The latest single from rough and riffy Pittsburgh five-piece The Zells arrives enrobed in melody and riding in a flaming chariot of fuzz. Well, less of a chariot, more of a flaming sedan. “Hell Car” heralds their upcoming sophomore record Ant Farm in a hyper-catchy two-minute blast. According to singer/guitarist Phil Kenbok, it distills the project’s themes into an obscure narrative about the dreary life of a deposed monarch—something like a one-time lord of cinder, to borrow an expression from video game lore.
“I liked the idea of some weird, old king moping around like a Dark Souls or Radiohead character because he has to adapt to a new system that is really just as brutal and nonsensical as the one he was a part of before,” says Kenbok. “You’d think this progressive move from a monarchy would be good, but the whole landscape just rots and gets worse, and regular people are still like ants or whatever. It’s a futile situation that he can’t separate his ego from, like a car on fire that he has to keep driving because it's his whole life.”
“You should be the president, since everybody wants you to die,” mocks Kenbok in the song’s most sardonic lyric. But if not sympathy, there is an ember of relatability in the character of the king (who also appears in the music video). “He’s paranoid because he’s probably going to die horrifically, which I’m also personally very afraid of,” Kenbok says. “I picture him crying in the cold rain and joining the rest of us. That’s the best outcome for him.”
You can stream “Hell Car” below. Ant Farm will be released June 3 via Crafted Sounds, featuring the previously released single “Truther Uncle,” with production and engineering by R.J. Gordon (Titus Andronicus, Baked), mastering by Amar Lal (Big Ups), and musical contributions by Adam Reich, Jordyn Blakely, and Davey Jones.