Premiere: The Dark Fury of DENNY’s Unapologetic “Woke Up in the Hills”

DENNY © Poshboy
DENNY dwell in the dark side of desire on “Woke Up in the Hills,” beginning their next musical chapter with a chilling fever dream spiraling down to demise.
Stream: “Woke Up in the Hills” – DENNY


Followed the dark down to the deep end of her eyes…

It’s one thing to be driven by ambition, but another thing to let it take you over. DENNY dwell in the dark side of desire on “Woke Up in the Hills,” a chilling fever dream depicting the chaotic spiral down to demise. There’s no telling what we become when we succumb to our demons, but it isn’t pretty and it never ends well.

Woke Up in the Hills - DENNY

Woke Up in the Hills – DENNY

Followed the dark down
to the deep end of her eyes

She took my hand she said
jump in the water’s fine
She painted her fool
she pulled me in

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the POSHBOY-produced visual for “Woke Up in the Hills,” DENNY’s first single of 2019 and a recent Atwood Editor’s Pick. Released on April 5, “Woke Up in the Hills” is unlike anything we’ve heard from the Minneapolis-based trio of Alexander Rollins, Randon Nelson, and Sully in all their time together. DENNY began to hone in on a pulsing R&B-infused pop/rock sound over the past year, with songs like “Love Somebody with a Face Like You,” “she gonna eat your heart out,” and “Something Furious” emphasizing the specific importance of beat and ambience in their output.

With its dark, heavy bombast of clean electropop fury, “Woke Up in the Hills” marks the beginning of a new chapter for DENNY’s artistry.

The band have been experimenting with sounds for years now: This is, after all, the same group Atwood Magazine once referred to as a “perfect edgy mix between Radiohead and Led Zeppelin” (in our defense, listen to “Bloom” and tell us that’s not the perfect description). 2019’s DENNY has the fire of Freddie Mercury, the foreboding, sinister darkness of The Weeknd, and the theatricality of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

DENNY © Morgan Winston

DENNY © Morgan Winston

I traced the wine up to her lips
and read her mind

She slid the strap off
of her shoulder slowing time

She painted her fool she pulled me in

Overtly dramatic and overwhelmingly ominous, “Woke Up in the Hills” is meant to sound big and scary while at the same time presenting itself as an anthem for listeners to scream at the top of their lungs. “I had wanted to write a song about doomed self-infatuation for a while but dress it up romantically,” vocalist Alex Rollins tells Atwood Magazine, explaining how the band used the template of a James Bond theme song as this track’s blueprint.

Speaking to The Daily Listening, he recalled: “We brought the demo to LA with Eric Palmquist (Bad Suns, Night Riots) and it came to life while living in John Lennon’s old hideaway in Laurel Canyon.” Living in a space once inhabited by the late John Lennon sounds spooky enough, if not equally humbling and creatively inspiring. Rollins’ verses tell a personal “Hotel California”-meets-“Can’t Feel My Face” midnight fantasia, leading up to a standout pre-chorus and chorus that shine with startling might and resonance:

What pill is for taking?
What pill for faking it?
Bad me will come over
Good me won’t get over it
I woke up in the hills
I woke up in the hills
I woke up in the hills
Say what you wanna
I woke up in the hills

I woke up in the hills,” Rollins croons and cries, his voice evoking an impressive range of emotion with every repeated utterance. While we expect to feel fear and paranoia, it’s the terror in Rollins’ voice that send shivers down the spine. He captures the turmoil around this total loss of control, reminding the audience that breakdowns don’t happen in a vacuum, and it may be as terrifying for the “bad actor” as it is for those around them.

What’s most exciting about this latest iteration of DENNY is their unapologetic resolve. Here is a band that so deeply believe in themselves and in their artistry that they will stop at nothing to make music that speaks to them and their vision. “Woke Up in the Hills” is raw and unbound, and it’s now been unleashed on the world.

Stream the “Woke Up in the Hills” visual exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and catch up with DENNY in our interview below!

Stream: “Woke Up in the Hills” – DENNY

CATCHING UP WITH DENNY

Atwood Magazine: So much has changed for the band since “Bloom” released. Do you feel you could have made a song like “Woke Up In The Hills” back in 2016?

DENNY: We could’ve made a song like “Woke Up In The Hills” while in our respective cribs; it just took us a while to find the right arrangement. And we couldn’t have done it without our dear friend Eric Palmquist at the helm, pushing us to be our favorite band.

What is the significance of “WUITH” to you as a band, and why is it your first release of this year?

Alex Rollins: I’ve been writing about me from ages 18-21. The next few releases are inspired (exaggerated and romanticized) by those tumultuous years. The first step in our grand vision for DENNY starts by following “the dark down.” It was an energizing anthem for us while we made it. We loved the song before we even recorded a note.

Early on I described this song as a “dark, heavy bombast of clean electropop fury.” Can you talk about what, if anything, you were going for in penning and then recording this track? What was its inspiration?

Rollins: We wanted to make a James Bond theme song. I wrote the song in one night and we did a demo about a week before we left for Los Angeles to go record a bunch of songs and it was the cherry on top of the batch we were bringing, it brought all of the new songs together. I had wanted to write a song about doomed self-infatuation for a while but dress it up romantically.

Similarly, what inspired this music video?

Rollins: We’ve actually shot a few videos for this song that will eventually come out. We couldn’t seem to get it right so on a flight to LA in March to record even more new music, I just wrote the treatment in about 15 minutes after deciding it was time we made a suspense visual. It’s inspired partly by The Others and partly by The Hills Have Eyes. We shot it in one day in the same building as our rehearsal space in Minnesota and on a gravel road next to my dad’s (the original Denny) house.

The video, to me, feels like one giant fever dream. From your perspective, is the music video a stand-alone entity or is it a means of better understanding the song?

DENNY: It’s a means of better understanding the song for sure. The song has a lot to do with being kidnapped by ambition and that leading to some sort of demise. It’s a repetitive fever dream from some deeply personal ideas.

Each of you really plays “your heart out” in this song... Can all three of you share perhaps what you’re most proud of about your own performance in this song? Whatever first comes to mind!

Rollins: I have to pass on my performance and give it to Randon getting so into his role as my kidnapper that I bruised a rib when he slammed me down on the snowbank.

Randon Nelson: Mine would have to be while filming the video. I was put into a dark and sinister role which is the total opposite of my personality. I remember banging on my steering wheel trying to jump into the psyche of a character that I didn’t fully understand, and just rolling with it. After wrapping, Alex’s wife Louise looked at me with a sideways glance and said, “Who knew you had that in you?” Not me.

Sully: I love how massive and enveloping the beat becomes as it builds dynamically. It begins with soft-spoken percussive snaps and moves into deep, heavy hits and swung rhythms. I love how it feels when I listen to it, but I’m especially excited with how we’ve been able to translate it into our live performance. By combining luscious samples with thunderous drum sounds, I’m proud that we have been able to breathe so much energy into this song, both on the record and in our live set.

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Woke Up in the Hills - DENNY

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com