Though released about four years apart under separate projects, two covers from Zach Ellis feel oddly appropriate for the current climate
It’s safe to say Dead Tooth’s Zach Ellis didn’t foresee our current situation, but if you were to pluck two tracks from the artist’s catalogue—one that came together in a Colorado trailer in 2016 and one recorded in Brooklyn and released today—it might feel like it.
The newest from Dead Tooth, “Staying Alive” is a dark, creeping cover—a major departure from the disco grooves and John Travolta moves one associates with the Bee Gees’ original track—featuring backing vocals from fantastic Ashjesus frontwoman Emily Ashenden.
Over email (NOT IRL DON’T WORRY), Zach explained how the cover came together—an idea that, while it feels eerily on-point for these times, was not a product of prescience, but a project he’d been thinking about taking on for years.
“I can’t really take complete credit for covering ‘Staying Alive.’ Definitely not my idea. Springsteen did a terribly cheesy live version of it that my dad showed me once and there’s plenty of hokey folk covers just a Google search away. For me, Stephen Steinbrink’s (Phoenix indie artist French Quarter) version showed me the pain and struggle in the song. He earnestly fingerpicked an acoustic version at a house show in Bushwick about 10 years ago and it put the lyrics under a magnifying glass for me. The longer I lived in New York, the more I felt like covering it myself but in a doomier, more apocalyptic way. Industrial, angry and abrasive like the city can feel sometimes. Deciding to cover it had nothing to do with the current epidemic though it feels relevant as hell to release it right now.”
As for “Isolation,” well, Zach’s intent wasn’t to push this older Joy Division cover, which features his friend doing the synth line on trumpet and was created under a previous project (The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman), but once I found out it existed, wellll… I couldn’t help but share this one too.
“Isolation was a cover single I did with my friend Nic Lawless in Colorado years ago,” Zach told me last night *via internet*. “We were both bumming pretty hard and living alone. He was living in a yurt and me in a trailer and both sadly single. His friend Josh Barnes had conceptualized the idea of an A/B side cover single called ‘Isolation’ and we made it happen. Also feels pretty relevant considering.”
Check out “Staying Alive” on Bandcamp NOW and consider hitting that ‘buy’ button today, when all proceeds go straight to artists’ pockets.
While this social distancing thing is tough, it definitely helps to have a solid soundtrack.
Feature image (provided by the artist): Michael Busse