The Vanishing should be from Berlin, not San Francisco. Their In the Bat HausEP on SF indie Cochon is tied up tight in the grim chiaroscuro of German Expressionism, all woozy black-and-white shots that look like they were swept off Fritz Lang's cutting-room floor—even the gears-and-wheels collage on the insert takes a few winks at Hannah Hoch (technically not quite German Expressionism, but we're already way too intellectual for you right now anyway, huh?). And then the music—with swan-dive-off-the-roof female vox over dissonant keys and a PIL-on-downers rhythm section—and the lyrics and especially the gruesome little story about men melting into machines that kicks it off all play like a lost sequel to Metropolis, squeezing a few more drops of blood out of that desperately glamorous between-the-wars dystopianism that all the suburban Goth kids wish so fucking hard they coulda had for themselves.
Or, well, so it seemed to us—bassist/sometime sax player Jessie Trashed takes a second to process that one.
"I think that's the most interesting thing people have ever said to us," she says. "Usually, people ask me, like, really stupid questions, like, 'Where did you think of the name 'the Vanishing'?"
And if not that, they're flipping out over the Vanishing's prom-night-in-hell aesthetic, she says. God, people suck. Jessie got tagged as a "sexy zombie" in some review; "I wear a lot of black eyeliner—I've always worn a lot of black eyeliner," she explains wearily. "In the past couple of years, I've been coming to terms with my Gothness—I need to get it out of my system." Not too bad in itself—they're pretty, um, distinctive-looking, sure—but there's more to the creepiness of the Vanishing than a little fake blood.
"My father was a religious fanatic who was always preaching about the blood of Satan," says Jessie. "When I was 12, I would stare in the mirror for hours every night, thinking I was possessed by demons. For me, writing and playing music is like coming face to face with all the monstrosities buried inside—it's as though everything I was told was the ugliest, most wretched parts of myself are actually the most beautiful parts."
She grew up in Mendocino, the kind of little Northern California town off PCH where people can talk about the blood of Satan and mean it—it was nice for a while, she says, wandering out into the woods and getting lost for fun, but the teenage years hit hard and bleak. Some of the songs on Bat Haus came out of her dreams; some of them came off the playground, from the creepy nursery rhymes that little kids trade back and forth without really knowing what they mean. Mostly, says Jessie, it's about loss of innocence.
"Life is a balance between pleasure and pain; to savor the darkness in life is to come to terms with being human," she says—if you're too uptight to handle that coming from a bass player wearing a lot of black eyeliner, maybe you could pretend it's from a misunderstood French philosopher, okay? And the songs she writes for the Vanishing—like "Disaffectionate" and "Princess Poison"—teeter back and forth between the two.
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"I already feel, like, totally fucked. Don't you get the feeling people are already brainwashed and fucked?" she asks. "I've had a lot of nightmares where the future is like this underground sort of shopping mall with escalators everywhere, and the outside world is totally fucked and dangerous—and you can't get outside. It's pretty standard symbology. I don't know if we're all just being forced into being consumers, but it seems like a realistic analogy of what's coming . . . but I'm in a really pessimistic bad mood today."
It's the rent, it's the bills, it's the van that won't run but has to be registered anyway, it's paying 20 fucking dollars for some broccoli and salad dressing in the hypertrophic San Francisco economy. Maybe you've got a little too much Teutonic existentialism right now, we ask? Maybe you need a vacation? But where would you go?
"I want to go to Berlin so bad," Jessie sighs. "I just feel drawn there. My friend Cookie just got back, and she said it felt like New York in the '80s—there were freaks everywhere!"
THE VANISHING PERFORMS WITH SUNSHINE, DEFACTO, THE GRAND ELEGANCE AND THE DANCE DISASTER MOVEMENT AT CHAIN REACTION, 1652 W. LINCOLN, ANAHEIM, (714) 635-6067. OCT. 23, 7:30 P.M. $8. ALL AGES.