Explaining how the collaboration with critically acclaimed Julien Baker came to be, Ophelias vocalist and guitarist Spencer Peppet explains: “We met Julien for the first time in 2019 at a show we played in Nashville. She introduced herself and I tried to not show how nervous I was! About half a year into 2020 quarantine I worked up the nerve to ask if she wanted to feature on a song from the album we were working on. She recorded her parts in Tennessee and we talked virtually. Her harmonies reinvigorated the song completely: she added lightness, openness, but also depth and complexity. It’s incredibly cool that she put so much care into those parts.”
Filmed in such inspiring locations as the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, The Lodge KY in Kentucky, and the Valley View nature preserve, the band drew inspiration from everything from Twin Peaks to Joan of Arc for the song’s video. Wanting to play with ideas of literally letting one’s guard down, the video contrasts imagery inspired by photos of the group’s own personal icons-in-armour, including Lorde, Fiona Apple and Zendaya. There is also an influence of the darkness of Renaissance paintings and 1940’s film noir. All of this, set alongside neon lights adds a fitting, lurid intensity.
“After a relationship ended I would become obsessed with remembering every detail of the painful moments. I realized later that I don’t have to know what I was wearing or what song was playing to know that I was hurt deeply. I think “on high” means seeing someone as literally above you, better and cooler and more put together. I do love Neil Young, but in this case he represents a person, a time, a place.” – Spencer Peppet
After 2018’s critically acclaimed Almost, The Ophelias discovered a world beyond Cincinnati, but soon after the indie rock quartet craved a return to a much-missed sense of community. Now living in different cities, the band members had all graduated college, Shaffer joined as the new bassist, while Adams came out as transgender and started HRT. So once recording began on Crocus, The Ophelias purposefully focused on that experimental, communal spirit that fueled their first record. The result is a newfound, confident sound, bolstered by the growth and change the band has undergone. This shines through on Neil Young on High, where Peppet’s firefly vocals are wonderfully harmonized with Julien Baker’s.
“As a collective we cover a lot of musical ground, in that we individually listen to a wide range of music,” Mic Adams says. “There are differences in what the songs in Crocus mean to all of us, and we incorporate elements of ourselves and our own stylistic tendencies into each song.”
So much has transformed and been rebuilt that the Ophelias feel as if they’re reintroducing themselves to the world with their new music. “I had to wring this all out of my chest, and doing that is very vulnerable,” Peppet says. “But being in a band with such a strong sense of community, trust, care, and love makes that process a lot easier.”
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