Fury Finds Inspiration in Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard

The hardcore band brought a lot to their new album Failed Entertainment.

There seems to be an endless amount of thoughts and feelings wanting to be communicated between humans, but that are held back by simple things like words and gestures that could never get close to the spirit to which they were born. Some people say art comes from that struggle of failed communication, the search for some kind of truth in ourselves and between each other. There’s no better word for the connection made between artist and audience than Magic, like falling in love or the magnolia blossom in the middle of summer. The magic of feeling unlonely, someone else somehow hearing your silent calls and taking your hand to show you another way. I could write a thousand of these essays about the myriad artists whose work struck a light inside my brain and guided me through the making of Failed Entertainment, but the two strongest foundations were Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings Of Desire.

In the few interviews he ever did, Shepard made it very clear that artists were facing a terrifying dilemma, an identity crisis out of their control. The powers that be wanted the artist to be an image, something to be bought and sold. We as an audience began to prefer that image over the human being, and our consumption and conversation around the art being produced mirrored those shallow sentiments, leading us to the vapid state of art as commerce that we are at today. Shepard — a tall, mysterious Southern Californian outlaw playwright who cut his teeth at avant garde theatres in New York and San Francisco during the ’60s and ’70s — rarely spoke about his work. His vulnerability in the plays said everything that needed to be said, his soul already exposed on the page and stage as clearly as Jesus Christ on the cross. Now with hardcore, almost every decision a band faces comes with the question, ”What would Ian MacKaye do?” — a little devil on our shoulders…

But I’d be lying if I said it was anyone but Shepard acting as the angel on mine when it’s come to the promotion of Failed Entertainment. I couldn’t help but feel like a phony trying to sum up our document’s meaning for blurbs. How do you explain an explanation? How do you speak on what you’ve already spoken about? I never want to give answers, only raise more questions. Shepard says that only fools and politicians give answers.

Now, I wish I had the willpower to let the music do the talking, but here I am.

Over the last two years, the written work that engulfed my time away from my nine-to-five was Shepard’s plays he had done in the ‘70s and ‘80s, plays like Angel City, Buried Child, Suicide in B Flat, The Tooth Of Crime, A Lie Of The Mind, Fool For Love, and my favorite, True West. They were bare, bizarre, psychedelic, western, and even flirted with science fiction. His work balanced well between absurdist and realism, sometimes a little bit of both at the same time. He was uniquely American, like Jazz or a Jackson Pollock painting. The plays were on fire. I must’ve read True West 15 times and each time its themes and meanings would change drastically inside my head. (Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke’s recent Broadway run opened up those floodgates even wider for me.)

During the time he had written those plays, he was married to best friend Johnny Dark’s step daughter O-Lan Jones, with whom he had a son, all of them living together in Northern California up until 1982. That same year, he fell in love with Jessica Lange on the set of the film Frances and decided to up and leave the Bay Area without a goodbye, leaving a heartbroken family behind and his best friend Johnny to take care of his son. Something no one really understands to this day.

Shepard’s next work would be the screenplay for Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, a story of a man named Travis who, having left his son Hunter behind in Los Angeles, is mysteriously wandering through the Texas desert, mute and unresponsive. Travis’s brother Walt hasn’t heard from Travis in four years and Hunter’s mother is also missing, leaving Walt and his wife Anne to take care of Hunter. I don’t know if art imitates life or what, but it sure as hell holds a big mirror to it. Paris, Texas would go on to win the Palme D’or at Cannes in ‘84 with Wenders’ angelic touch, Robby Müller’s Jedi-level photography, and the Everyman Harry Dean Stanton with the most human performance in history as a character he was born to play. Shepard didn’t work with Wenders on the director’s next project, instead moving on to a life of unwanted Hollywood fame and much needed seclusion, passing away in 2017.

Wenders’ next project came around the fall of the Berlin Wall, sparked by a desire to return home with poems by fellow German Rainer Maria Rilke guiding Wenders back. The director didn’t know what he wanted the movie to be about, but the fall of the wall brought thoughts and feelings of ghosts and spirits, life and death, past and future. Without Shepard to write the story, Wenders enlisted the reluctant Peter Handke who decided to write a handful of “islands of dialogue,” leaving Wenders to navigate from island to island not too dissimilar to how Fury’s songwriter/guitarist Madison Woodward and I wrote Failed Entertainment. He laid the groundwork and I had the fortune to find my way from one fully emotionally formed island to the next.

Like most of his films, Wenders chose Robby Müller again for cinematography. Wings Of Desire was shot in black and white but its love shines. The grey tones look like silk, reminding the viewer of the beauty in the mundane. The rare scenes in color are a fortunate surprise, an eye and heart-opening gift from a gentle giant.

Instead of ghosts, Wenders chooses Angels has his protagonists, moseying around Berlin and listening in on the thoughts and feelings of its inhabitants. They are voyeurs watching history play out, from the big boom to the frog to when man first spoke to when war was first born. An angel named Damiel starts pondering the idea of leaving his eternal spiritual life and becoming a mortal human who feels, eats, smokes, lies, and loves. He falls in love with an acrobat from the traveling circus named Marion and after a bizarre encounter with movie star Peter Falk (played by himself), Falk sensing Damiel’s presence and urge to become human, Damiel decides to drop from the Siegessaule (Victory Column) statue and find his love, Marion. Armed with nothing but the clothes on his back and a piece of bronze armor, Damiel falls in front of a Thierry Noir mural on the east side of the Berlin Wall, the armor crashing on his head. He arises, feels the bump and licks the fresh blood off his hand and says, ”It has a taste.”

I hope I never stop praising these various artists and their documents because they give me the keys to the car and afford me the gas to allow me to drive where I want to go, whether or not I know where that is. They are a life force. The power from a Didion short story is enough to fuel a fleet of jets. The juice from Kubrick or Hitchcock has kept viewers’ thirst quenched for almost a century now. These works might not change the world but they sure as hell change me.

Again, I’ll never try to give answers and I’ll never say we wanted to make our Wings Of Desire or our existential Shepard-esque western masterpiece… but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want us to make our Boogie Nights.

Fury is a hardcore band from Orange County, California consisting of singer Jeremy Stith, lead guitarist Madison Woodward, rhythm guitarist Alfredo Guiterrez, bassist Daniel Samayoa, and drummer Alex Samayoa. Forming in 2014, they established themselves quickly, releasing both a demo on Washington, DC’s Mosher Delight Records and the Kingdom Come EP on Boston’s Triple B Records in the same calendar year. They built on the melodic legacy of Orange County by way of heavy, rhythmic, start-stop guitars and Stith’s wordy and referential lyrics. Then, in 2016, came their debut LP on Triple B Records, Paramount, which was met with respect from the hardcore community and praise from outsider critics.

Now, Fury releases Failed Entertainment, their sophomore LP and debut with Boston-based Run For Cover Records. As with their previous records, “Failed Entertainment” was recorded by Colin Knight and their own guitarist Madison Woodward at Paradise Records, in Anaheim. This time, though, the band also sought new surroundings and outside expertise, collaborating with engineer Andrew Oswald at Secret Bathroom Studios, as well as mixing engineer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Seaweed).