In promotion of their August 26th gig at Thunder Road in Somerville, Nemes and Damn Tall Buildings have filmed a collaborative cover of “Kids,” the song by MGMT that goes like… well, you know the one. The video is sleek, and the bands’ styles complement one another; where Nemes cultivates the “indie/rock” (“also other stuff”) sound, Damn Tall Buildings opts for “guerilla roots,” bluegrass, and, apparently, hitting stuff with crummy banjos.
The collaboration is tasteful and a welcome, celebratory rebuilding. Watch the video and before long, the easily recognizable tune becomes near impossible to recognize as the bands’ own styles become increasingly pronounced. What begins as a difference of instrumentation becomes a full-throttle fusion of genres. Just when the song feels familiar, there comes an unexpected harmony, an exhilarating change of feel, or a bout of fiery fiddle improvisations. There are layers of influence so thick, at points you’re not sure what is at the core anymore, or if it is anything like “Kids.”
This inspired something you might call a reflection. Even as musicians listen to and are influenced by the artists they admire, imitation is never the end goal. Nemes and Damn Tall Buildings perform with the (or one) alternative intention: alteration. They reduce what they have been influenced by, shrinking it to its essential parts (or, at the video’s most unrecognizable points, to nil), in order to build something exciting and alive. This process of alteration seems like a good example of taking only what you need from an influence, leaving the superfluous for the copycats. And it is this thought, in conjunction with the admittedly labored metaphor of music as a family tree of bands, genres, etc., that colored MGMT’s lyrics as I watched the video: “control yourself, take only what you need from it… a family of trees wanting to be haunted…”
Nemes and Damn Tall Buildings continue to haunt their influences in the venues of Boston, including (have you forgotten already!) Thunder Road on August 26th.