A passionate dramatization fueled by old dreams of young flames, DENNY’s intense “Girls Like You” is as tongue-in-cheek as it is serious.
Minneapolis trio DENNY leave a lot up to interpretation in their new (and only) single release of 2017. A passionate dramatization fueled by old dreams of young flames, “Girls Like You” is as tongue-in-cheek as it is serious, an intense exploration of unresolved feelings that both do and don’t belong.
I first saw you on a dark night
You had your hair in a part to the side
Perfumed by champagne and cigarettes
Ask me if I’m here by myself
I remember that you loved him
We’ve got no concern for predicaments
You taste like champagne and cigarettes
Ask me if I’m here by myself
Watch: “Girls Like You” – Denny
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music video for DENNY’s latest, highly anticipated single “Girls Like You.” It’s been over a year and a half since the band’s last release “Bloom” put them on our radar; at the time, we dubbed this group an Artist to Watch, and the label still holds true for 2018 – which we hope will bear many more releases from the trio, now comprised of Alexander Rollins (vocals, keys, guitar), Randon Nelson and Sully (drums).
While “Bloom” evoked comparisons to Radiohead and Led Zeppelin, “Girls Like You” is closer in line with The 1975, Nightly or The Band CAMINO, yet the song itself is unlike anything either band has actually released. Propelled forward by a warm, pulsing and ambient soundscape, the song centers around Rollins’ incredibly emotive voice – a tool he flexes like an acrobat, dancing through vibrant melodies and swooping proclamations as he tells his complex tale.
I think this night
Is playing tricks on our hearts
Your eyes so bright
Behind a cigarette spark
We’re wasting time
don’t stop to think this through
I’ve got a thing for girls like you
“I wrote ‘Girls Like You’ originally as a poem several years ago,” Rollins tells Atwood Magazine. “When I was 18 years old there was this girl who would go away every summer to France and I was essentially obsessed with her. I must’ve written that poem after spending time with her after she came home, because six years later (last year) when I was pillaging an old notebook for scraps of inspiration from my the things I went through at that age, I found this poem scattered in the margins of the notebook. The brief poem was:
I first saw you on a dark night with your hair in a part to the side.
Perfumed by champagne and cigarettes you asked me, “Are you here by yourself?”
“At that age my parents were getting divorced, Sully’s parents were getting divorced, we had just started college and our first band. The girl in the story would frequently tell me that being with me was like being alone. She’d say, ‘it’s like you’re here by yourself.’ Maybe that poem was a taunt or a plea, I don’t know. So I guess when I sing, ‘ask me if I’m here by myself,’ I’m hoping for some validation that I’m not like that anymore.” There’s something romantic and charming about Rollins’ story. Coated with the perspective that only the future can give you, he seems to look back on the past with wistful fondness, and perhaps some resentment and doubt. Is “Girls Like You” playing up something to be bigger than it really felt at the time? Is it perhaps minimizing the influence of other factors, simplifying a story that has far too many sides for a single song?
Or is it just a love song from someone who didn’t know better then, and doesn’t know any better now?
The DENNY singer continues his reflection: “I’m 25 now and when I discovered that poem last year, I ended up writing the rest of the song in about ten minutes. I got my phone out and made a little voice note playing the three repeating notes on the intro with the progression underneath. I had the verses but no chorus until I went back to that old notebook in desperation, hoping teenage Alex had left a chorus in there for me. and then in big letters, scrawled across two pages at the back of the notebook: I THINK THIS NIGHT IS PLAYING TRICKS ON OUR HEARTS. Pure sarcasm behind that probably, a scathing review of everyone close to me while I was going through hard shit with my nose up and a cold shoulder. It was intense to process the emotions I felt 7 years earlier with the bit of perspective that time brings. The champagne and cigarettes were literal but they mean something totally different to me now. The song is bittersweet for me. The youthful, reckless abandonment was escapism. But, I didn’t know that then.
“DENNY is the persona of me at that age. A punk-ass, upper middle class, white, suburban kid who wasn’t about to wrestle any demons. DENNY’s mode of introspection comes with a fat shrug and a nose up at self-infatuated, retrospective soliloquies. That was me then. And so the duality of the music is, as our manager puts it, an emotional Band-Aid coming off.” Spoken like someone who took 18 months to put out another single. Writers be warned: When an artist sits with a song too long, s/he gets far too comfortable with and outspoken about the content.
It’s lovely to be twenty-three,
Drunk on the summer night heat
Your body’s playing me on repeat
On this moonlit night
Still together in the dark lake
You taught me how to misbehave
We sing with champagne and cigarettes
Ask me if I’m here by myself
Directed by Grant Spanier, DENNY’s “Girls Like You” music video is an evocative visual that captures the song’s dynamic spirit while expanding its scope. An uncredited actress plays the lead role of unnamed subject and object: Over the course of the video, we watch her character expand through subtle glances, actions and indulgences. But our sight doesn’t go far enough, so while we see beyond what she is, who she still remains a mystery.
The plot thickens to the point of intrigue, giving us more questions than answers, but perhaps for the understanding that many roses and their petals were lost in the making of this film – and that Alexander Rollins is still seeking answers to the things that drove him seven years ago. As a fellow twenty-five year old, I can attest to the fact that, while so much changes as we grow into young adults, who we are – our core – still remains the same. The fires that drive us continue to burn, and while some slowly lose their gleam over time, they’re still lurking underneath the surface. When Rollins looks back into a former version of himself through “Girls Like You,” the darkest driving force of the song isn’t the loneliness, solitude or abandonment he felt back then – rather, it’s the fear that this is still who he is, however many years, stories and experiences later.
When he sings, “I’ve got a thing for girls like you,” we wonder if he’d still go after her today, fueled by the same motives and external forces.
That’s the beauty of a song: “Girls Like You” makes us think and really reflect. It allows us to connect our thoughts, emotions and experiences to others’ thoughts, emotions and experiences – an intimate sharing of the self that we are not always given to. Whether or not it’s serious or tongue-in-cheek, DENNY’s “Girls Like You” is passionate and subtle, beautiful and moving. It’s the coming-of-age song for a band that’s ready for the big time, provided they at least give us an EP in the next 12 months.
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photo © Grant Spanier