They Are Gutting A Body Of Water | photo by Julia Lieby | @julia.leiby | courtesy of the artist
Inside the warped reality of Philly’s They Are Gutting A Body of Water
Cryptic lyrics, shadowy shoegaze, and a crushing sadness are elements of They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, the fascinating Philly experimental indie outfit. Still, this ambiguity only adds to the band’s allure.
“I’m big on things being really strange and mysterious to the point where it doesn’t exactly make sense in a literal way,” TAGABOW said in an interview. “Sometimes a song means something, or sometimes it means nothing at all. Sometimes it’s just bullshit.”
This concept of being simultaneously cryptic and confessional began on 2018’s gestures been, and bleeds into their follow-up, Destiny xl, which was released a year later. The album was mostly recorded at a former house show venue in West Philly called All Nite Diner with the help of friends.
It was during this time TAGABOW read Neuromancer by William Gibson, and became enamored with cyberpunk and artificial intelligence. They also started getting into breakcore/jungle, a form of electronic dance music that emerged out of 90s drum and bass. All of which felt like the future, TAGABOW said.
At first, you’d be tempted to think this mysticism extends into lyrics, that everything has some apocalyptic undertone like we’ve seen the future and know that the end is near. The constant references to sleep, death, and dreams woven throughout the album feel like an intentional avoidance of consciousness. However, the majority of TAGABOW’s songs are rooted in a warped form of reality.
“I think that’s what inspires me the most, relationships and friendships and how humans interact with one another,” TAGABOW said. “I don’t believe in ghosts. I think that humans are the real monsters of the world.”
Originally released in 2019, TAGABOW decided to re-release the album in collaboration with Citrus City Records in 2021. Instead of the string of vignettes that gestures been is comprised of, Destiny xl is more cohesive and captures the time in which it was written, TAGABOW said.
Despite being a sonic blur, Destiny xl has this eerie ability to elicit hyper-specific feelings that blindside you. While the vocals are often hard to decipher, the deluge of distortion is enough to make you shatter. For TAGABOW, burying vocals is a stylistic choice, evoking the likes of My Bloody Valentine.
Sometimes TAGABOW’s writing is straightforward, like the trance-inducing chanting of “what a curse to be anybody’s anything” on “fake twenty.” For the most part, though, the vulnerability is veiled like on “violence one,” which recounts watching two kids crush a snake at age six.
“It was the first time I felt guilty for being alive in spite of something having to die,” said TAGABOW. “I think the song kind of reflects on that. It also makes me remember a lot of my friends who died. It’s about people who carry on and feeling this guilt about having my own life still carry on.”
TAGABOW often comes to these sobering realizations by focusing on intimate and seemingly random details. They create devastating symbolism out of things that don’t make sense on the surface, like falling asleep to the music of someone brushing their teeth or describing a former partner ice skate on “eightball.”
“The whole thing about ‘I know what it feels like / when you are the ice skater’ was because she grew up skating, so it was cool to watch her skate really fast on the ice, and I sucked at it,” TAGABOW says. “So it’s like I know what it feels like when you’re doing way better and I’m not doing well.”
Each song seems to have a hidden meaning that you could spend hours decoding. However, the magic of TAGABOW lies in their mysticism. They’re not for you to figure out. They’re meant to be a homage to the unknown, to the visceral, and to the things that haunt us.
TAGABOW will be touring with waveform* this week, including a show at Haus of Yarga on tonight. Tickets will be available at the door.