Releasing a video to accompany a song about feeling like a perpetual outsider may seem an unusual choice for a band like Petrov, soaring in popularity. But the Charlotte indie rock powerhouse — whose accolades include Queen City Nerve’s Best in the Nest 2020 award for best pop-punk band, while surpassing its impactful debut Sleep Year with the dazzling follow-up EP Flower Bed — is doing just that.
Petrov is premiering its first ever music video with Queen City Nerve today, a hybrid of performance and animation that lends a surrealist vibe to an introspective track.
The song “Outlier’ “is about feeling separated from your friend group,” says Petrov frontwoman and lyricist Mary Grace McKusick. “I have always have had the insecurity that all my ‘best friends’ didn’t see me as their ‘best friend.’”
McKusick’s lyrics may be introspective, but the accompanying music is energetic, with McKusick’s soaring vocals riding Syd Little and Mike Backlund’s careening post-punk guitars, Matt McConomy’s sidewinding bass and Garrett Herzfeld’s propulsive drums.
Flower Bed boasts a cache of powerful songs, including ethereal anthem “Pink Moon” and #Metoo clarion call “Keepers.” “Outlier” also packs an emotional wallop, but fans may wonder why it was chosen as the first video promoting Flower Bed. Or in fact, the first video ever released by Petrov.
According to drummer Herzfeld, the answer is simple enough.
“‘Outlier’ was the only song we had fully finished writing by the time this idea to do a video came to us,” Herzfeld says.
Given the challenge of shooting during the pandemic, the band vetoed the notion of making a story video, instead producing a performance video that would gather in intensity as the song gallops to the finish line.
Drawing on his background as a video editor, Herzfeld shot studio footage from the Flower Bed recording sessions at Archer Avenue Studio in Columbia in June. Herzfeld’s footage was then augmented with video his friend Rob Benjamin of Red Blanket Media shot of Petrov playing the Visulite Theatre in November. In addition, film director Devin Walker generously donated footage he filmed of Petrov’s rooftop drive-in gig at Abari Game Bar in June.
After cutting together the three high-energy performances of one of the band’s most confessional songs, the band thought they had a pretty good video. Then guitarist Little suggested something that would take it to the next level.
“Syd, who is a gifted illustrator, wanted to try his hand at animation, and we all thought adding some animated elements on top of the raw video would help make [the video] even more fun,” Herzfeld says.
In the completed video, as the band’s performance surges toward an epic conclusion, small bits of illustrated imagery give way to a full transition into a dreamscape. As Little steps on his guitar pedals in the video, the frame is transformed.
Rotoscoped animated versions of the band members power through the rooftop Abari performance as the scene blossoms with bold colors. The humorous and hallucinogenic sequence carries through to a shot at Archer Avenue where Herzfeld sprouts a flaming skull when viewed through a phone filter.
To ramp up to this inventive maelstrom of animating, Herzfeld added some surreal and stripped-down animation of his own to the rest of the video. Animated grace notes popping-up on the screen include hyperactive XO hugs and kisses, hovering question marks and cheerful Twitter bluebirds fluttering.
As McKusick’s impassioned singing brings “Outlier’ to a rousing close, her head abruptly explodes and her brain pops out.
The impassioned performance plus the slightly skewed humor of the animation balances the central dilemma of “Outlier”: the difficulty of interacting and feeling empathy with our fellow humans.
“I can’t relax indescribable/ feeling of my knuckles turning white/ on the wheel that drives me home alone every night”
Between yearning for connection and proudly asserting her individualism, it seems that by video’s end, McKusick has comes to terms with herself. She’s achieved a kind of integrated grace, even if it took spontaneous combustion to get there.
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