It’s late August, students are returning to college campuses, and Labor Day is just around the corner. But the new music video for “Nothing” from local emo-pop band Scratchy Blanket will remind you that the season isn’t over just yet. Directed by Reese Hayes, it was released on August 20th, in anticipation of the band’s new three-song EP, Please Love Me, which drops today (August 24th.) To mark the occasion, a release show is set for tonight at 8 PM at the Glitter Box Theater in Oakland, where Scratchy Blanket will be joined by short fictions, Metacara, and The Childlike Empress.
The video captures quintessential summer moments: bike riding through the neighborhood on a sunny day, drinking beers outside with good friends, playing music on the deck. And the song itself lives up to the group’s self-descriptor of “kind, polite indie rock:” its sweetness wouldn’t sound out of place on the Juno soundtrack.
But there is a twist. The video plays in reverse. In it, we see lead singer Shannon Keating retreat on her bike into a closed-off tree-lined road, guitarist Chloe Hodgkins leap backwards up the stairs in her house, and guitarist Harrison Thurman seem to replace the tops of beer bottles with his bottle opener. (Keating’s lip-syncing, however, still lines up with the sung words.)
This twist is fitting. Despite the beautiful sunny scenes, the relaxed, pretty instrumentals, and Keating’s charming vocals (recalling a higher-pitched, younger Kimya Dawson), “Nothing’s” lyrics are aching, vulnerable, and hopeless. The song starts out with the lines: “What’s in the cards for me, it’s nothing/It’s not my fault, it’s all my fault/Cut out my brain, it’s good for nothing/And when I’m dying, I won’t call.” The blunt honesty and despair of the words provide a striking contrast to their surroundings, drawing your attention to them more sharply. And even though there’s near-constant movement in the video, Keating seems resigned to the inevitability of this pain: “Has it always been like this?/Will it always be like this?”
I tend to appreciate songwriting that wraps pain in pretty packaging, and Scratchy Blanket does so both musically and visually here. The video progresses from Keating riding a bike by herself to playing with her bandmates. But because it’s in reverse, her solitude is where she actually ends up, highlighting the isolation so clearly articulated in the lyrics: “There’s no beauty in a broken heart/Wish I could be nothing at all.”
On their Bandcamp page, the band brands themselves as “the musical equivalent of the phrase ‘if that’s okay with you.’” Well, if “Nothing” is any indication, I can safely say that yes, it is okay with me. In fact, I’d like to hear more.
Check out the video for yourself below, or by clicking here. Please Love Me is now available on Spotify, Bandcamp, and most other music streaming/download platforms. They’ll also have physical copies of the EP for sale at the release show tonight. The suggested donation is $5, with doors opening at 7 and the music starting at 8. You can find more details on the event page here. And keep up with Scratchy Blanket directly here.
Scratchy Blanket consists of Keating on lead vocals, Hodgkins on guitar, Laura Lee Burkhardt on bass/backing vocals, Thurman on guitar, and Zach Dowdell on drums.