release with a show at The Canal Club on Saturday, August 14. Lately, I’ve been privileged to spend some time with their music and a series of creative music videos that enhance the experience of their measured, soft-edged, emo rock sound. The band points listeners to Pink Spiders and Cage the Elephant as references for their sound, but to me, Until The Sun Drowns conveys a lot of easy joy and a backdrop of moderation.

You can hear the clash of whole and flat melody lines on the edgiest track, a tough-pill-to-swallow of an introduction called “Another Great Unknown.” You’ll pick up on some odd stilts and snags in the rhythm of “Adolescence,” as the group lifts away and the song takes off. Each song on the album is easy like this. The album’s title shows up in the refrain of “Visitors,” where we find that easy, rapid turn of phrase that characterizes the awesomest emo rock songs but also get to bask in a really, beautiful folk/Americana guitar line. Turn on “Good Company” and enjoy a unique and fun take on a party anthem. Well, it’s not really an anthem, and not a manifesto either — this song is like a hug, and reminds me of the fun spirit of the long-gone RVA festival known as Best Friends Day. Upbeat yet cautious, the surprising sludge bassline signals the band’s willingness to have fun with genres and play with what sounds good.

“High Roller” is alluring and smooth with the many highs and lows of its catchy refrain. I’m feeling the Modest Mouse-style finger tapping backed by spacey, searching rhythm. Check out the video, too: there are visual tricks aplenty on several of the band’s videos – not just “High Roller” but “I’ve Been Kicked Out of Better Homes Than This” and “Adolescence,” all of which feature amazing, detailed settings. For example, check out the scenes shot in Byrd Park and at Southside’s river bridges in the clip for “Better Homes.” 

The cool, intense visual worlds of the latter two clips feature sights like beer in an ice cream cone, surprise fake guns, and lots of broken glass. Then in the clip for “High Roller,” the song is framed by a story that reveals more and more about the protagonist as the video plays out. All of the scenarios and effects on display in this trio of video clips make me question the decisions and judgements I make based on visual information. “Adolescence” reminds me of a personal favorite video: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” (maybe you’ve seen it?) by successfully transporting me to another world without letting me forget that its characters are performing a masquerade as it playfully depicts the bandmates’ friendship. Love it! 

Flight Club’s videos also prod me to think about strident political activity in Richmond in the wake of the COVID slowdown and my own insecurities about my position in various political debates that dominate the city — about the monuments, about Pride, about Black Lives Matter. Do I belong in these debates? Am I an ally? Should I be? These intense debates are leading me to see concrete changes in Richmond in a new light.  

My Forest Hill friends who feverishly demonstrated against a proposed casino breathe a little easier this summer, despite yet another COVID-19 spike in some parts of the country. As of July 2021, marijuana is a legal recreational option in Richmond. What’s more, I recently learned that, for an event called “Take Me Out To the Brawl Game,” the Flying Squirrels stadium will become the occasional host of outdoor boxing matches.

News like this makes me feel a little reactionary. I long for simpler times — when baseball was just baseball. I don’t know if I’m ready to embrace fight night at the Diamond, or all-night gambling. But I don’t know that I will be asked to, either. In my neighborhood bar, the brand new slot machines have already been removed. I guess with new permissions come new restrictions.

I find Flight Club’s video for “High Roller” hovering in the middle of this whole internal debate I am having about moderation. About not losing my head, about trying to accept and understand new and unfamiliar things. Here is a music video shot in an alternate-reality style, where the same setting is shown with and without a fun rock show smack dab in the middle of it. It reminds me of the power a good song has, to transport someone to a different frame of mind.   

The setting is somewhat comfortable, somewhat familiar, in that one-time-in-middle-school sense. But the flavor is disco, even though Flight Club — definitely a rock band — and their easy style presents itself strongly. Vocalist Charlie Mahoney reaches the high notes and skates through the octaves. Rock riffs that could pick up tempo to an emo-style release never do. Perhaps “High Roller,” both the song and the video, takes some inspiration from the slickness and smoothness of disco’s rhythms and dances. I love the free mixing of styles and settings that the viewer just has to roll with.

Zooming out, we see a handsome guy, then his hair, then his job. We see that music is a necessary element making his boring job palatable. And when it’s all juxtaposed with a party scene where the martinis are awesome and experimenting is lighthearted and colorful, the song is well grounded. It shows another time, reminding us drinking and its high is “all so temporary.” Even though our protagonist can’t do his job happily without the buzz of headphones in his ear, even though the party needs to be enhanced by temporary highs in order to live up to its promise, I still find an easy, appealing optimism in the presentation. What’s more, the guy’s outfit shows that he would be the life and soul of the party that’s taking place in his head.

Flight Club have a lot of clips already online for tracks from Until The Sun Drowns. In addition to the ones already mentioned, there’s “Come Back” and “Dust Bunny.” “Come Back” adopts a subdued, serious black and white aesthetic, featuring a modern dance duo and depicting a couple facing loss and isolated in a mental health struggle. “Dust Bunny” is a beautiful video focusing on shots of the band playing, and features a familiar light show technique you might have seen at a backyard show here in RVA. Now that we’re returning to public life, I’m definitely excited to brave the real world and go check them out for myself in a live performance! Luckily, we don’t have long to wait.

See Flight Club with Shot Clock, Wild Truth, Dead Friends, and Keep Flying at The Canal Club on Saturday, August 14. Doors open at 6:30. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available from The Canal Club’s website.

Top Photo by Lucienne Nghiem

Kieran Cleary

Kieran Cleary

Kieran Cleary: works at a Taekwondo school in Midlothian. Co-writes a music blog, All Apologies. Graduated from The College of William & Mary, BA English, 2014. Volunteers for the RVA Environmental Film Festival. Likes to play bike polo and go on long walks and adventures.

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