Certain topics will always make a song easily relatable: desire, heartbreak, jealousy. Perhaps less discussed, though sadly nearly as universal -- especially for women -- is some experience with abuse, violence or trauma.
That commonality has become even more apparent to Shannon Harney, lead singer of San Francisco indie-pop trio Be Calm Honcho, following the release of the band's music video for their new single, "Bad Man." The video, which premiered on Clash Music earlier this week, depicts a lone woman going through an initiation ritual of sorts on a baseball diamond; the intricate dance performed by her attackers has a grace and subtlety all its own.
Harney originally penned the song about her brother, who's currently serving a jail term. But she's since found that the song's themes, as well as the video, have resonated far beyond her personal story.
"The form of this song that I sing at my shows is about my family, my story," Harney writes in an email. "[But] the form of this song that resonates with our fans is their own, equally complicated and worthy of its own narrative. Kathleen Dycaico (choreographer), Pete Lee (director) and I developed the initiation ritual of a woman breaking through the ties that bound her to trauma, we imagined the women conducting the rites would have been initiants once themselves; a foundational faction of women who had also 'gone through the fire' to the other side."
As for the symbolism of the baseball diamond, Harney explains that her father is a diehard baseball player and coach as well as a lifelong Giants fan, and her brother grew up sharing and emulating that passion. As such, "The baseball diamond has an explicit masculinity about it, and served as the arena where my brother played out a lot of his conflicting lives," she says. "I wanted to reclaim that space for the women who sit on the sidelines in silent turmoil while their brothers, fathers, partners unreel their dark side."
Harney adds that the band has gotten a lot of feedback about the "intensity" of the video, with some calling the violence "shocking." She sees where that's coming from -- but says the duality of grace meeting violence was intentional. "This song is an anthem of solidarity, it is about 'getting in formation,' creating alliances and elevating each other. That process is beautiful to witness and can also be excruciating to execute. We wanted to capture that dynamic in the film."
Be Calm Honcho's next local show is Sunday, Nov. 13 at the Hotel Utah Saloon.