The video for “Hey There Skipper!” opens on Claire Kander and Kevin Golden snapping awake on a monochrome living room floor and couch while their snide, whispered double vocals filter in. It’s been two years since their last release as Scuttlebuggs, but they haven’t been lying down on the job, even with all that’s been going on in the world and their personal lives.
The Midwestern indie duo first wrote the song on the road, traveling the U.S. on the heels of a month-long Japanese tour. At the time, they were living out of a minivan and getting reacquainted with the uniquely disorienting state of American news.
“Being across the world had gotten us out of the nonstop cycle of tension that seems to be gripping our country,” they say. “After returning, we started making little observations about what was going on around us with fresh eyes, observing how absurd everything seemed.”
“Hey There, Skipper!” originally had a more upbeat feel reminiscent of Buddy Holly, but as they started slowing down and settling back into life in Chicago–moving from the minivan to the empty home of a friend–the track took on a more characteristic Scuttlebuggs sound.
“We so often write sad or dark tunes, so it felt good to work on something peppy,” the duo says. “When we developed and finalized the lyrics, it went from a fun, peppy tune to a snarky lyrical journey touching on all the elements that felt they were coming into play within the chaos of life.”
From that chaos comes an acutely understated song, floating by on tapping drumsticks and gently twisting electric guitars. The softness is a balm to the stress-addled brain, but as tension mounts in the chorus, there’s a defiant challenge embedded in the snark.
As the duo set out to translate the song into a music video, director CJ Arellano proved to be an ideal collaborator–a fellow appreciator of David Lynch and 1950s visual style.
“We all share obsession with the appealing appearance of that decade–how interesting it is that everything on the surface was so gorgeous and vibrant, but often fraudulent.”
That transformed “Hey There Skipper” and its original Buddy Holly influence into a dark 50s fantasy in which Kander and Golden portray a musical duo who don’t quite live up to their squeaky-clean and colorful image.
“Just beneath the surface of those sparkling smiles and outstanding outfits lurked such darkness–social inequality, alcoholism, pill addiction,” say Scuttlebuggs. “We all agreed the video should take on the 50s and 60s surface beauty and have a surreal element that leaves it up to the audience to determine how real this duo’s success ever was.”
Underneath that retro look and feel, it’s just as pertinent to 2020. A shot of Kander standing in the shower fully clothed, soggy cigarette drooping from the corner of her mouth, is
a big mood just one of the more resonant images.
“Hey There, Skipper!” premiered February 5 on Ditty TV, and it’s available to stream now. Scuttlebuggs are heading off on a spring tour beginning in March and they’re planning a return to the studio later this year to begin recording their sophomore full-length album.