Slenderbodies Are Calm, Collected and Tired "In a Good Way"

We caught up with the duo right before they took the stage at Brooklyn's Rough Trade

press photo

Slenderbodies, who finally released their debut album, komorebi, last month after numerous EPs, are deep into their North American tour, and there is no denying that they're tired.

slenderbodies - "senses" (Live) | Vevo DSCVR

"I don't really know where I am, I don't really know what day it is, but it's in a fun way," Benji Cormack told me before their show on Saturday. "Other tours, it's just been pure exhaustion, but this is, like, a loopy kind of exhaustion where I'm also energized."

Slenderbodies is still a fairly new band to emerge onto the neo-dream pop landscape, which is easy to forget judging by the duo's refined musical sensibilities. They emerged in 2016 with fabulist, an intriguing EP that integrated alternative rock with pop and psychedelia. The EP spawned the song "anemone," still the duo's biggest hit, and they have since remained unabashedly devoted to their sound and creative identity. It's rare for such a young band to know themselves so well. "We didn't set out to be unique," Benji previously told me. "We set out to just make music that was authentic... and that's how we arrived at where we're at now."

"Komorebi" is a Japanese word that has no direct translation. Roughly, it's a word used to describe the way light moves as it shines through the trees. The guys witnessed an "inspiring" example of "komorebi" while they were driving up to Mendocino for a show. "We'd known the word," said Benji, "but seeing that was almost a religious experience and became very indicative of what was to come." Nature is the seasoning that brings out the band's flavors. Neither of them have gone more than a week without stepping into a forest, even while on the road, and their music wouldn't be what it was if they didn't take the time to recuse themselves from the bustling metropolitan world. Fittingly, Komorebi is seemingly the pinnacle of Slenderbodies up to this point. It contains all the charisma and silky textures of the band's numerous EPs, while at times exploring the restrictions of their sound. "I'm super happy with the record just because we were disgustingly diligent with it," Max said. On "Hearth," in particular, the duo swaps out improvised guitar loops and ghostly vocals while rain patters in the background. It's a raw moment indicative of their unique chemistry as a band. "It's like the cabin in the woods that you come to," Benji added.


While this is by no means the duo's most grueling tour, everything feels different this time around. Saturday's show at Brooklyn's Rough Trade, along with most of their current tour, was completely sold out, but they are strangely calmer than they've ever been. "I'm probably gonna play some super smash bros," said Benji. "It helps us to not think about it too hard," Max added. "My mantra is trying to turn the pre-show nerves into a high," Benji said. "I wanna hit the pre-show blunt of excitement, then go right out and play the show. If we fixate on it, we'll burn it down to the roach before we get on stage."

As I got ready to go, the two friends loomed over a take-out container full of baked ziti. "What is that?" Max asked the room. "I think it's baked ziti," Benji replied. Max seemed confused. "Baked ziti? It's a type of pasta where you pretty much slap a sh*t-ton of cheese on there and bake it." They stood in calm silence, and I slipped out as they pondered the nature of the dish.



Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman.

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did.

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny.

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid.

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper.

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.


That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.


So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.