Darkbird Gets Down With Its Bad Self

Austin quintet goes crazy channeling Prince

I think God is in the third row. He wants to go crazy. And I think he would follow you to hell,” blazes Darkbird frontwoman Kelly Barnes, strutting vocally with stadium-sized charisma over a trio of cauterizing power chords.

Kelly Barnes in “Bad Self”

Darkbird at its most swaggering, sonic, and sweaty can be glimpsed in the video for “Bad Self,” from an end-of-summer 7-inch single dished by the Austin quintet. The clip finds the group collaborating again with John Valley, the actor/filmmaker known for making wondrously twisted music videos for Sweet Spirit and Whiskey Shivers. The last time Darkbird and Valley crossed paths, on last year’s “All There is” video, the director portrayed Barnes as a repressed housewife slowly transforming into a spider.

A departure from such conceptual mindfuckery, the “Bad Self” visuals zero in on Darkbird’s exuberant stage ritual, wherein its extroverted front woman sweats her makeup into Rorschach-like smears as the song grows more intense. Barnes reveals that the track, which hangs on the sassed-up refrain “Come on with your bad self,” was written about Prince in the days following his death last year. Knowing that, lyrical references to the Purple One, specifically “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and “I Would Die 4 U,” hide like Easter eggs in the song’s lyrics.

“I wrote the song as an ode to Prince, because if anybody’s coming with his bad self, it’s him, this weird little guy who took the world by storm,” offers Barnes, a lifelong admirer of the funky Minnesotan, and a disciple whose take-no-prisoners live presence evokes her musical hero. “I wouldn’t say I specifically channeled him in this video since I’ve channeled him my whole career, the way he demanded everyone’s attention onstage and how much he gave to the audience. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“Bad Self” and endearing, mid-tempo B-side “Daredevil,” are out now. Darkbird lays low until Free Week when they get busy with shows at Hotel Vegas (Jan. 3), Mohawk (Jan. 6), and Empire (Jan. 7). Check out the “Bad Self” clip:

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Darkbird, Kelly Barnes, John Valley, Prince, Sweet Spirit, Whiskey Shivers

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