How do you start off an interview with the lead singer of Okilly Dokilly -- the world’s first and only Ned Flanders-themed metal band? By talking about Adele, of course.
“Sometimes a voice transcends genres,” Head Ned (as he goes by) told me when we spoke via phone. We’re discussing powerful singers, and I couldn’t help but bring up Adele’s recent goosebumps-inducing performance on "Saturday Night Live."
“It’s crazy how a thousand singers can all hit the same note, but only a couple in the world can hit it with that extra something,” Head Ned continued. “My girlfriend and I went to a Florence and the Machine concert the other night in Phoenix, and watching her in concert and seeing how she pulls off her perfect vocals live was enough to win me over. She goes to place after place and just hits those notes every night.”
After hearing the band’s tunes (which, lyrically, are roughly 80 percent direct Ned Flanders’ quotes from “The Simpsons” episodes), one could argue that their frontman -- with his death metal, throat-shredding vocals -- might have a slightly tougher go of it than pop singers.
“Actually, most of the noise isn’t actually coming from your vocal cords,” Head Ned explained. “It’s coming from the inside of your throat. When you’re doing death growls, you’re doing more of a percussive thing, really. If you’re doing them correctly, you’re not really putting strain on your vocal cords; you’re pushing air out of your diaphragm, and it’s rattling the inside of your throat. I can do it night after night now and feel OK.”
Looks like he’ll have to do just that, sooner rather than later. The Phoenix, Arizona-based quintet that dresses in Flanders’ usual getup of a pink button-down shirt, green sweater, glasses and gray pants (and starts their emails with "Howdilly doodilly!") had more than 20,000 fans on Facebook prior to their first show (like, whoa). When their press photo hit the internet earlier this year, they went from dudes that’d normally play for a few folks on Wednesday nights at local clubs to legit viral sensations. The story of the world’s first “Nedal band” was picked up by every music blog this side of Springfield, and when they eventually did play their first show in August at Phoenix’s Trunk Space, they packed 180 rabid Okilly Dokilly fans into a 100-capacity club.
“It’s put us into kind of a weird place,” Head Ned said, “because it started as this goofy, crazy idea, and we thought it would be fun to show up at a couple shows and do a word-of-mouth kind of thing. I mean, it took us about a year to decide to really do this band, put our music online, do our press shots, make four demos in our house, and post 'em online. We were excited to not sound crazy when we told people about this project we were doing. We put it all online, and a couple people locally liked our page, and then it got shared -- and two days later, we had 20,000 likes and my email inbox had a hundred requests for interviews.”
Even though the sharply dressed and mustachioed bunch (although not all left-handed, as you’d think a Ned Flanders tribute band would be) are an actual, real-life overnight success, they've still gotta start somewhere: They play their first out-of-state shows at the Observatory's Constellation Room up in Santa Ana on Nov. 28, and then make their way to Soda Bar on Saturday, Dec. 5. While it’s not quite global domination yet (they’ve still got day jobs after all), Head Ned & Co. are still surprised they’ve even come as far as they have.
“I pretty much ask myself how this happened, every day. We just thought it’d be funny and so ironic to take the friendliest fictional character out there and throw him into this music that is entirely brutal,” Head Ned said.
Aren’t they worried that the huge legal hammer of Fox Broadcasting Company is going to come thundering down on their “Simpsons”-referencing band?
“Honestly, I expected it to happen immediately,” Head Ned confessed. “But we’ve been somewhat careful about it. I mean, we’re not taking any directly copyrighted material and using it as our own. It’s all references. We’ve never said his full name, we just mention ‘Ned’ in interviews, and honestly, it wouldn’t be too beneficial to Fox, because a whole bunch of ‘Simpsons’ fans are fans of us now -- they'd be pissing off their own demographic, right? Who knows -- the letter could be in the mail,” Head Ned laughed.