Over the past few years, post-punk outfit Rosegarden Funeral Party has made a name for itself as one of Dallas’ most hyped “it” bands of the 2010s. Sadly, the momentum its members have spent the past three years steadily cultivating was abruptly stymied by COVID-19’s merciless economic onslaught against the music industry.
“The whole purpose of the band is to bring people together and to create an atmosphere of tolerance, understanding, kindness and acceptance,” says vocalist Leah Lane. “We can’t do that when we’re locked down in a pandemic.”
The outbreak could not have happened at a less opportune time. First, the band was planning to move to Los Angeles and prepared to say goodbye to Dallas with a procession of funeral-themed parties.
At the end of 2019, Rosegarden Funeral Party signed a deal with Brooklyn talent agency Rocky Road Touring, whose roster includes a who’s-who of goth stalwarts such as Killing Joke, Peter Murphy and Diamanda Galas. The agency’s cofounder, Andrew Harper, managed to successfully book a fall 2019 and spring 2020 tour for his latest discovery, but the coronavirus decided to hit just as he packaged them on tours with other bands on his roster, such as Pigface and Ringo Deathstarr.
Rosegarden Funeral Party was even tentatively scheduled to open a leg for Rocky Road’s biggest act, Bauhaus.
“That’s taken a massive toll on us,” Lane says with a sigh. “As a band, we get a lot out of playing live.”
While some of Rosegarden Funeral Party’s tours are rescheduled for next year, the band has managed to play a handful of livestreams for local venues such as Three Links and Double Wide in Deep Ellum. They also managed to overcome significant quarantine-related hurdles in recording their At the Stake EP.
At the Stake finds Rosegarden Funeral Party expounding on their signature brand of Goth and post-punk, with earmarks ranging from Lane’s Siouxsie Sioux-esque vocal performances to the instrumentation, which recalls trailblazers of the 2000s post-punk revival such as Interpol.
The EP deviates from the band’s previous output in Lane’s remarkably dark, introspective takes on the end of a tumultuous, abusive relationship. This much is evident on the opening track, “Fear of Feeling Nothing,” which, as Lane often jokes, is “about just that.”
“I didn’t feel anything when I sang anymore about him,” she says of her ex. “I was totally on autopilot … everything felt so robotic, and it scared the crap out of me.”
The cut makes for a hell of an opening statement, and it transitions flawlessly into the release’s two promotional singles, “Tortured Decline” and “Salvation and Saving Face.” The former is a letter to her former love interest, and it opens with the surprisingly pensive lyrical passage, “I'm sorry for some of the things I said / And others I don't feel bad at all / I worry because I don't feel bad at all / Is that a problem or is it fine / Is this psychosis only mine?”
On the track “Justification,” the album departs from its apologetic tendencies and delves into an attitude that is as “mean” (Lane’s way of describing it) as it is self-aware.
“That song is dedicated to everyone who asked me when I would stop writing about my ex-boyfriend,” she says with a laugh.
In a stark, emotional contrast, the closing track “Ghost of You” ends the EP on a bittersweet note, a mood which is further accented as Aaron Mireles of Sub-Sahara harmonizes with Lane on the refrain, “If this is goodbye / I’ve got some things to get off my mind / If this is goodbye / I’ve got some things I don’t want to die with by my side.”
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As one could readily infer from the lyrical content, Lane was in a rather dark place as she wrote this song.
“I was feeling really alone and really trapped in my own head, and all I wanted to do was talk to somebody back home, and I knew I couldn’t, because everybody was asleep,” she says.
“I got really nostalgic for everyone I’ve ever known, and I realized just how much of an impact everyone that I’ve ever met has had on me, whether it was a good relationship, a bad relationship, whether it ended well or it didn’t… It didn’t matter; they brought me to this moment.”
Rosegarden Funeral Party’s EP At the Stake is available for streaming now via Bandcamp. In celebration of Juneteenth, the streaming platform is donating the proceeds of its June 19 revenue share to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.