Like many people, I awoke on November 9th of 2016 to find that my worldview had shifted in a real and tangible way. Though I’d gone to bed the previous night feeling a vague sense of bemusement, it wasn’t until morning that the gravity of the situation had truly set in: what was essentially a throwaway punchline just a few months prior had actually come to pass. Reality TV show huckster, noted sexual abuser, indisputable bigot and Actual Man-Baby Donald Trump had been elected into office. The result of a long, drawn-out, increasingly surreal election season represented more than the sobering realization that life doesn’t always adjust to my own ideals and principles. This felt like something fundamentally darker. The triumph of a cartoon supervillain, the masses having abandoned all sense of reason in favor of hate mongering and the most toxic brand of celebrity worship. To call it “disheartening” would be an understatement. It all but shattered my belief in the inevitability of progressivism, and came close to convincing a lifelong non-believer that we were entering the proverbial endtimes.
That kind of existential whiplash is at the heart of “End of Days”, the second single by Argentine-American indie pop band Fervors, off of their upcoming EP Ortúzar. Released on the anniversary of the election, the song is a shimmery, upbeat post-punk number dripping with apocalyptic dread and seething anger; however, much like an entire generation galvanized into political activism, there’s an undercurrent of resilient resolve running through it. Over cascading sheets of arpeggiated guitar, vocalist Evy Duskey describes a dark figure reminiscent of a beast from Revelations (“he spoke in seven tongues”), then exclaims “oh my God, is it really happening?”, and finally concludes “let the horsemen ride / I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive”, all set to an irresistible beat that alternates seamlessly between time signatures. It’s a song that shakes with the uncertainty and anxiety of our current climate while also reaffirming our agency within structures that can feel insurmountable. It does this while also managing to be a colorful, energetic and richly melodic piece of music. A narcotic wisp of danceable despair.
Fervors was born out of a chance encounter between singer Duskey and guitarist Chris Lim, two American expats who’d relocated to the chaotic bustle of Buenos Aires and somehow found themselves sharing a taxi. Coming to the realization that they shared influences and musical sensitivities, a songwriting partnership was born, rooted in the mutual experience of the ‘other’: strangers in a strange land. Very soon the band picked up more members, started writing songs, started playing shows, underwent some lineup changes, and finally landed on the alchemical combination of individuals that are about to release their debut EP. Three Argentines and two Americans.
I’ve seen Fervors live more times in the last year than just about any other band. Part of the reason is because of my friendship with them — everybody in the band is a legitimately lovely, kind, generous person, and Evy and I even co-write a weekly column about live music in Buenos Aires. But I don’t go to their shows out of a sense of social obligation. The fact is that attending a Fervors gig is witnessing a group of musicians take the energy in the room — even when it’s a bit awkward and stilted, like when they are sandwiched between two ska bands and playing to an audience that is not their own — and skillfully transforming that energy into something grand, cinematic, and profoundly emotional. It goes beyond the tropes of the “dream-pop” subgenre; the distance between playing a song that is merely pretty and ethereal because it has nice chords and employs a lot of reverb, and crafting a moment that manages to land like a genuine gut-punch, leaving the audience reeling in its wake. In the times that I’ve seen them, Fervors have proven their mastery at operating within that heightened emotional space, delivering songs that are filled with nuance and striking detail. Their first single, “No Other”, is a prime example of that; a harrowingly vulnerable love song that is as devastating as it is hummable, with Evy’s voice — at once vivid and ghostly, grounded and otherworldly– serving as the emotional anchor among a sea of guitars and keyboard flourishes. It is a song that, for a debut single, feels unusually grand and ambitious and fully-realized.
While “No Other” is a love song, “End of Days” defies easy categorization. It’s not exactly what one would call a political song, at least not in the traditional sense. After the election, I noticed many people talk about how living in a political dystopia would put some fire back into our culture; the logic being that the piss-and-vinegar that had been dormant in the Obama years would return to the arts. This idea as presented will typically frame “good political music” as an inevitable consequence of “bad political times”. What’s most infuriating about it is the suggestion that this is a good or worthwhile trade-off: sure, the rights of the marginalized continue being trampled on, families will be ripped apart and lives would literally be destroyed, but at least Eddie Vedder might write a good song again. This is a very old-guard approach to music in highly charged political climates, vestiges of a Vietnam-era approach to protest song.
While this kind of thinking is spurious at best, “End of Days” might actually be an example of what political pop music might look like in the Trump era: more personal one, more concerned with figuring out its own emotions than righting some great wrong. Purists might scoff at that, but in the face of the encroaching darkness and the horrific absurdity of it all, turning inward and questioning our place in all of it seems as valid a reaction as any. It might even be empowering; instead of getting caught up in the surging waves of nihilism, we can doff the chains of our collective ennui and malaise and be here now. We’re still here, and this is all still happening. We’re still breathing at the end of days.