The allegory of the song

"Bonfire of the Vanities"

Bonfire of the Vanities: I was intrigued by the title though its relationship to the lyric is allegorical and not necessarily a narrative of the historical event. However, as with everything in this project, it began with the music.

In the developmental phase of writing, I tested my ideas with a few trusted people with whom I could be vulnerable. My friend, Johnny Keirle, was visiting home and over some fine Garage Project, we listened through the embryonic riffs that I thought had the most potential. Maybe it was the beer talking but this was one of the tracks that stood out as different from the rest and indefinably interesting.

That little bit of feedback made me feel like it had merit; the band supported it. I remember the first section of that nascent version had much more swing, partly due to some very sloppy bass playing on my account. The track evolved along with our understanding of what the band was becoming: more angular.

I think that stylistic element owes a debt to the masterwork of the New Zealand figureheads of the form: Killjoy by Shihad (see: You Again, Gimme Gimme, Bitter). As I wrote previously:

...I was struck by the multiple references to "Killjoy" in the blueprint for Domes' record. As we prepare to release "Bonfire of the Vanities," I now recognise the musical intent and production aesthetic conveyed by this track make for something of a love letter to Kippenberger, Knight, Larkin and Toogood's oeuvre.

Once the band had upvoted the riff, work on the other sections was quick and satisfying. Whereas the bridge was imported from a completely separate idea that was, by contrast, much more thrashy in its original form. We stripped back the instrumentation and introduced more delicacy to create some dynamic reprieve from the otherwise industrial experience of the song.

The version we assembled at the pre-production session at City of Souls' rehearsal space was largely comparable to today's but for a sludgy, descending tempo treatment of the outro riff. We discarded the idea. Interestingly, this—as with earlier iterations of Malady—felt like something that might have been relevant to Decortica. That session was the first time we ever played together as three human beings in a room. The goal was to hone what would become the material that we took to the London session. So, it was a formative experience and necessarily a line in the sand separating what came before creatively. Admittedly, many of the same essential ingredients exist across the two bands; they orbit the same sun. But if Malady begot Bonfire of the Vanities, The Futurist, begot Time and Relative Dimension in Space—each being non-linear steps towards what Domes may do next.

Though I don't recall us discussing it specifically, it's interesting to consider the relative restraint as to how far we pushed this track into the metal genre (albeit the lighter, melodic end of the spectrum). Riding out the riff at the end with escalating drum patterns was Dan's idea and the tastefully eerie synths by Brendon helped realise the perverse spirit of the track. Whereas I draw multiple meanings from the lyrics which on the surface may appear to have the heavy-handedness of canon imagery with a "flayed corpus," "frontier of pain" and—just shy of the pastiche—"true death." Without the abstract and open interpretation we discussed as a band, it's unlikely the others would have been comfortable. Instead, the lyric explores an allegory for mental or societal flourishing through a system of pressure or excoriation. However, I'd prefer not to be prescriptive and encourage individual investigation.

Suffice it to say, yes, that was a fun line to sing.


This post was originally published in the Domes newsletter.

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