The Horror! Q&A with Entertainment’s Trey Ehart

ENTERTAINMENT: Bari Donovan (left), Trey Ehart, and Jim Groff. Photo by Will Weems.

In September, Atlanta post-punk outfit Entertainment released Horror Part 1, the first of a two-part EP that finds the group returning from more than a decade between releases. Founding members Trey Ehart (vocals, guitar, bass, and synthesizer) and Bari Donovan (drums and percussion), convened with newer members Jim Groff (synth), and Henry Jack (bass) over a few years to chop, layer, and hack a new body of dark and abstract post-punk into being.

In keeping with its title, the Horror Part 1 EP’s four songs create austere, intense, and icey cold ebb and flow. The music is loosely thematic, drawing out those deeply buried childhood memories of dread and despair that came along with watching horror movies on late-night cable back in the ‘80s. It’s a singularly abstract and powerful approach to songwriting that resonates in a deeper, dark part of the subconscious that more traditional songwriting does not reach.

Ehart took a few minutes to talk about how the music came into being, and what’s in store with Horror Part 2.


Listening to The Horror puts me in an October/November kind of mood. I’ve found myself looking up quotes from movies like Chopping Mall and Sleepaway Camp as I’ve been listening. This is being released by BatCave and Stickfigure, correct?

Those are both great movies! We may have a quote from Night of the Demons on Horror Part 2, it depends on if I feel like it’s too on the nose or not. I always liked the way The Smiths/Morrissey and the Chameleons used TV and movie quotes in their songs, it added a really bittersweet layer to me.

We’re self-releasing Horror Parts 1 & 2, digital only, through Bandcamp. Stickfigure is releasing vinyl of both parts together in 2022, doing all the PR, and handling the streaming services. BatCave Productions is releasing a CD in Europe that combines both parts with all the singles and remixes in early 2022.

For what song are you making a video?

We’re finishing a video for “Voyeur” right now. It should have been out with the single last March but we had to move it from the first person we hired over to John from Hip to Death. We wanted the visuals to match the current sound of the band as much as possible, and John’s aesthetic lines up perfectly with the kind of psychedelic, dark, dream-like layers of sound. John also did the video for “Maggot Church” that we released in late 2020.

Tell me a little bit about the concepts you’re working with in the song and the video?

Conceptually it was originally more like the mimed performances you’d see on ‘80s TV, in front of green screens with a nod to Japan. We hired a model, shot through blinds, making it much more literal to the idea of enticement and voyeurism.

We tend to hide ourselves, or obscure who we are visually, and for this we really wanted to try and push ourselves up front. But when it was put together it was just too sterile for the track. The painterly quality of the music wasn’t coming through. Layers and layers of information, the kind of desperate sound wasn’t coming through.

The cover art effectively projects a sense of cold, dark isolation. What is the idea that’s at work here?

We struggled with how to visually represent what we sound like right now, and with the fact that Gender had such an iconic cover, how do we keep that visual strength going, but move forward?

After talking about it we decided the best way to represent these songs was through the idea of layers of paint on a canvas. As a reference to how some artists can never finish, like Edvard Munch, who would constantly print and paint the same image and theme over and over, seemingly never satisfied, often painting over his own images, leaving canvas outside to rot in the elements then coming back to them, or scraping the paint off a nearly finished piece and starting over. Similar to the writing process for these songs.

So if you look at the covers of all the singles we released leading up to the EP you’ll see a similar obscure bleakness, layers of different paintings overlapping and overwriting each other. I also wanted to make the obvious reference to the Horror sticker from VHS stores, as well as overlaying a torn plastic wrapping to each cover, since these will probably never be physical, it’s the ephemera, the fake idea of a lost reality.

That’s what you see in the cover, layers of paint, fake plastic wrap, and then some neon lights thrown on top, the spark of nostalgic light piercing the dark, or just sinking into it.

It’s also probably another Japan rip off …

The music itself can be described using similar painterly terms. The sounds of the instruments and the vocals feel like big swathes of paint that collide and blend into each other. Can you talk a little bit about this?

It’s hard for me to approach music in terms of traditional means most of the time, I don’t know if I have a mild form of synesthesia, but I’m never happy with a piece of music until I can’t hear myself in it, I don’t know how it was formed, and it comes back to me as something alien of the speakers. I want the sounds to affect the listener in an emotional or psychedelic way. Putting you in a world all its own, appealing but revolting at the same time. To get there I’m constantly layering and revising in overdubs, leaving phantom chords and impressions of sound and texture, unrefined and wild. Kind of merging an artistic approach with a raw punk ethos, and Brian Eno’s “generative music” theory and Oblique Strategies.

The treatment of the sound draws out a more mysterious atmosphere than a lot of more straight-ahead Songwriting with a capital S. There’s an element of abstraction here that puts the imagination into overdrive. Has this presented any obstacles in terms of how the music is perceived, or does it seem like listeners are open to the music?

It’s definitely turned some people away, especially with how at odds we are with modern, sterile production, some people just shut down right away, some are immediately pulled in.

We used to say we wanted our records to infect and ruin every other record in your collection, so you never hear music the same. But maybe that’s a cover up for not being able to write in a pop structure yet… I love the mental space our records put the listener in, but I definitely needed guidance in not taking it too far for this release, reining it in, learning the “correct way,” which I really want as we come back and move forward.

Live, we’re a different beast, more minimal but impactful, deliberate, we’re often told it’s “powerful and sexy,” which makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think it’s a reaction to our rhythm section taking over, the bass lines and beats really shining through.

We accept it, next year we’re going into the studio with Tom Ashton — finally — to re-record a lot of these tracks and make them bigger, more palatable to a wider audience, maybe shed some of the deathrock for more traditional post-punk sounds… whatever that means for us. Tom hears potential in our sounds that I’m really excited about.

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Tom Ashton of the March Violets on the goth and post-punk legacy behind SubVon Studio

Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Photo by Mike White

In December of 1981, guitarist Tom Ashton co-founded the gothic and post-punk outfit The March Violets while attending Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds, U.K. Throughout the ‘80s, the band landed several singles on the U.K. indie and club charts, including goth classics such as “Snake Dance,” “Walk Into the Sun,” “Crow Baby,” and “Turn to the Sky.” The latter number earned The March Violets a cameo appearance in the 1987 film “Some Kind of Wonderful,” written by John Hughes. Over the years Ashton has also done stints playing guitar with equally lauded acts Clan of Xymox and The Danse Society, and most recently filled in on bass with Athens’ rising goth luminaries Vision Video. Ashton has called Athens home since 2001. Recently, a new generation of post-punk, gothic, and otherwise darkwave bands have all released music bearing the mark of Ashton’s SubVon Studio, where he’s also found a niche composing scores for various independent films.

What brought you to Athens from the U.K.?

I met my wonderful wife of 29 years, Rachel, an Athens local, whilst touring the US, playing guitar with the Dutch gothic rock band Clan of Xymox — or Xymox as they were known at the time. We met when the band was prepping for our tour at The 40 Watt, supporting the album called Phoenix on Mercury Records. I originally came from Scotland, where I grew up in a small town called Alva in an area called the Hillfoots. From there I moved to Leeds to play music. Years later, I moved to London for nine years before making the move to Athens in 2001.

When did you start recording at SubVon Studio?

SubVon kinda started around 2012-2014. I was recording March Violets stuff and working on a bunch of film scores for people up in Michigan and in Los Angeles. I built a room in our basement purely as a production suite, but when we later finished building out the rest of the area I realized there was room to fit in a whole band with a full kit. After a month or so I started mentioning the space to anyone who might be interested in coming in and joining the experiment. It was christened on January 1, 2018. The name just kind of popped out from nowhere, although the word Von is a nickname for Andrew Eldritch from The Sisters of Mercy, so maybe it’s a play on that for some reason.

The March Violets in 1983: Simon Denbigh (from left), Cleo Murray, Tom Ashton, Loz Elliott

Andrew Eldritch’s Merciful Release label released The March Violets’ “Grooving in Green” and “Religious as Hell” 7-inches. Did you ever join The Sisters of Mercy?

At one point in ’81, Andrew did try to filch me from the Violets, and I did play one show with them playing guitar. It was a great time, and later he said, “If you want it, it’s yours.” I would have loved to do both but I felt I couldn’t do it under the circumstances. I had moved from Scotland to play music with my best mates, and I didn’t want to screw them over. At the time, we were all good mates — I was mates with Craig Adams and Gary Marx from the Sisters. We used to all hang out at Andrew’s house. He was the only person that any of us knew who had a VCR, so we’d all get high and watch “Alien” over and over again.

There is an identifiable scene emerging around your studio work. Bands like Tears for the Dying, Hip To Death, Entertainment, and Vision Video come to mind. What’s the underlying thread that connects them all?

This scene kind of reminds me of the special time back in Leeds and West Yorkshire in ‘81-’82. Bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters of Mercy, Danse Society, Southern Death Cult, Skeletal Family, and The March Violets all combined and developed our own take on punk, post-punk, and goth. Most importantly, we had our own way of doing it. I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time not only once but twice. And I would certainly add We Hunt Kings — Henry from Entertainment’s project — to that list. Pale Pose’s Doorways; The Exiter is another notable album which I mixed and mastered, definitely some dark and beautiful poetry there. And although not strictly gothic in nature, T.T. Mahony sometimes enters some very dark territory with his French People album which I mixed last year.

I think sometimes it all comes down to a quirk of timing and geographical location. The law of averages dictates that at one place and time a similarly minded group of people will cascade together and feed each other their energy and ideas. Once it’s realized it becomes acted upon and is further enhanced. Leeds circa 1982 felt like this, and to me, now Athens and Atlanta have a similar sense of purpose and amount of talent to throw it out to the rest of the world successfully.

Aesthetically speaking, I’d say there is a wide range of styles and influences in the mixing cauldron of these bands, and I see it as my job to capture and collate, collaborating in a way that enhances each individual voice.

Do you have creative input when it comes to the musical choices that these bands are making?

Yes, but it can vary quite a bit according to each individual track. Sometimes a reimagined backing vocal, or subtle orchestrations in the background. I’m very much an ears-and-mind-are-open kind of producer, and I’ll never get in the way of someone else’s vision. I’m just there to help it flow and wrap it in the sheen I always like to hear.

VISION VIDEO: Dusty Gannon (left) with Jason Fusco (drums) and Tom Ashton filling in playing guitar during Historic Athens Porchfest on October 10, 2021. Photo by Mike White

How did you start working with Vision Video?

Ashton: In pre-COVID days, Dusty Gannon ran — and will again no doubt — a fantastic night called Make America Goth Again. I was there one night when Dusty was DJing. We’d never met before. He played “Snake Dance,” and a mutual friend pulled us together and said, “This is the guy who plays guitar on this song!” We hit it off, and he sent me some music he was working on in 2018, I think. I loved it! Even back then it sounded like Vision Video. The track was called “Organized Murder.” Basically we just hit it off with too many similar interests to count and hung out a lot and got drunk!

Are you currently working on any projects with any of these groups?

Dusty from Vision Video is already sending me some wonderful sketches for the next album, and we are discussing ideas and approaches on how the progression will go. I’m still in the middle of mixing We Hunt Kings. Tears for the Dying has a new lineup and are sending me the demos for their next album which sounds fab too.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on various masters for a March Violets CD box set for release in the near future through the U.K. label Jungle Records. There will be never-before-heard material included, and some classic Violets tracks that never had a proper release. Vision Video will be in to record the next record in January or February, and Tears for the Dying start recording their next release with me in mid-December. Until recently I was working on a score for a film called Dwarfhammer by a Michigan-based director named Daniel E. Falicki. I also recently began mixing and remixing tracks for Tennessee-based band Palm Ghost. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the future!

Read the print version of this story in the December issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Vision Video: ‘Organized Murder’

Vision Video is back with a new video for “Organized Murder,” taken from the group’s debut album, Inked In Red.

This one ain’t for the faint of heart! “Organized Murder” is the fourth video released by Athens’ gothic rock luminaries, following videos for “Inked In Red,” “Comfort in the Grave,” and “Static Drone.” The song also bears the sharpest teeth when it comes to wrapping the group’s stylized mastery of darkness, light, and melodic hooks around a poignant statement. 

The song opens with a chilling bit of dialogue taken from make-up artist Tom Savini’s reimagining of the classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. Ben, a character played by actor Tony Todd, delivers these particularly chilling lines while coming to terms with the zombie apocalypse that’s unfolding around him: “This is something that nobody has ever heard about, and nobody has ever seen before. This is hell on Earth… This is pure hell on Earth.”

Set to director Erica Strout’s visual accompaniment, “Organized Murder” leaps into action as a fitting metaphor for what the group describes as America’s fetishization of “violence, force, and warfare on behalf of ‘the greater good.’”

A statement released with the video goes on to say that: “This is a representation of my experiences watching systematic violence used on behalf of morally bankrupt political ideologies to meet their ends and economic hegemony by military domination across the third world.”

Press play and let it sink in.

Read the Flagpole Magazine feature story, “Inked in Red: Vision Video Processes War, Trauma and Loss Through Goth Rock.”

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Tears For the Dying evokes shocking, B-horror vibes with new single, ‘Mortuary’

Tears For the Dying‘s singer and multi-instrumentalist Adria Stembridge is living in Athens these days, methodically working with two new musicians—bass player Zakki Kartoffel and guitar player Morgona Widow—to solidify a new lineup. 

The group’s latest single, “Mortuary,” has been making the rounds since May. Stembridge tracked the single by herself earlier this year, but with lyrics such as “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, purified flesh chase you tonight. No eyes to see, just slash and dine, screams on dead ears, kill to survive! Screaming bodies in the mortuary. Screaming bodies in the laboratory,” it’s no less vexing in its creepy and death-afflicted goth-punk and metal imagery.

“I loved the main guitar riff but wanted to add an extra strings track that subtly alludes to the B-horror movie soundtrack technique of shocking the audience with a sharp musical stroke,” Stembridge says. “I feel like everyone is zombied out, given the huge number of zombie movies and shows over the past decade or so, but I haven’t heard many modern goth/deathrock bands explore the vibe in music.”

Stembridge worked with legendary March Violets guitarist-turned producer Tom Ashton (Vision Video, Entertainment, Hip To Death) at Subvon Studio in Athens to record multiple versions of “Mortuary.” One is a raw, guitars-only mix, and a third version is synths-only. Keep an eye out for different versions of the song to appear later this summer.

With the new lineup in place, Stembridge, who has handled much of the guitar and bass playing duties in the group, will now focus mainly on guitar and voice.

A new album is also in the works.

In the meantime, the group’s first show back from the pandemic is Fri., Aug. 13, at Flicker Bar in Athens. Tears for the Dying will also appear at the forthcoming VOTH (vegan goth food + dark music festival) on Oct. 15.

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Vision Video: ‘Static Drone’

Vision Video’s singer, guitar player, and principal songwriter Dusty Gannon’s story follows a trajectory from listless teenager to Afghanistan War veteran to a firefighter and paramedic on the frontline of an ongoing pandemic. It’s an arc that’s perfectly illustrated by the euphoric pop and melancholy of the group’s latest single, “Static Drone.” 


Taken from the group’s forthcoming debut album, Inked In Red (out April 16), “Static Drone” carries an intense release of physical and emotional angst; a real-time experience of grappling with deteriorating mental health while adapting to life and confronting mortality while working at a Metro Atlanta fire department. “I wrote ‘Static Drone’ in the middle of some intense manic episodes where my mental health had completely unraveled,” Gannon says. “There was this peculiar month-long period of time at my fire station when we were dealing with a death almost every shift, and it was mirroring my internal sentiment that I was beginning to feel like everyone was tragically fated to die alone.”

In light of confronting such heavy existentialism, though, “Static Drone” also brings with it a sliver of hope, and an outlet for exorcising these personal demons. “It’s one of my favorite songs to play, because I still feel that dropping panic when we shift to the chorus,” Gannon says. “It’s an intense, but cathartic track for me, and I feel like it truly set the pace for this record.”

In May of 2020, Vision Video’s “In My Side” b/w “Inked In Red” 7-inch stirred up an ethereal post-punk exuberance, underscored by new wave and goth-tinged pop melodies. The lead single, “In My Side,” is a direct descendant of New Order’s “Age of Consent” from the 1983 album Power, Corruption & Lies. On the B-side, “Inked In Red” channels the baroque and romantic pop atmosphere of the Cure’s ‘89 album Disintegration. Singer and keyboard player Emily Fredock, drummer Jason Fusco, and bass player Dan Geller pushed their burgeoning sound to bold and stately places.

Soon after, a cover of British post-punk outfit Ski Patrol’s 1979 anti-war anthem “Agent Orange” followed, capturing Gannon’s most vexed performance yet—made poignant by rich sonic flourishes courtesy of producer Tom Ashton (The March Violets, Clan of Xymox).

“Static Drone” raises the bar on all fronts. The song pops with shimmering confidence, energy, and a dramatic vocal attack that borders on the sublime while ascending to an ecstatic state of a macabre inward journey, further cementing the group’s place as the most exciting dance-rock act to sprout from Athens’ storied musical landscape in quite some time.

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Entertainment: ‘Voyeur’


The Howling, The Beyond, Driller Killer, Evil Dead 2, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Slumber Party Massacre, Fright Night, The Fog

If you were breathing oxygen in the ‘80s, merely mentioning these titles stirs up memories of youthful fascination, elation, and terror while staring at the artwork for these horror classics of the VHS era. “Voyeur,” the second single from Entertainment’s forthcoming Horror parts 1 and 2 EPs, pushes this aesthetic nostalgia to a deeper and darker place within the imagination.

As vocalist Trey Ehart explains, “‘Voyeur’ is probably the most direct reference on the EPs to being bored and young in rural suburbia, and spending time absorbing horror movies and skate tapes from the local VHS rental store.”

“Voyeur” falls on the heels of Entertainment’s previously released single, “Maggot Church,” and taps into a more severe sense of urgency before diving deeper into the rabbit hole of hazy and cinematic ambiance. Tom Ashton of the March Violets unfurls a rich, goth-tinged production, as Ehart’s heavily affected voice drives the song’s unhinged melancholy and dreamlike vibe with lyrics such as: “video stains my eyes,” “dreams returned too late, screams in the gages of youth,” “show me ways of new desire,” and “static shivers so strange.”

“Each lyric glamorizes the impact of being exposed to a life and music outside of mainstream culture with over saturated practical effects, unnecessarily gratuitous glimpses of nudity, and underground soundtracks,” Ehart says.

The song’s constrictive and alluring melodies grow increasingly more pronounced in the Candelabra Cage Match mix, which comes courtesy of Beta Machine’s bass player Matt McJunkins, who also performs with Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal, Poppy, and more.

Keep an eye out for the video, directed by John Breedlove of Hip To Death to arrive soon.

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Entertainment’s Trey Ehart on ‘Maggot Church’ and ‘Horror’ parts 1 & 2


Entertainment, for most intents and purposes, fell silent after releasing its 2009 debut album, Gender (Stickfigure Records, Adistant Sound, and Duchess Archive). Aside from playing shows in the Southeastern U.S., sharing stages with Modern English in 2016-17, the gothic-leaning post-punk outfit has remained far from the public eye for nearly 11 years.

In October 2020, two of the group’s founding members, Trey Ehart (vocals, guitar, bass, and synthesizer) and Bari Donovan (drums and percussion), along with Entertainment’s latest addition Jim Groff (synth) emerged from the void with a new single, titled “Maggot Church.” From the song’s hissing salvo — a deluge of sonic light and shadow — “Maggot Church’s” stark, effects-laden doom and ambiance are pierced by Ehart’s spectral moans of catharsis. Released with a handful of remixes by INHALT, Delphine Coma, and SubVon, aka producer and former March Violets guitar player Tom Ashton, “Maggot Church” is an empowered number cut from rhythmic grooves and distortion, and charged with intensity. It’s a twisted and contemptuous song that expands upon the group’s brand of gothic rock with an evolved and atmospheric makeover. It’s also the first cut from an upcoming two-part EP to be released in early 2021, titled Horror Parts 1 and Part 2. While preparing for the first EP’s January arrival, Ehart took a few minutes to talk about what the group has been up to for the last decade, and what Entertainment has in store for the future.

The two-part EP that you have in the works is called Horror. The video for “Maggot Church” opens with a quote from intro to the old television show “Tales From the Darkside.” I bring this up to get your thoughts on the EP’s title and the concepts that are at work here. … After watching “Maggot Church” I went down the Youtube rabbit hole, watching episodes of “Tales From the Darkside,” “Friday the 13th,” etc.

Those shows brought out a sense of chasing those childhood thrills of terror and elation at the same time.

I have always been obsessed with the intro to “Tales from the Darkside” — the negative trees, the way the music bends as the world turns dark, and the underlying context of the narration. In a weird way it helped shade the lens through which I see the world. There’s definitely that sense of terror and wonder, something dark lurking beyond you, mixed with childish wonder and elation, but there’s also a harsh existential truth buried beneath it.

Stephen King has a quote: “True horror is the coming undone of something good.” That, to me, is the essence of where we are as a band. When we started coming back out, suddenly I was hit with a lot of people affirming to me, for the first time, that we were something good, and we had completely come undone underneath that. The childish sense of blind self-assuredness had devolved into a sense of doubt, a black cloud hanging over me, like a Kafkaesque maze of conflict. Combine that with my love of camp B-movie horror from the ’80s, and that’s where we’re coming from now.

ENTERTAINMENT: Bari Donovan (left), Trey Ehart, and Jim Groff. Photo by Will Weems.


What prompted you to get the band back together and continue moving forward?

We never really officially broke up, but after touring behind Gender for two years our bass player Tommy bassist left. I moved back to Atlanta from Athens, and we  struggled to regain momentum and maintain a reputation. We were working with DISARO Records, which was a huge accomplishment for us, but I lost faith and direction in our songwriting and position. We did meet our synth player Jim during this time though, and played SXSW twice, trying to find a new way forward. But our live presence almost completely dropped off, and I spent time working with Kris Sampson on nurturing our sound through recordings. Pretty soon the indie goth scene that we’d seen and been a part of in New York and Los Angeles started taking off in Atlanta, and I was asked to DJ at a few nights. I also started seeing more like minded musicians at the DKA nights at 529, and Silk Wolfs’ goth nights. That’s also when I started to realize we had a very underground cult following here. But the big moment was in 2016 when we got the opportunity to open for Modern English on the Southeastern dates of their Mesh & Lace Tour. So we grabbed Jen von Schlichten from Black Lodge and Hymen Moments, and went from nothing to the biggest tour of our career. It was unbelievable, we had everything and nothing to prove, and had to rely solely on the strength of our songs and live presence. We came back to Atlanta completely rejuvenated, played two sold-out shows at The EARL in one day, where half the crowd thought we were from the UK, and then we crashed back down to earth, went back out with Modern English in 2017, this time working with Henry Jack from Weary Heads by way of a connection through Dead Register, and we naturally started re-working and improving newer material. Once we came back from that tour we decided it was time.


How did you come work with Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Has working with him helped you realize anything new or different about your songwriting and the group’s sound and vision?

I met Tom through a mutual friend at a Peter Murphy show in Atlanta. Then we ran into each other again backstage at the Modern English show at the Earl, and again at the March Violets reunion show at the Masquerade, and the dots started to connect for me. I’m pretty shy when it comes to promoting our music, but once we started re-working our newer material I found the courage to reach out to him for help mixing and mastering the material Kris Sampson had helped us work up with the overdubs we did. He’s been a huge source of support and understanding for us. I originally approached him in a very nonchalant way, but March Violets is the ultimate street cred, and a very different approach from the way we do things. He has really helped to teach me strength and how to desaturate — to lean into the atmosphere of a song but also mind the hook — and to trust myself.

Do you feel like Entertainment is part of a larger community of like minded bands in Atlanta? I ask mostly because I have seen bands like Tears For The Dying and Hip To Death working with Tom Ashton as well. All three of these bands are quite different, aesthetically speaking, but there is an underlying thread of commonality — darkness, post-punk, gothic tendencies. Do you think of these bands as kindred spirits?

I’m pretty sure I introduced them to him, if I remember correctly. I love all those bands. We have all circled each other for years, and worked together pretty frequently. But there’s definitely a more concrete scene developing Out of SubVon, where we all have a place we can work. Honestly, I can remember seeing Hip To Death terrify kids at frat bars in Athens, and I’ve always admired Tears For The Dying from the time they used to rehearse next to us and Snowden in a warehouse off Howell Mill Road. And I think we’ve all developed separately, but we’re all hitting a certain level at the same time.

A little more than a decade has passed since Entertainment released Gender. Aesthetically speaking, how have things changed over time?

Not much, weirdly. I think I’m more inclined to be appealing now, much to the relief of the band. I still look to the artsy tension of bands like the Virgin Prunes and Bauhaus for inspiration, but I’m more interested in allowing people to enjoy us without having to be confronted. Leaning more into Japan and Psychedelic Furs. We were recently referred to as “the bastard child of Swans and Duran Duran,” rather than just “the sound of death,” so I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Do you have a favorite song amid all of the new material?

We have so much unreleased stuff at his point it’s hard to say. If you asked the band I think we’d all say something different, but our upcoming third single, “An Alter of Remembrance,” and the track “Distance” are two we tend to gravitate toward.


Have any of the remixes surprised you or revealed something about the music that you didn’t expect?

Yeah definitely! We’ve been lucky to have so many talented people support us and completely transform our songs. I love hearing how other musicians  interpret and manipulate us. At times I am surprised and horrified at how desperate the solo tracks sound, or how small changes can really pull a chorus together in a much more accessible way. They really help put possibilities in place as we decide what the next sound is and get out of our heads.

Do you have a release date in mind for the EPs to arrive?

We have one more single before Horror Part 1 comes out, we’re waiting on a few remixes for that. Then Part 1 comes out in January and a third single and Part 2 come out in February.

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Picture One plumbs the depths of the imagination to find resolve

STRANGE MAGIC: Thomas Barnwell of Picture One. Photo by Todd Briner.


Thomas Barnwell is, perhaps, best known as the co-composer of the score to director Adam Pinney’s 2016 film, The Arbalest, and as the guitar player with the now-defunct indie rock groups Thy Mighty Contract and the Orphins. Alongside his film-composing partner Ian Deaton, Barnwell also runs Deanwell Global Music, compiling and re-releasing LPs of ‘80s material by acts ranging from French new wave outfit Asylum Party to Atlanta synth-punks the Modern Mannequins. The label has also released cassettes such as Deaton’s score to the imaginary film Atlanta Crime Wave, along with titles from hardcore and blackened metal tormentors Rapturous Grief, Waste Layer, and the Haunting, the latter being an early project that featured Cloak’s singer and guitar player Scott Taysom.

When left to his own devices, however, Barnwell writes and records songs using the name Picture One. With his self-titled 2015 debut, and again with 2019’s Bright Spot and the Midnight Sun, Barnwell relied on abstract imagery and purely instrumental arrangements to build spectral atmospheres. However, the arrival of Picture One’s third album, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes, marks a profound change in his songwriting. Here, Barnwell fleshes out a stylish blend of European and American indie, gothic rock, and post-punk influences, culminating in spellbinding soundscapes, and reaching new heights in his songwriting. 

Barnwell’s  low-register, atonal singing brings a more personal and transcendent touch to the album.

“I started singing on this record because I wanted to process a lot of what I have been going through over the last couple of years,” Barnwell says. “I am trying to be more creative lyrically than I have been — I haven’t done lyrics in maybe 10 years, and I wanted that connection again. When you play stuff live, people really connect with vocals.”

What he was going through while writing the album is the timeless fodder of reflecting on a relationship that has come to an end, and the whirlwind of social, psychological, and emotional turbulence that comes along with such upheaval. To make sense of, and ultimately resolve, his cycle of dark feelings, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes summons the strength of unearthly forces. The album’s title is taken from the lyrics of “Love Spell,” a song in which Barnwell sings, “Because distant power is what it takes, and tubes of light lead to this place, spread the flowers and snowflakes, across the depths of seven lakes.” Here, a spell is cast to break through a sense of powerlessness over his circumstances.

“When I wrote the lyrics, I was sitting there, thinking about how I wished I could just do something,” Barnwell says. “I had this idea of magic as a proactive thing that people do because they’re in situations where they can’t do anything. The lyrics came out about someone who wants to conjure love,” he adds. “But in the end it becomes something that helps them to move on.”

The songs and lyrics take on a more honest approach to songwriting than anything Barnwell has offered in the past. Even when fronting the Orphins, songs such as “Sea Song” and “Lost In the Wild” from the 2009 CD Wish You Well (Adair Park) relied on symbolism over real-time, confessional songwriting. Still, the songs on Across the Depths of Seven Lakes sidestep traditional songwriting as Barnwell adopts a wholly different internal persona.

“Singing in a way that I don’t normally sing, and thinking from the perspective of someone else — playing the part of an imagined person, maybe someone who was in a band in the ’80s — helped me be more honest,” Barnwell says.

A palette of constrictive, bass-driven rhythms, heavy chorus, and barreling melodies drive the noisy and claustrophobic opening number “Resolute: The Absolute,” the melancholy pop of “Lily Pad,” and the monolithic EBM dirge of “Chaser of the World.” Each number hands in a balance of graceful and monolithic darkness, fostering a fully-formed concept album that’s fueled by a greater sense of urgency and variety than anything Barnwell has created with Picture One’s previous releases.

“I wanted the first album to be a dark and emotionally melodic record with roots in ’80s cold wave and goth and post-punk,” Barnwell says. “I also wanted to see if I could write something both memorable and catchy without vocals. I wanted to explore a certain sound that I’ve always loved but had never had a chance to with my previous bands.”

Three albums in, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes moves one step deeper and higher into the framework he’s built. — Chad Radford