I’m going to try to explain the band Drakkar Sauna to you, somehow convince you to go buy a copy of their outer space themed album “20009,” and maybe sketch out some brief notions of the relationships between seriousness and satire, earnestness and irony. And, of course, the simple appeal of willfully obscure inventiveness.
Drakkar Noir is a cologne, in case you aren’t familiar with it. I associate it with a certain fraternity-to-law school, bro-friendly culture, but I have never knowingly smelled it. I’m just running on sitcom punch lines here. What is the link between the band Drakkar Sauna and the fragrance? The band is a duo, Jeff Stolz and Wallace Cochran, out of Kansas, who perform country music in a sort of backwoods, close harmony, touch of bluegrass style. Think maybe one of Dolly Parton’s more explicitly Appalachian songs.
This information is almost everything I know about them. The band has a vanishingly small Web presence by my modern standards. They do have a Facebook page, but no Twitter or Instagram account. They don’t even have a Wikipedia page. Whether you find this intriguing or not may depend on your relationship to your smartphone. I don’t know if the name is a joke, or just an example of the word salad approach to band names.
I’ve mentioned that this is a country band. If you want proof of their country-western bona fides, they’ve also released an album where they play nothing but covers of songs by the Louvin Brothers, those earnest gospel singers, strange enough in their own way, behind songs like “Satan is Real” and “The Weapon of Prayer.” And if you’re looking for something a little more straightforward or traditional, I highly suggest you check it out.
But as for me, dial up the strangeness. Vocally, Drakkar Sauna borrows a lot from the Louvin Brothers’ sweet vocal harmonies. Lyrically, they’ve adopted all the apocalyptic weightiness but spun it in a much different direction. There isn’t, it should be said, much light at the end of these tunnels, at least not for the characters involved. For you the listener, however, the whole thing is pretty frequently amusing.
Consider the song “Von Braun at Nuremburg (For Mort Sahl),” whose chorus borrows the old saw, describing Von Braun, “I aim for the stars / but sometimes I hit London.” Funny, if you’re not within the blast radius. These songs seem, on first glance, wryly amusing or only semi-serious, but that joking tone, like the band DEVO, is concealing a deep, searching critical faculty.
And on top of that, they’re just great, great songwriters. “What a Grateful Position This Island Assumes,” my current favorite track, exemplifies this. It describes a group of future colonists, convinced of their superiority over us poor saps from the past, but as it goes on their worldview just gets stranger and stranger. They have “one hundred and forty ways to say amputee.” Their “word for axe means love,” and their “word for loss means love.” Among others.
So this is Drakkar Sauna’s “20009”: cutting wit, classic country-western sounds of the old school, and an obsession with rockets and outer space. Pair it with a reread of “Gravity’s Rainbow” and you’ll be all set for one of the strangest trips available.
• Simon Sizer is the legal and obituary clerk at the Yakima Herald-Republic. He’s constantly prattling on about music, so we gave him this column. It runs every two weeks.