Cautionary Tales and Calls to Action: Five Themes of Power Trip's 'Nightmare Logic'

Cautionary Tales and Calls to Action: Five Themes of Power Trip's 'Nightmare Logic'
Photo: Sarah Churchill
Power Trip's new album Nightmare Logic (out now on Southern Lord) is a thrashy whirlwind of sound — but in the chaos lie some stark commentary and deep anxieties regarding the tumultuous state of the world. Vocalist Riley Gale gave some insight to Exclaim! regarding the themes of the record, expanding on the meaning behind songs that act simultaneously as cautionary tales and calls to action.
1.The state of the world is like a surreal horror movie.
"Here's the overarching theme of Nightmare Logic — it's this phrase I took to describe certain horror movies, ones that have a lot of surrealist qualities where you can't really tell the difference between dreams and reality," Gale explains. "So it's like we're living in this waking nightmare and it's come to the point where every day something awful happens and I'm left questioning everything. Like this is seriously the reality we live in and I'm not in some fucking insane Matrix-type situation where my reality is my worst nightmare? This album is me sort of learning how to adopt an attitude to survive in this sort of nightmarish world."
2. Nightmare Logic is not only about adapting, but fighting back.
"In a lot of these dreams, you run from the big bad monster, the Freddy Kruger or what have you, but in these dream logic movies, the protagonist uses the dream element against their enemy. In my mind, we've been conditioned into this nightmarish world and it's time to figure out the logic of how this is happening and turn it into a weapon. We have to figure out how to navigate the world that we're in right now. We've had generations of these politicians and cops devaluing human life and we've hit such a low point that no one cares when horrible things happen anymore, and now it's created this monster — you have these alt-right people complaining about anti-fascist protesters punching Richard Spencer and talking about violence, but they made us this way. They conditioned us into this, and now they don't like it? They don't want a taste of their own medicine? Fuck them, that's what we're here to do. They can hide behind their fancy rhetoric and their lies, but we know they're war-mongering, lying pieces of shit."
3. People have become jaded and aren't trying hard enough to fix our state of crisis.
"I don't listen to a lot of country, but I love that song 'Waiting Around to Die' by Townes Van Zandt. It's really about a guy falling in love with codeine by the last verse, and he just says he's content to get high and wait around to die. I feel like a lot of people are doing that exact same thing, not necessarily on drugs but maybe with TV and entertainment. That's what 'Executioner's Tax' is about too, people are just complacent and looking around for a comfortable way out. They don't really care about the future, they don't really care about building a better world, so it's just like we're waiting around to die. But that's my response to it, kind of turning it on its head. Whether there is a god or not, just be good. You can either create or destroy and I would rather build."
4. If we're to make any progress, we'll have to rebuild from the ground up.
"Ruination is my fantasy of wiping the whole system out and building from scratch — handing it over to the people. Now that sounds like some heavy socialist stuff, but that's not what I mean — I'm no communist or anything. I can just acknowledge that there are so many aspects of our system that are completely fucked up and I just think we've been focusing on the wrong things. I don't have all the answers, but I can tell you right away, there are a bunch of things we can be doing to make the world a better place that would create jobs. If we focused our infrastructure on the right things instead of building war machines, raping the land for oil and things like that we could build something that works. I believe in it."
5. At the end of the day, there's still a silver lining.
"It does get very dark but there is a sense of optimism in the songs, where I believe that we have the ability to overcome that as humans. We are the dominant species because of our ability to adapt, but I feel like we're starting to abandon that sense. Everything has to be black and white, one way or the other, and it's going to kill us if we keep having these little pouting fits over not being able to compromise and change. If people woke up tomorrow and had a simultaneous epiphany, if everybody could just understand that we're not going anywhere and that we're not colonising space anytime soon, things would change. Now with globalisation, the world is smaller than ever. If everyone could wake up and realise that love is better than hate and we have to respect our earth and other humans, then the rest will come. That's why this is a political band, because this is my way of activism in a sense. If I can influence people to look at something in a different light, or pick up a book, or at least question some of the norms that they're used to, then I've done my job."
Check out Power Trip on their Canadian tour; upcoming dates include March 8 in Montreal, March 9 in Ottawa, March 10 in Toronto and April 1 in Vancouver.