Black Wing Confronts Wounded Pride and Self-Hatred on “Choir of Assholes”

Have a Nice Life’s Dan Barrett answers a few questions about his latest single and the new LP it appears on.

For many people—including the more introspective among us—2020 has been a particularly good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) year for rethinking things that wouldn’t normally be rethought in a period when going to bars or movies or Saved By the Bell–themed pop-up bars was an option. I imagine most of us have experienced some sort of shift in perspective after spending so much time cut off from society, with little more than a six pack, VODs, and the mystery of what a Saved By the Bell–themed pop-up bar even looks like to distract us.

This seems to loosely be the theme and impetus for Dan Barrett’s latest record and his second release under his Black Wing moniker—an electronic-infused yin to the solemn folk he puts out as Giles Corey’s yang and a complement to the gothy clamor he creates with Tim Macuga as Have a Nice Life. Ahead of No Moon’s December 11 release, Barrett’s sharing another cut from the LP which expands upon the pulsing morning-after-a-dark-night-of-the-soul singles “Bollywood Apologetics” and “Is This Real Life, Jesus Christ.”

While “Choir of Assholes” matches the moody palette of the Dan Barrett discography, it also falls in line with the beams of light discernible in its preceding singles. The eight-minute track climaxes with clamoring fuzz and percussion before scaling back midway through in order to make room for a vulnerable voice memo. Hear it below, and read on for more info from Barrett about the track.

No Moon is out December 11 via The Flenser—pre-order it here.

What (and who) is “Choir of Assholes” about?

It’s one of the more self-reflective songs on the record, so it’s about me and about everyone else at the same time. It’s looking back on my own life and realizing that the narratives that felt so personal are more or less universal. We all feel misunderstood. We’re all hurting one another and nursing those wounds for decades at a time. We all resent the chorus of people telling us we can’t. At some point, I needed to move beyond seeing myself as the aggrieved child, to realize that I’d been using that mix of wounded pride and self-hatred as fuel for far too long. 

Can you share a bit about the spoken-word sample on the second half of this track?

It’s literally just a voice memo I found on my phone. I’m constantly taking notes, journaling, talking to myself—trying to process whatever’s happening. Looking forward, trying to figure out how to get better. I have so many of these lying around…it felt right to include it in the song. It’s almost unbearably painful to have people hear it, which is usually a sign I need to put it out there. I’ve had to work twice as hard my whole life just to do what normal people seemed to find easy. Only recently have I realized that nothing comes easy to anyone. 

There’s something weirdly uplifting about this record, particularly this track. Was that positive energy intentional?

Yes. I was angry. I am angry. That’s come through in more or less subtle ways, but it’s been there for a long time. 

Do you think these songs could have existed in their finalized version if it weren’t for the pandemic? Do you think you would’ve gotten around to releasing them?

I would’ve gotten around to them, but the pandemic helped. It focused me and provided a context that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. 2020—the pandemic, the death of George Floyd, our politics…it isn’t that I tried to write about those things. No one needs my hot take on social justice or whatever…there are more important voices to listen to on those issues.  

But it made me take expression more seriously. It was a year that reminded me that there are places that only art can go. There’s a whole mode of living outside of your job and your family and your responsibilities…and you’d better fucking get that shit out while you can, because it can all be snatched away from you at any time. 

Do you think these songs could have existed as Giles Corey/Have a Nice Life tracks?

I think of my different projects as different angles or facets of the same basic aesthetic and worldview—so, sure. But they would’ve been different. There are things that function best as “Black Wing,” and things that feel right as “Giles Corey,” etc. But nothing could ever be HANL without Tim.

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