Based on singer Jake Duzsik’s lyrics, most would assume that the latest Health album was written during the death throes of a romantic entanglement. This is suggested by the refrain of the despairing “Stonefist”, where Duzsik sings “And we both know, love’s not in our hearts,” and by “Dark Enough”, which poses such devastating questions as “We cheat/Why not?” and “Does it make a difference if it’s real/As long as I still say I love you?”
Reached en route to Toronto, Health bassist-percussionist John Famiglietti warns against reading too much into the words on Death Magic, which is the Los Angeles–based quartet’s third proper album. The lyrics, he notes, were written to fit with the feel of the music, and they give the listener something to connect with. They shouldn’t be mistaken for entries in Duzsik’s diary.
“It’s not like he came home and he was like, ‘I’ve got to get this off my chest. This song’s about this,’ ” Famiglietti says. “It’s not like that. It’s not necessarily personal or about shit he’s gone through that day.”
Famiglietti will allow, however, that extra thought went into the words this time around, mostly because they ended up being more audible than ever before. Health has been classified as a noise-rock act, and while Death Magic delivers a major dose of sheet-metal disco and electronic squall, the melodic elements have been brought to the fore. The end product skews closer to Bear in Heaven’s dreamy synth-rock than it does to Liars’ confrontational sonic assault, but fans of both will find much to love.
In addition to his musical duties, Famiglietti has taken on the task of directing several of Health’s videos, including the notably gory one for 2009’s “Die Slow”, which includes a seething mosh pit of revellers who end up writhing around in a maelstrom of their own blood and thrashing limbs. He’s a talented filmmaker with an eye for the grotesque, but he doesn’t necessarily enjoy the process.
“It’s a pain in the ass,” the bassist states bluntly. “It’s never, like, a good way to make money or anything. We do it because we care about the band. I do like the videos I’ve done, but they are really stressful. And they’re really expensive, for what they are. That’s also what drives me nuts about videos.”
One recent Famiglietti-directed video, for the Death Magic track “New Coke”, features slo-mo shots of members of the group puking profusely. The director reveals that the barf was all real, and was produced by having the vomiters chug copious volumes of milk. He may complain about the stress of shooting and the laboriousness of editing videos, but at least Famiglietti dodged the worst job of all on the set of “New Coke”, that of mopping up the milky chunder.
“We helped a little bit, but I really need to give a shout-out to the producer of the video, Daniel Christiansen,” the bassist says. “That poor guy literally cleaned up our puke off the floor while we were shooting.”
Health plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Monday (December 7).