The Way We Get By: Control Top Has Been Watching Dystopian Movies

The Philly post-punk band talk finding strange comfort in Stalker, Contagion, and Outbreak.

1. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker

Ali Carter: I think it’s natural in times of crisis to gravitate toward dystopian art and narratives. There’s something comforting about watching something about the end of the world when it feels like it’s the end of the world. It’s a way of escaping into a fantasy while also grappling with the difficult issues that feel very true to our reality, whether on a conscious or subconscious level.

One of my favorite movies in this genre is Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. It’s a really beautifully shot film about a figure known as Stalker who leads a writer and a professor on this dangerous journey to a restricted area called The Zone. Inside is said to be a room that grants the innermost desires of anyone who enters it. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic landscape that’s also highly militarized, it’s a story about struggle, perseverance and what is actually meaningful to us.

2. Contagion

Al Creedon: When you’re sad, you listen to sad songs and it helps. So when you’re facing a pandemic, you just watch movies about the end of the world. It makes sense.

I’ve been obsessively watching the movie Contagion by Stephen Soderbergh, only because it keeps reminding me to wash my hands. My hands are peeling, my knuckles are all raw, and it’s because I’m watching Contagion. It’s a way to empathize with the current state of the world and feel part of everyone’s anxiety, and it’s also a daily reminder to clean every fucking thing in my house. It really does help.

3. Outbreak

Alex Lichtenauer: On the day that we decided we were going to go on tour, I started watching Outbreak in the back of the van, which surprisingly helped. The disease in Outbreak is typhoid fever, which is way more gruesome than this virus. Not that it’s not bad, but it could be so much worse. You could die in, like, three to five hours of contracting the disease and bleed out of your eyes. It was scary but comforting in the sense that it could be worse. But definitely still bad.

Al: You could be bleeding out of your eyes is always the thing to come back to.

Ali: When we see something so extreme and exaggerated, it makes us feel a little bit better that things are not that bad. We are doing our best to cope with the present reality, even though it’s overturned and different than what we’re used to.

The coronavirus has hit many people financially, and it’s been especially tough on musicians who rely on touring to support themselves. If you’re able and inclined, check out Control Top’s Bandcamp and order a T-shirt, some vinyl, or whatever they’ve got on offer. Every little bit helps.

Control Top is a post-punk band from Philadelphia comprised of singer/bassist Ali Carter, guitarist Al Creedon, and drummer Alex Lichtenauer. Their latest album, Covert Contracts, was released in 2019 via Get Better Records.