Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pirates and Vikings and fashion? Oh my!

What is wrong with the trends if Vikings and pirates are in style? Nothing! It's like it is Halloween everyday of the year. All of fall 2007 and winter 2008, ads have been lined with the new skinny jean and high, pointy boots.

Sound familiar? Add a parrot and an eye patch and you practically have a nifty, modern pirate costume. There are subtle trends that are gracing the pages of fashion magazines; looks that are "inspired" by pirates or Vikings.

Those looks have cute, anorexic looking "pirates" (models) on planks with mist and stuffed parrots on their shoulders. The Viking models are similarity posed with furry boots and clothes that have been ripped on purpose to look like an accident*.

Let’s be real, pirates were dudes that pillaged and had scurvy and Vikings were barbaric to say the least. Yet did the chicken come first or the egg? Were pirates and Vikings introduced through the music scene first or was it a fashion statement before it was anything else?

(Sidebar* There is something that my parents have instilled in me and that is the fact that paying for ripped jeans is completely idiotic. Same thing goes for jackets, t-shirts, long get the picture)

In fact, I am not the only person that thinks this way. It is known in the fashion world that the punk trends have stemmed from a 66-year-old designer named Viviane Westwood.

She has recently been quoted saying that she would not even pay for clothes with holes in them. Despite the fact that she is a slave to fashion, she does not succumb to poor quality, although some of her designs have had intentional fades and rips, she has to cater to her audiences.

There has to be a certain element of the sell out factor that occurs when you start to see everyday people dressing as pirates and Vikings. But what's even worse than the unsuspecting, suburban teen that is getting their fashion ideas from places like MySpace, are the bands that are using this fashion "statement" if one would even call it that, to sell themselves.

Fashion prostitution to sell music. Some musicians do it as a joke. But how far are they taking the joke? Are men dressing up in drag a joke to someone? The boys in Death Boat seem to think so.

You will need a mental picture/disclaimer of the live show that accompanies this band, to go with this interview They’ve got silly names, "special” costumes, two drummers, and baroque metal tracks with titles like “Dungeons and Drag Queens and Lesbian Tsunami” that tell the tale of how the Death Boat came to be.

Okay, so it sounds kinda gay, but the music is so epic that it actually made me want to run through the streets defiantly punching the air for the whole afternoon. They are one of the best things to come out of the Montreal “punk” (pirate rock) scene in the last three years. Though they still claim they are not pirates.

"Who said we are pirates? We didn't say that."

"We'll there are seven dudes in a band, one of which is dressed up as an ugly woman. Are you gay?" I asked them outright.

"What? No. It's like this. There’s like two different boats. We got some friends on our boat. There’s Slappy and me, there’s Balls McGee and The Admiral, Skullfucker, and he’s on our boat now. And the Old School Lady, she’s a little clingy. The other boat has like BoneFace, he’s a jerk, and like, Skippy, he’s kinda weird."

Moppy and Slappy went on to talk about how there is a person in the band that is a sexual predator. There is no doubt in my mind that none of these insane guys are sexual predators.

Alcoholics perhaps but not sexual predators. And they are definitely not fashionistas by any means. Which brings me to the conclusion that they weren’t the ones to make pirate rock cool. But if it wasn’t them, who was it?

Even if you are lame and hate metal, watching these guys trip all over themselves while laying down flaming guitar licks and singing “Double team, it's the punch line/Cut me in, my bone's ready for sex-time/I dock the boat right on the beach/The Captain's first we get one time each.” is pretty spectacular.

So where does this influence from pirates come from? It makes sense to me, men wanting to be even manlier and what’s more manly than Pirate? Or a Capitan that runs the open sea? This whole trend seems to be a macho, chest banging extravaganza to some extent.

And what about the Vikings? That would be a question for a Swedish band called Amon Amarth, who call themselves Viking Metal.

The members Amon Amarth are from Tumba, a suburb outside of Stockholm. They write about Viking things and look like scary Viking men that you would never want to end up on a ship with. In their press photo their faces wear scowls that match the angry glare of the weapons they have in their hands.

If you took a picture of one of the guys in AA and compared it to a runways model from the 2007 fall collections, the similarities in attire would be slightly uncanny.

They don’t make trips to Montreal very often and were unable for an interview, so I am hesitant to make an educated judgment on whether their stage show is as up to par as any metal band out there.

The only thing barbaric about AA is their look and their lyrics. There is nothing written about their stage performance including biting heads off chickens, or something that may fall into that category.

They take themselves a little more seriously than Death Boat does, as far as bands with rockin themes goes. Who knows if this is a good thing or a bad thing? I can tell you one thing, they show commitment. Commitment to the history or the Viking culture, the fashion, the names and even an element of history is included in the music.

Though it is doubtful that Viking metal counts as a category of music or fashion for that matter, there is something seemingly authentic about these Swedes. Perhaps it is the commitment, or maybe the professionalism that they use pull off this look.

Their website is done up to the nines with bizarre, metal-esque looking graphics that scream “Viking Lore” to anyone that visits the site.

If bands need to tap into fashion and history to sell their music to a new audience, by all means go ahead. Marketing has sky rocketed to another level of creativeness when it comes to packaging. Stage performances and fashion were bound to follow.

AA has over seven albums out with a record deal that has three more releases in the future. Death Boat claims to have started as a joke and now they are playing local awards shows and traveling to Quebec City.

Other bands are popping up all over the map, in places like Philadelphia, Norway and beyond. Pirate Rock and Viking Metal are officially categories of music and they are as die hard as anything else I have heard as a sub genre since I could walk.

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